In November 2019, the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) announced the broadening of its criminal investigation into the shoot-down of MH17 to encompass the role of individuals within Russia’s military and administrative hierarchy who enabled the tragedy, reports Bellingcat.
The JIT made public 23 telephone intercepts from the days before the shootdown, which appeared to prove the close involvement of Russian officials with fostering and funding the war in Eastern Ukraine — as well as directly coordinating with and providing substantial military support to ostensibly “independent” militants.
While some of the Russian officials heard in the intercepts were easily identifiable — such as the Russian president’s then-advisor Vladislav Surkov — others remained unknown to the JIT and to the general public. One key unknown person of interest had seemingly been in a crucial position to supervise the movement of weapons from Russia to Ukraine, and thus would have had to authorize the transfer of the Russian Buk missile launcher that shot the Malaysian airliner after crossing the border. The JIT appealed to witnesses and the public for help in identifying this official, who was only referred to in the calls as “Vladimir Ivanovich”.
Belingcat’s investigation team, in cooperation with the Russian colleagues from The Insider, and with additional reporting from Kevin Hall from McClatchy Newspapers (DC), has been able to identify the person of “Vladimir Ivanovich” as one of the top officials within Russia’s FSB security service: Colonel General Andrey Ivanovich Burlaka. This FSB general is the highest-ranking Russian official identified as a person of interest in the criminal investigation into the downing of MH17.