By Debbie Gregory.
According to the results of the joint investigation of The Insider and Bellingcat, the identity of a key figure in the case of downed Malaysia Flight 17 was semi-retired Russian general Nikolai Fedorovich Tkachev, who gave the order to launch the Russian-made ground to air rocket that brought the plane down in 2014, killing all aboard.
The plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine at the height of the conflict between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists.
Although there were 298 victims from 17 countries, the vast majority, 196 to be exact, were Dutch citizens. The identification of Tkachev is potentially a breakthrough in a case that has frustrated Dutch and other investigators who have struggled for years to identify voices on a key phone intercept.
Investigators say that on September 28, 2016 the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) appealed to witnesses to help identify those individuals suspected of involvement in the shooting down of the airliner. One individual was known by the call sign ‘Dolphin’ (Delfin), who was identified in recorded telephone conversations, who was also referred to as ‘Nikolai Fedorovich.’
The voice sample collected by The Insider was analyzed to firmly establish the link between Delfin and Tkachev.The National Center for Media Forensics at the University of Colorado, Denver conducted a forensic speaker comparison based on the industry-standard Likelihood Ratio (LR) analysis. Additionally, the Forensic Science Centre of Lithuania conducted analysis on the calls individually to match them with the calls.
Tkachev has denied giving the order or even being in the area. Russia initially claimed that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been tailing the Boeing 777-200 ER, and later said its simulations show a missile was fired from Ukrainian — held territory. Russia insists its military and proxies had nothing to do with downing the passenger plane.
Bellingcat identified the actual launcher as BUK 332, and said it belonged to the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade from Kursk, Russia. Bellingcat also reported that Russian satellite images provided to dispute the Dutch claims had been altered — a conclusion shared by German news organizations.
Bellingcat’s report with The Insider used open source data and forensic voice analysis to identify Tkachev.