Russian authorities faked satellite images of a plane's crash site in a bid to blame the fall of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on a Ukrainian missile launcher, an investigative group has claimed.
All 298 passengers and crew died when the jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on 17 July, 2014.
Dutch investigators said the Boeing 777 was probably struck by multiple "high-energy objects from outside the aircraft," which some aviation experts say is consistent with a strike by a missile.
A widely held belief is that the plane was shot down from the ground by a rocket from a Russian-made Buk missile launcher operated by pro-Russian rebels.
Investigative journalism website Bellingcat published an analysis concluding that two satellite images had been digitally altered by Russia.
The first photo reportedly shows a Ukrainian missile launcher missing from its base and another shows other launchers on the MH17 flight path.
Bellingcat compared plants and soil structure in the satellite images with pictures from Google Earth.
The Bellingcat investigation team believes that the dates of the satellite photos were falsified and the images were digitally modified using Adobe Photoshop CS5 software.
The keys findings from the photos show:
- Satellite images presented by the Russian Ministry of Defence claiming to shown Ukrainian Buks linked to the downing of MH17 on July 14th and 17th are in fact older images from June 2014.
– The discrepancies visible in the Russian MoD satellite map imagery which shows they are incorrectly dated are visible in publicly available imagery on Google Earth.
– Error level analysis of the images also reveal the images have been edited.
– This includes a Buk missile launcher that was removed to make it appear the Buk missile launcher was active on July 17th, and imagery where Buk missile launchers were added to make it appear they were within attack range of Flight MH17.
Bellingcat states: "These claims, representing the majority of information publicly presented by the Russian government since the downing of Flight MH17, are a clear attempt by the Russian government to deceive the public, global community, and the families of the Flight MH17 victims, only days after Flight MH17 was shot down."