Russian army unit that shot down Malaysia Airways flight was once in Ukraine: NPR


An condo construction in Izium, Ukraine, that was once broken via the Russian army. Ukraine recaptured Izium in September 2022.

Claire Harbage/NPR


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Claire Harbage/NPR


An condo construction in Izium, Ukraine, that was once broken via the Russian army. Ukraine recaptured Izium in September 2022.

Claire Harbage/NPR

KHARKIV, Ukraine — On the previous sweet corporate warehouse on Partisan Boulevard in Izyum, Ukraine, indicators of the Russian profession had been all over the place. A cannonball was once sitting close to some of the partitions. Throughout, the stays of homes lie in rubble, with sunken partitions and no roofs.

Native resident Oleksiy Zdniprovsky greeted us there with a chained guard canine. After the Russian troops left, she and her staff of humanitarian staff proceeded to lend a hand recuperate the lately liberated zone.

Zadniprovsky introduces us to Ruslan, a volunteer who declined to provide his remaining identify as a result of he feared he could be in peril if the Russians returned. Even now, the construction is lower than 100 kilometers from Bakhmut, the primary level of ongoing preventing in japanese Ukraine.

Ruslan informed us what we had come to be told: that he had heard and observed anti-aircraft missiles being fired from across the compound when the world was once below Russian profession.

The previous warehouse, adorned with banners of Western beers reminiscent of Budweiser and Corona Additional, was once the brief headquarters of a Russian anti-aircraft unit. This was once showed via the prosecutors of Ukraine’s Kharkiv area. He confirmed us a file confiscated after the Russian retreat, which contained the identify of the unit’s commander, along with his telephone quantity and speak to signal—”Волда́й,”—together with the deal with of his headquarters.

Assets and documentation additionally showed that this was once no longer simply any anti-aircraft unit.

It was once the 53rd Anti-Plane Missile Brigade, one of the vital infamous – and sought after – gadgets within the Russian Military.

The 53rd is easiest recognized for its position within the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airways flight MH17 because it flew over Ukraine en course from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 passengers and staff died.


Folks stroll a number of the particles on the crash web page of passenger jet flight MH17 close to the village of Grabovo, Ukraine, July 17, 2014.

Dmitry Lovetsky / AP


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Dmitry Lovetsky / AP


Folks stroll a number of the particles on the crash web page of passenger jet flight MH17 close to the village of Grabovo, Ukraine, July 17, 2014.

Dmitry Lovetsky / AP

Brechtje van de Moosdijk, a spokesman for the joint investigation staff probing the civilian airline assault, stated, “You’ll be able to imagine the downfall of flight MH17 (as Dutch 9/11).” “When it came about, it was once a scorching summer season day, July 17, 2014. Everybody was once satisfied and on holiday or mendacity within the lawn or within the swimming pool. After which this airplane went down.”

And so far as conflict crimes investigators are involved, the 53rd World has been a pariah ever since. The truth that the unit remains to be running in Ukraine as of late? It is just like the Russian President taunting the remainder of the sector.

George Barose, a Russia analyst on the Institute for the Find out about of Struggle, stated, “The unit … didn’t face any retribution for the downing of Malaysia Airways Flight 17. They won no punishment for the crimes they dedicated.” Did not even face justice.” “And sadly, it is very systematic the way in which the Russian Federation has been ready to violate global legislation.”

on learn how to the 53rd Brigade

Ukrainian army and intelligence assets informed NPR that the 53rd Brigade was once lively over 2022 within the Kharkiv area, a space in Ukraine’s northeast close to the Russian border.

However there was once no concrete proof of the precise location of the unit. The 53rd Brigade focuses on anti-aircraft missile techniques. In contrast to infantry or mechanized gadgets, they don’t combat at the entrance traces, the place open-source pictures of prisoners of conflict can be utilized to offer data on a unit’s actions and whereabouts.


Indicators of destruction may also be observed all the way through Izium after its liberation.

Claire Harbage/NPR


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Claire Harbage/NPR


Indicators of destruction may also be observed all the way through Izium after its liberation.

Claire Harbage/NPR

“Militaries spend important effort looking to cover their crucial main battlefield belongings,” Barros defined. “The 53rd is no doubt one in all them as it’s designed to offer protection to front-line gadgets from air assaults.”

Ukraine took again its keep an eye on of the Kharkiv area in September remaining yr. All through that length of preventing, Ukrainian forces retrieved some paperwork left in the back of via Russian forces at an deserted headquarters within the Kharkiv area.

One of the most paperwork indexed the army gadgets that the Russian military had within the Izium area. At the seventeenth line was once the details about the 53rd that we had been searching for.

“I will verify that we have got data that for a while they settled within the Izium district within the Kharkiv area,” Alexander Filchkov, the Kharkiv area’s leader prosecutor, informed NPR. Filchkov was once monitoring more than a few Russian gadgets as a part of his place of job’s efforts to prosecute them for alleged conflict crimes.


Ukrainian investigators exhumed our bodies from a mass grave web page in Izium in September. Investigators had been hoping to seek out and file imaginable proof of conflict crimes, and in addition so that you could establish the ones buried right here with out names.

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Claire Harbage/NPR


Ukrainian investigators exhumed our bodies from a mass grave web page in Izium in September. Investigators had been hoping to seek out and file imaginable proof of conflict crimes, and in addition so that you could establish the ones buried right here with out names.

Claire Harbage/NPR

Barros reviewed the file and located it to appear original. He additionally identified that the guidelines matched different open-source data on the place the 53rd’s allied gadgets had been.

Affirmation that the brigade was once preventing in Izium may well be necessary to Ukrainian and Western prosecutors searching for justice for imaginable conflict crimes, to not point out the households of MH17’s sufferers.

a infamous historical past

The relationship between the 53rd Brigade and Malaysia Airways Flight 17 was once first made via open-source investigators at Bellingcat.

One after the other, a joint investigation staff composed of a number of nations that misplaced their electorate because of the downing of MH17 concluded after years of labor {that a} missile machine equipped via the 53rd Brigade was once in the back of the crash.

Final month in The Hague, the joint investigation staff introduced some ultimate findings and introduced unexpected new main points. Investigators performed intercepted telephone calls from Russian-backed separatists preventing in japanese Ukraine in 2014.


Australian officer and member of the MH17 Joint Investigation Crew David McLean speaks all through a press convention on the result of the continuing investigation on the EU Company for Felony Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) headquarters in The Hague on February 8.

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP By way of Getty Pictures


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Australian officer and member of the MH17 Joint Investigation Crew David McLean speaks all through a press convention on the result of the continuing investigation on the EU Company for Felony Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) headquarters in The Hague on February 8.

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP By way of Getty Pictures

The usage of those calls, investigators concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin was once in the long run in the back of the switch of an anti-aircraft machine – the similar machine that in the long run shot down flight MH17. It underlined that the fatal movements of the 53rd Brigade had been on Putin’s directions.

In keeping with Russian army skilled Tom Bullock, after the airplane crashed, Russian-backed separatists within the house had been unapologetic for the incident.

“There were a number of photos on his social media accounts of him status subsequent to the Malaysia Airways brand close to the wreckage and posing for social media pictures,” Bullock stated.

unit’s painful legacy

Pete Ploeg misplaced his brother, his brother’s spouse, and their son within the airplane. His brother’s stays had been by no means known.

“I all the time say that our members of the family had been if truth be told the primary non-Ukrainian sufferers of the conflict that began 8 years in the past,” he stated. “So the entirety (that) provides us details about Russia’s position in Ukraine is necessary to us, as it is helping us … form international opinion about Russia’s position in Ukraine.”


Piet Ploeg, who misplaced his brother, his sister-in-law and his nephew in MH17, arrives at Schiphol airport within the Netherlands in 2020. Ploeg is the president of the MH17 Crisis Basis, which was once established after July 17. Downing of 2014 Malaysia Airways flight.

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Piet Ploeg, who misplaced his brother, his sister-in-law and his nephew in MH17, arrives at Schiphol airport within the Netherlands in 2020. Ploeg is the president of the MH17 Crisis Basis, which was once established after July 17. Downing of 2014 Malaysia Airways flight.

Peter DeJong/AP

The affirmation of the 53rd’s fresh actions may be necessary to other folks like Silene Fredericks, whose son died within the downing of MH17.

“Our lives modified totally. We had a circle of relatives of 5 youngsters, and now they just have 4,” she stated. “And not anything, and nobody, can fill the space they left in the back of. It impacts you in each side of your lifestyles. I’m really not the similar particular person I used to be sooner than. That is the lifestyles sooner than and the lifestyles after.” It is a lifetime of. And it is very, very tricky. But very tricky.”

He paid particular consideration to the 53rd and remains to be haunted via the unit’s deadly selections. Details about the unit and the movements of the Russian army lend a hand him conquer his grief.


Silene (left) and Rob Fredericks discuss their son Bryce and his female friend, Daisy, who had been a number of the 298 individuals who died when a missile killed flight MH17 in 2014 at their house in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. was once dropped.

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Silene (left) and Rob Fredericks discuss their son Bryce and his female friend, Daisy, who had been a number of the 298 individuals who died when a missile killed flight MH17 in 2014 at their house in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. was once dropped.

Peter DeJong/AP

“[I]watch the entirety that has to do with conflict and the entirety that has to do with MH17, Russia, Ukraine,” she stated. “I will by no means forestall. … But if we discover out a part of the reality, (it) brings us convenience.”

In a while sooner than this tale was once printed, President Vladimir Putin signed a brand new decree in regards to the 53rd Brigade.

It seems that unconcerned about how this could glance to the outdoor international, he ordered that the unit be given a brand new honorary designation: the identify of “Guards”, a time period supposedly reserved for elite Russian gadgets.