Thousands of secret MH17 tapes provide insight into the situation before, during and after the disaster
One of the main suspects in the MH17 trial was unaware for hours that the separatists in Eastern Ukraine had brought down a Boeing. This is evident from tapped telephone conversations of one of the main suspects in the investigation, Sergei Dubinsky.
Television program Nieuwsuur owns these audiotapes and analyzed the material. In total, it concerns thousands of telephone conversations that Dubinsky made in the months of July and August 2014: before, during and after the disaster with flight MH17. They provide a detailed picture of the raw reality of the war in Eastern Ukraine.
Dubinsky was head of an espionage and reconnaissance unit during the disaster. The fact that Dubinski and his accomplices did not know what had been shot does not matter for the accusation, according to the Public Prosecution Service. "They are guilty of crashing an airplane and murdering the occupants." According to the OM, intent does not have to be proven for this.
The tapes are authentic, according to the Joint Investigation Team (JIT). They were recorded by the Ukrainian Secret Service. Twelve conversations have already been made public by the international team investigating the cause of the disaster. The thousands of telephone calls are also in the hands of the Public Prosecution Service.
The tapes also show that Russia's influence on the separatists was increasing from the beginning of July 2014. Moscow was involved in strategic military decisions. "Someone has come from Moscow today. It looks like the entire political top will be replaced," someone told Dubinsky in early July.
From that month onwards, the pro-Russian separatists have means of communication that could not be overheard. "They go via the FSB (the Russian secret service), via Moscow," says Dubinsky. The separatists knew they could be overheard and, therefore, often met in person. If that doesn't work, they would pick up the phone.
The day of the disaster
In a conversation on July 17, the day of the disaster, Dubinsky reports that he had direct contact with Moscow. His commander Igor Girkin is also said to have spoken to Moscow "up to the highest level".
That same day, Dubinsky talks a lot about the Buk missile that eventually takes down the MH17. The weapon was supposedly necessary to do something against the attacks of the fighters of the Ukrainian Air Force in the battle around the border town of Marinovka.
At 4.20 p.m., the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, with 298 passengers, disappears from the radar. Among the passenger killed, 196 were Dutch nationals.
Less than half an hour after the downing of flight MH17, Dubinsky hears from his accomplices that they have downed a Ukrainian fighter plane. It then takes almost two hours for Dubinski to discover that a Boeing has been downed at that time.
When Dubinsky calls for clarification, his people change their story. They repeat that they shot down an opponent's fighter plane, but only after that plane took down the Boeing.
Flight MH17 was thus, according to Dubinski's men, downed by a Ukrainian fighter plane. That theory also forms the basis for what is later presented at a press conference by the Russian Ministry of Defense. But a large part of that information soon turns out to be false: according to the Dutch Safety Board, there were no other aircraft in the vicinity of flight MH17.
Later, the Russian authorities switched to a different theory: flight MH17 was downed by a Ukrainian Buk. But from the overheard conversations with the main suspect Dubinsky, this is never mentioned.
The Buk remains in the area for hours after the disaster and is not driven back to Russia until night. For hours, Dubinsky and his boss, Defense Secretary Girkin, have no idea where the weapon is.
The talks also provide a revealing picture of how separatists dealt with each other and how intimidation and theft were part of daily practice.