Kremlin Has Mastered Propaganda, But Not Photoshop: Fake MH17 Photo Lights Up RuNet

Whoever is behind the 'satellite photo', their Photoshop skills leave much to be desired. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Whoever is behind the ‘satellite photo’, their Photoshop skills leave much to be desired. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

A purportedly new satellite image presenting unbeatable ‘proof’ of Ukraine’s fault in the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane crash has garnered ridicule on the RuNet.

Mikhail Leontyev, editor and host of “Odnako” (However) evening show on Kremlin-owned Channel One TV, dropped the bombshell: an American whistleblower had come forward with a ‘satellite’ image of a ‘Ukrainian fighter jet’ shooting down MH17. The host of Odnako went on to show a letter, allegedly from an MIT aviation expert with 20 years of experience, named George A. Bilt, who purportedly agreed with the Russian government that a Ukrainian fighter jet—not a Buk missile controlled by pro-Russian separatists—had shot down MH17. The photo was presented as proof. The image is not grainy, distorted, or in any way ambiguous—it’s crystal clear, in fact.

The image Russian state TV claims is proof that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet. Screenshot from

The image Russian state TV claims is proof that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet. Screenshot from

The photo shows MH17 a bit north of Donetsk being fired upon by a ‘fighter jet,’ presumably Ukraine’s, with a missile en route. A number of pro-Kremlin bloggers and Russian news outlets immediately shared this news as a smoking gun, claiming that what most in the West had dismissed as a conspiracy was now indisputable. However, as many on the RuNet immediately noticed, this image was just too good to be true.

Russian Twitter user Abu quickly noticed an inconsistency in the source of Mikhail Leontyev’s find, tracing the satellite photo to an older post on a web forum in October:

This photo is a month old.

Oh, and one last thing. The photo is of Donetsk, and the communication with the plane was lost near Snezhnoye. And the Malaysian airline logo is in the wrong place.

Popular blogger and Moscow municipal deputy Maxim Kats did a Google image search for “Boeing top view,” with the first result looking suspiciously familiar:

Interesting, did they also Google a Boeing image like this? Or a coincidence? The first picture in the search results for “Boeing top view”

As detailed on Ilya Varlamov’s popular LiveJournal, a laundry list of other inconsistencies surfaces, the more one examines the photograph, including how the cloud and crop formations of the satellite photo exactly match a patchwork of Yandex and Google Map satellite images from 2012.

As soon as it became clear that this satellite image was not the smoking gun it was billed as, the RuNet decided to have some fun with the photo, sharing outrageous conspiracy theories and critiquing the Photoshop skills of whoever was behind the image.

#version Fascist-minded aliens shot down the Boeing…

Our photographer captured a close-up of the moment when the Ukrainian fighter jet shot down the Malaysian Boeing.

YOU CANNOT HIDE THE TRUTH! In the picture, it is apparent that the wings of the fighter jet, which shot down the Boeing, are painted in the colors of Ukrainian embroidery!

It seems most likely that the sudden resurfacing of the MH17 conspiracy theories and ‘incontrovertible proof’ of Ukraine's fault might be Kremlin's reaction to a series of stories on the MH17 crash by crowdsourcing investigative website bellingcat, released earlier this month. Alternatively, it might be a ploy to draw the world's and Russians’ attention from other events in Russia, such as the worsening economic crisis. We may never know who decided it was a good idea to headline a state-run television channel’s news show with a fabricated photograph, but it is certainly far from the first time that the Russian government has taken liberties with photographs or, for that matter, with journalistic objectivity.


  • ambience

    some answers are here eugenyshultz.livejournal. com/589966.html

    • Elena OO

      The link you are suggesting totally ingores the fact that the logo on MH17 was in a different place than the one in the fake “satellite” photo of Russian TV. One of its passengers took a a photo of MH17 on July 17 just before the flight – the logo is right over the wing and not closer to the nose:

    • HarryBowman

      In that “photo”, a 747 is longer than the runways of the Donetsk airport visible to the southwest. The entire village of Panteleimonivka is visible between the front and back wings of the thing. It must be three kilometers long! Everybody take a look yourself: Panteleimonivka is at 48.20 N 37.98 E.

      • parsons

        The picture above is not a 747 there is no forward buldge and trying to equate and airborne subject with ground below without some trigonometry is silly. The Russian photos are silly. What ever the reason behind the downing of MH17 the Russian photos are as relevant to the investigation as my wedding photos are.

        • al1928

          The satellite might be 1000 miles above the earth. The plane is 5 miles above the earth. Given those distances, the plane plane should cover almost exactly the same area as if it were on the ground.

  • Bravo Langley Boys

    CIA releases an insta fake to distract everyone from Rostov ATC — which Brown Moses and his army of paid fedtroll groupies had no comment about — everybody laughs. Bravo CIA. We’ll see what you Langley boys cough up to trick Russian TV into running when the Russians release the audio of the Ukie pilots saying ‘tally ho, firing now’. Or if someone on the Dutch board gets a conscience attack and leaks that the shrapnel in the bodies looks like air to air not surface to air.

    And BTW, how does Eliot Higgins know that the fighter jet is 50km away if the photo’s fake to begin with? Isn’t that a bit contradictory, like him thinking Russia would supply a BUK but wouldn’t supply some officers to operate the thing who can tell the difference between a Boeing airliner flying at 32,000 feet and a slow propeller driven Antonov at 22,000 feet?

    How did Eliot Higgins become an instant expert on Soviet air defense systems when his area of expertise was stuff that goes boom in Syria? Bueller?

    I’m pissed at Rossiya TV for running this, for taking Langley bait.

    • Bravo Langley Boys

      I feel like Eliot Higgins could say tomorrow Google Earth and Street View showed him that polite men in Green invaded Manhattan, and the BBC would still sniff up his rectum. It’s sickening the personality cult that’s developed around this twerp as a substitute for actual, credible British or American intel. They don’t have it, so they just plant fakes in Russian media and then laugh about it. Ha ha ha. Nobody’ll ever ask what the hell the NSA or DIA have got on MH17. Mission accomplished until next time…who needs Colin Powell when you have Eliot friggin Higgins?

    • Asdf Ghjk

      I say bravo to the Putinism apologetics like yourself. Now it’s a crime agains humanity to expose a clear Kremlin propaganda.

    • warthog

      Probably it was the evil CIA who forced russian Channel 1 to support the fake by referring to a russian ‘expert’ who also couldn’t tell that it’s a fake. Moreover, it was the CIA who put some crap in your pants a minute ago.

    • HarryBowman

      CIA knows 747s are not longer than the runways of the Donetsk airport, easily visible to the lower right of the plane in the picture.

  • Sunho Lee

    Best laugh I’ve had all week. Gotta hand it to those Russian bloggers having their fun. (not to say that the whole affair isn’t sad, or anything like that, so don’t everyone flame me at once, ok?) Everything is gist for the propaganda and political mill these days.

  • Putin's Fading Brother/Rival

    we all know it was russia that blew up all the planes, they started in n cuba when cnn posted that russia was being suspicious with their war submarine down there and then a civilian transport plane disappeared. the rest is just russias leader mother putin being a Kunt ass bitch about coming forward with it

  • Nicholas Hylton

    LMAO! See? This is what you get when you subcontract Photoshop propaganda pictures out to the North Koreans!

  • Visitor

    What a happy coincidence – Mr Pukin goes to Brisbane, the fake photo goes to the Web. To think about…

  • 777American

    Any credible discussion of MH17 would include the bullet holes riddled across the fuselage that could only be done by plane to plane contact and the rebels don’t have planes. Also “who benefits”. To suggest Russia shot down MH17 is as stupid as suggesting Assad used chemical weapons. Aric and this website seem obvious as a Mossad/CIA propaganda front.

    • Caity

      You understand how a BUK missile works right? It explodes before contact, firing tons of small pieces at the target. The Russians themselves showed the difference between bullet holes and BUK holes and it was clear to see that the MH17 wreckage was hit by a BUK. Look at the holes towards the left, they are varying sizes, not consistent with bullets. And as for Assad, it was proven that he used chemical weapons, so that’s not really a good comparison. And “Who benefits?” nobody. Of course they don’t, the plane was shot down by accident. Nobody intended it to happen, but that’s what happens when you give BUKs to poorly trained, hasty militants who don’t think before they act, and not specially trained military.

      • 777American

        Caity, MH17 is what happens when you give weapons to psychopaths like Kolomoisky. You might want to check out General Wesley Clark regarding 7 countries in 5 years or Marine Alan Sabrosky to understand what is going on in the world. A summary synopsis is that old Rothschild money is using lies, murder, and theft to try and hold on to their power as the new BRIC money has already passed them. Their desperate acts are simply accelerating their demise by exposing themselves to the world like their false flag of 9/11 on this country. They are like rats scrambling around in quicksand. Stay clear as they gasp for their last breath.

      • anonymous

        From the first, I believed that Putin ordered Russian military to shoot down the first commercial airplane in range. I see no reason to change that belief. Must believe an accident is actually absurd. Trained Russian military could not mistake a commercial airliner for a military cargo plane. This was not an accident; it was an order from Putin.

        • patrick

          To be fair to the Russians (I do believe the Pro Russians fired the missile) The Buk can be linked to a fire control can easily identify a military or civilian aircraft…. however…. the Buk can also be fired in “Stand Alone” mode. In Stand alone, the launcher cannot tell the difference between military or civilian

          I believe the Pro Russians thought the were firing on a Ukrainian Transport, not a civilian Airliner, it was an accident. BUT, the Pro Russians and their Russian Allies need to come clean. Admit to the tragedy and hold the officer responsible for the battery responsible

          • anonymous

            This belief is based on the absurd but more believable that that Putin would give the order. It is shared by the world but not me; never will I believe that Putin ordered the BUK given to the untrained militia and they mistakenly hit a commercial plane. The BUK was very efficiently sent in and out of Ukraine as if by plan. If this was a mistake, why was it on the way out before the debris even settled?

    • knightstemplar

      Dummy: those arent bullet holes, but from shrapnel

      • 777American

        If you don’t see the 30mm, round, clean, bullet holes, you might want to try and pull your head out of the 50mm hole where your pencil head easily fits.

        • knightstemplar

          You’re an idiot – go move to Russia fool

          • 777American

            I’d rather take back America from the terrorists who brainwashed your pea brain.

          • Rotshild von Windshield

            You take America from “terrorists” and give it back to whom? I’m not laughing at you, I just want to know whether YOU can handle things.

          • 777American

            Yes, our democracy of the people and for the people has a proven track record of unparalleled success when it is not infiltrated by traitors like Bush Cheney and Wolfowitz. Keep the faith, America will come back stronger than ever as more of us wake up to the false flag ops of the psychopathic powerhaulics. Although by your name it appears you may be on their payroll?

          • Guest

            Here is a picture of a 30 mm cannon shell strike on metal. Do you see a “round, clean, bullet hole” or something else?

          • Joni Pelkonen

            Here is a picture of a 30 mm cannon shell strike on metal. See “round, clean, bullet hole” or something else?

          • Rotshild von Windshield

            …you may be on their payroll…

            THEY are on my payroll, which means have close ties to financial groups.

        • Joni Pelkonen

          Except 30 mm is a cannon and shoots explosive ammo. It does not leave “round, clean, bullet holes”, it rips target to shreds.

          • ProfessorX

            Imagine if the bullet that hit this glass came from other then about 90° angle, don’t believe everything Hollywood told you.

          • ProfessorX

            Imagine if the bullet that hit this glass came from other then about 90° angle, don’t believe everything Hollywood told you.

          • Joni Pelkonen

            That is a bullet strike. Obviously you have absolutely no idea of the difference between cannon shell and a bullet. Hint: cannon shell explodes on contact. Come back after learning at least some basics, amateur.

        • ohyessiricanboogie

          A 30mm canon round would leave a hole you could step through -if you could fire it from an attack aircraft travelling at anything between 500-1000mph at an airliner travelling at 500mph -which you can’t. Those holes were made by shrapnel -more specifically tungsten ball bearings. A BUK warhead is packed with them.

    • Phonomatic

      Maybe you are George A. Bilt?

    • PoppaCharlie

      Incredible, those bullet holes.

    • Visitor

      Where’s the image from? Could you provide a link?

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