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A press conference announcing charges against three Russians and a Ukrainian over the downing of MH17. Officials from the Joint Investigation Team probing the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 at a press conference, announcing charges against three Russians and a Ukrainian separatist, in Nieuwegein, Netherlands, June 19, 2019 (AP photo by Mike Corder)

Five Years After the Downing of MH17, What Do We Know About Russia’s Role?

Friday, July 19, 2019

This week marks five years since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine. Since then Russia has seemingly spared no effort or expense in waging an epic disinformation campaign to beat back allegations that Kremlin-backed mercenaries and separatists in the Donbas region fired the Russian-made Buk missile that killed all 298 people on board the passenger jet. Yet as evidence of Russian involvement has continued to mount in recent days, it looks like Moscow may need to retool its strategy.

Almost five years to the day that a group of intrepid journalists at Bellingcat, an investigative collective, began connecting the digital dots between the shootdown of Flight 17 and a Russian-backed private paramilitary contingent known as the Wagner Group, Ukrainian authorities made their first arrest in the case. Early this month, Ukraine’s SBU security service quietly nabbed Volodymyr Tsemakh in the rebel town of Snizhe after video of Tsemakh surfaced in which he apparently acknowledged that while he was commander of air defense for the separatist 1st Slavyansk Brigade, he received orders from leaders of the Wagner Group and the much-feared Vostok Battalion to hide the plane’s black box flight recorder. ...

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