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July 17 will mark the second anniversary from Boeing 777 catastrophe, flight MH17 (Amsterdam - Kuala Lumpur), which fell near the town of Torez Donetsk region (eastern Ukraine). All 298 passengers were killed.
Bellingcat project originated in the summer of 2014, when there was no clear answer to the question, who shot down the military plane. A group of international experts started the investigation of the incident. In parallel, British blogger Eliot Higgins launched his own search. His method was to analyze the photos and videos, which are publicly available on the Internet, the profiles of social networks users, and Youtube channels related to tragedy.
In October 2015, Dutch Safety Board published the results of the investigation, and said that the plane was shot down with the help of "Buk" system. However, the Dutch did not say who owned this weapon, and who fired a missile. Bellingcat said that "Buk" belonged to the Russian army, and it was brought to Ukraine from the Kursk region of the Russian Federation.
Higgins said that his team has prepared a new report on the investigation into the tragedy, and it would be submitted it in the middle of July. He said what data would be in a new report: methodology of collecting the materials, how much money does it take, how journalists cooperate with the official investigation, and why is it important to prove the involvement of Russia.
You conduct your investigation in parallel with the official law enforcers. Do you cooperate with the investigators?
The Netherlands police in a joint investigation questioned me twice as a witness. In addition, another Bellingcat representative gave readings there. Also we have repeatedly sent the information about the results of our own research to the joint investigation team.
You said that the new report would appear in mid-July. What information are you going to present?
It will be a summary of the work that we have done over the past two years. We also asked experts from different fields to study our materials and make their own conclusions, and evaluate various evidence, for example, images of authenticity. As a result, we expect that the findings will provide additional expert analysis of collected and processed data. The details you will learn in a few days.
You are trying so hard to convince others in the truthfulness of your evidence. Do you believe that the investigation and the court would take this into account?
Ultimately, I hope the court will use all the available materials. After reading the information, which we use, the investigators can do their own analysis and draw their own conclusions.
It seems like you have done everything you could. You have proven that Russia invaded Ukraine, MH17 was shot down with the help of Russian weapons, you have shown how "Buk" was transported to Donbas. Why do you continue your investigation? What is your ultimate goal?
At the moment, we have already exhausted many areas of research. We have shown the convoy that accompanied the launcher and others separatist convoys, but we still do not have information about these vehicles: who owns them, who uses them. The search for such information would be very interesting.
Bellingcat is quite a unique project in the area of investigations. And it makes everyone to move forward. We just have to continue to look for all the possible materials. I want to see those who were shooting at the aircraft, bring them to justice, and I want to make sure that the whole world remembers that Russia organized the death of 298 people.
Why have you concentrated on finding evidence of Russian involvement in the MH17 incident?
In the course of our investigation, we were just following the evidence. Initially, we did not know, whether it was Ukraine’s or Russia’s responsibility for the death of a civilian aircraft. Russia has been lying about MH17 from the very beginning. It created fake evidence against Ukraine in a plane crash.
What difficulties have you faced during the investigation?
Almost all the problems are connected with the financing of Bellingcat and our researches. The team is almost entirely formed of volunteers. If I were able to pay them a full-time salary, we could achieve much more. We could cooperate with other organizations and start up international journalists' investigation.
How many people are working in your team?
Currently, two people are engaged in full-time job and get salary: me and Aric Toler. We also have about 20 investigators and volunteers who develop our website. But to make our project more effective, we need funding.
How much money have you spent during the last two years?
The budget is about 150 thousand pounds. A part came from a crowdfunding platform, also we have got the Google's grant. But we understand that Bellingcat need more bailouts.
How do you study Russian-language resources and materials?
We have a few Russian-speaking volunteers. And my colleague Aric Toler is fluent in Russian. It was one of the reasons why I hired him. He has the language skills that we need for research. But also he is able to enter the Eastern Europe countries and teach the Russian-speaking journalists to apply our methods of investigation. It helps us to build a network of journalists across Eastern Europe. I firmly believe that the large-scale investigation can be carried out by the networks of journalists, because now we live in the era of Internet. The only obstacle is language. To break this barrier, I chose the one who helps me.
Russian and European press sometimes publish the articles, which discredit Bellingcat. What do you think about it?
You know, sometimes I am even proud of these attacks against us. For example, Russia Today became almost obsessed with me and Bellingcat. Almost every day they have been publishing a new article or video about us. You know, when the representatives of the government mouthpiece persecute you, most of the intelligent people take it as a clear signal: these guys are getting close to the nerve, and this provokes a strong reaction.