The Saker: First, a question about yourself: why and how did you get involved in this topic of MH17? What were you doing before you got involved in this topic?
Max van der Werff : The very moment the news of the shootdown of the Malaysian Boeing broke on July 17th 2014, I immediately realized this tragedy would have long term geopolitical implications. What further struck me was the fact most passengers were citizens of my country, The Netherlands.
Since childhood I have an interest in geopolitics and history. The fact my father was an immigrant from Indonesia surely contributed and as a teenager I read a lot about Dutch colonial history.
After Japan surrendered and World War II ended, 150,000 Dutch troops were sent to restore Pax Hollandia in the old colony and the main motive was to restore the exploitation of the ‘wingewest’ (area for profit) as soon as possible. The Dutch elite had the opinion that the Japanese rule over the Dutch Indies was merely a short interruption and that Dutch colonial rule would be reinstated for generations to come. This fatally wrong perception of reality led to the Indonesian war of independence lasting from 1945 to end 1949 causing hundreds of thousands casualties.
Prior to my MH17 investigations I spent a lot of time in archives and on the ground in Indonesia searching for evidence of Dutch war crimes. There’s a documentary about my work: https://vimeo.com/288088492
The Saker: Now, let’s immediately jump into the core question: after having researched and analyzed the topic of MH17, what personal conclusion did you come to?
What do you believe really happened that day?
Max van der Werff : Having spent thousands of hours researching the case and being interviewed by the official Joint Investigation Team more than once my answer to your core question might be disappointing for some: I don’t know what happened.
Let me elaborate. Depending on political preferences all kinds of ‘experts’ claim to know for sure what happened exactly. One camp is sure it was a false flag, executed by Ukraine. The opposing camp is sure Russia is responsible. There are many variants as to who is an accomplice. On social media you see claims Ukraine was just a proxy for the CIA or Mossad. On the other side Russia just supplied the weapon and rebels shot down the airliner.
Then there are more exotic claims: flight MH17 was shot down by a drone, a modernized Georgian SU-25 or by Israeli Python-5 missile(s) fired from the air or from the ground.
I have not encountered any credible evidence supporting any of the theories. This specifically includes the official version. Too many things simply do not add up. I’ve written a lot about the questionable evidence the official investigators have presented to the public so far and was one of the producers of a documentary that already has more than 200,000 views on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkDWwYk4-Ho
The Saker: I outlined my personal guesstimate here where I wrote that in my opinion the Ukronazis used the radar of a Buk battery to guide a Su-25 within 8 clicks of the MH-17 at which point the Su-25 fired an R-60 IR missile which hit one of the engines which caused the Boeing to go into a sharp turn and lose altitude – the Su-25 easily caught up and finished the Boeing with its 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-2 autocannon (I explain my reasons in details here: https://thesaker.is/mh-17-one-year-later/). Do you have any elements of proof which would undermine/negate my guesstimate? Specifically, do you consider it as admitted by all sides now that a Buk missile did strike MH-17?
Max van der Werff : President Putin recently said: “We have our own version, we presented it, unfortunately, no one wants to listen to us. And until there is a real dialogue, we will not find the right answer to those questions that are still open”
For five years I am asking: What exactly is the Russian official version of events?
To my knowlegde the Russian Federation has never claimed the Malaysian Boeing was shot down by a buk missile. You have to be very precise here. Over the years Russian media have presented all kinds of versions about what happened. One version even more exotic than the other.
As most of your readers will know Almaz Antey, the company producing the missile system, gave a press conference and conducted a life experiment detonating a buk missile https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0r63cskl08o
During the press conference the Almaz Antey spokesman explained that the observed damage patterns in the hull of the Boeing could not have been caused by a buk missile fired from the location near Snizhne as claimed by the MH17 Joint Investigation Team. If a buk missile caused the damage, it must have been fired from an area southeast of the village Zaroshenskoye. Notice the little word “IF” in the sentence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsohFzbJ-vs
Concerning your assessment a Su-25 fired a R-60 IR missile. You do get some support for your theory from Zahar Omarov, chief researcher at the Central Research Institute of the Air Force of the Russian Ministry of Defense:
“I can say that our results disprove the conclusion that the plane was shot down by a missile from a Buk-type anti-aircraft missile system. Most likely, it was an air-to-air missile with a mass of high-explosive fragmentation warheads not exceeding 33 kg (the mass of the warhead of the Buk missile is 70 kg).”
Omarov repeatedly attended meetings of Russian delegations with members of the Dutch Safety Board. Here’s a very interesting segment of what he experienced during one of those meetings:
During the first meeting, in which I had to take part, and this was in February 2015, the Dutch reported that the plane, in their opinion, was shot down by a Buk anti-aircraft missile. Moreover, a definite modification of this missile was indicated, and, moreover, even the area from where it was launched was indicated.
I will not hide, we were very surprised. After all, before this, fragments of the aircraft with holes were examined, and there was not a single fragment with cut out sections that would indicate the conduct of any laboratory research.
I want to draw attention to such a dialogue that I had with a speaking expert.
–I asked a question: “Excuse me, did you investigate combat damage on fragments of an airplane?”
–Answer: “No. We are only planning to do this.”
–Question: “But how did you establish that the plane was shot down by a Buk missile launcher?”
–Answer: “We found out from the Internet that the aircraft could have been hit either by a GSh-23 type air gun, or a R-60 type air missile, or a Buk anti-aircraft missile. One of the steel pieces found in the wreckage of the aircraft, in our opinion, is somewhat reminiscent of the shape of a “butterfly”. And we know that the warhead of one of the modifications of the Buk missile has damaging elements in the form of a “butterfly”. Therefore, of the three versions, the last was chosen.”
Logic, as they say, is iron. Something reminds me of our school exam. Dutch experts, apparently, have a good university education. However, for such work, education alone is not enough. Of course, experience is necessary, but even this is not the main thing. It is necessary to know, or, in extreme cases, at least conceptually understand the methodology for investigating such aviation events.
Now back to the type of air-to-air missile allegedly used. Omarov claims:
“The warhead was equipped with compact striking elements in an amount of not more than 4000 pieces. The missile most likely had a matrix-type thermal imaging homing head or passive radar. I note that missiles with similar characteristics are not in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces and never have been.”
The Saker: Russia and Malaysia were denied the right to participate in the investigation. Can you outline what the legalities are to decide which countries do or do not get the chance to participate? Do Russia and Malaysia not have any legal instruments to invoke to challenge the absolutely ridiculous way the official inquiry was constituted and, even more so, the way this commission of inquiry operated (such as using social media sites, but not official Russian data)? Russia is an IATA member, so is Malaysia. Can they not sue?
Max van der Werff : This is a question for legal experts, but I’m quite certain Malaysia would have a strong case. ICAO Annex 13 describes in detail how the composition of an air disaster investigation must be. For sure the country of the operator (in this case Malaysia Airlines) has to be part of the investigation from the very beginning, which we all know was not the case. Malaysia only was allowed to become MH17 JIT member four months after the shoot down.
Russia could argue that Ukraine as a potential suspect of the crime is a member of the official investigation and to compensate this obvious anomaly the Russian Federation should be part of the investigative team too.
Connected to this issue Lawyer and expert international criminal law Geert-Jan Knoops argues:
“In my view, the OM made a wrong choice by first setting up a trial model with the JIT team, with the Netherlands and The Hague District Court as the place of trial, then presenting the report with the suspects and then expecting Russia to cooperate. ”
“I think Russia might have been more cooperative if there had been a trial in a neutral country, a non-JIT country.“
The Saker: What is going on in Russia? First, they strongly hinted that some Ukie aircraft had shot MH17, then they declared that it was a Buk owned by the Ukronazis. So did they actually change their working hypothesis and ditched the Su-25 hypothesis to the (much less credible, at least in my opinion) Buk missile scenario?
Max van der Werff : Information management of the Russian Federation is of very low quality, to put it mildly. It took Russia four days to present its version of events and claimed a (most probably) Su-25 appeared on radar as it broke the 5,000 meter altitude. Russia also claimed it had deleted its radar data only to find a copy a few days before the official JIT press conference. And on those radar data a Russian expert explained there was no fighter jet visible. How credible is all this and how could it fail to explain why on one set of radar data a fighter jet is visible and on the other it is not?
Another criticism is Russia reacts when new accusations are disseminated by the official investigators, but fails to take the initiative and to communicate its own version of events in a simple, complete and credible narrative. More about this in two radio interviews with patrick Henningsen of 21st Century Wire en Chris Cook of Gorilla Radio.
The Saker: If the quasi official hypothesis now is that a Buk was fired (by somebody, nevermind for the time being who/how they did it)? In spite of the fact that a HUGE plume should have been seen and in spite of the fact that any such Buk launch was absolutely certain to be tracked and recorded by all sides? Does it not strike you that the Buk hypothesis is just not credible at all? To ask the question a little differently: do you think that challenging the Buk hypothesis is still a viable strategy or should I (and a few others) give up on our Su-25 hypothesis and accept the Buk theory as established beyond reasonable doubt (or even by a preponderance of evidence)?
Max van der Werff: The narrative of a buk missile fired from rebel held territory was the first narrative that circulated in western media and after five years it is unchanged and still the dominant narrative. It is now also the official version of the MH17 Joint Investigation Team.
To your question if challenging the Buk hypothesis is still a viable strategy the answer depends very much on who is questioning this hypothesis. For sure the Russian Federation knows a lot more than what it is sharing with the public.
The tragedy happened merely thirty kilometers from the Russian border. For me it is unthinkable Russia does not know exactly what happened on July 17th 2014. What facts and information does it hide after even five years and for what reasons? If a buk missile was not the murder weapon, why not explain this to the world with irrefutable evidence?
The Saker: Finally, do you believe that the full truth about MH17 will eventually come out and, if yes, roughly how and when?
Max van der Werff : For sure at some point in time the truth will come out. However, I am not sure we will be living long enough to witness that event.
The Saker: thank you so much for your time and replies!
During my years as an strategic intel analyst I had the chance to personally witness how the airspace over Europe is controlled in peacetime: not a single aircraft can take off without immediately being detected by numerous and redundant reconnaissance capabilities of many different actors including NATO, but also the various member states and even some neutral countries. I can only begin to image the degree, the concentration, of intelligence/reconnaissance means deployed by ALL SIDES of the conflict in the Donbass. There is absolutely NO doubt in my mind that both the Russians and the Empire have very detailed radar tracks, signal logs and God knows what else which gives them a 20/20 vision of everything that took place on that day (and before and after too, of course). This brings me to three different questions:
- Why are the Russians not releasing to the world the full and irrefutable evidence of what took place that day? I could understand why the Russians remained silent about 9/11, but in this case I really don’t get it!
- How are the various NATO states justifying that they are not simply showing the general public the full picture of what took place that day? Has nobody asked them point blank?
- How is it that journalists with a lot of contacts (say a Seymour Hersh or a Robert Fisk) not get at least ONE (even anonymous) source to give them the full picture? There must be HUNDREDS of people between all the US and EU intel agencies who know exactly what took place (and most of those probably do not sympathize with the Ukronazi regime in Kiev). Why this deafening silence?
I think that MH-17 will go the way of the Kennedy assassination or the way of 9/11: everybody will know that the official version is a load of bull, everybody will have his/her version of what really might have taken place, and we will probably never know for sure.
Unless one of the hundreds of people who actually do know know the truth steps forward.
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