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New Report Shows How Russia 'Digitally Modified' Satellite Imagery to Make It Look Like Ukrainian Forces Shot Down Flight MH17

"They're removed the [Ukrainian] Buk missile launcher."

Search and rescue team search for human remains amongst the wreckages of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it was downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, 2014, near the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, 2014. (Photo by Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The satellite imagery Russia used to blame Ukraine for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was "falsified," according to a new report.

The British investigative citizen-journalism website Bellingcat.com said the image Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu used to blame Ukrainian forces for shooting down the plane in an area of the country controlled by Russian-backed separatists actually predates July 17, 2014, when MH17 was shot down.

The image is actually from May or June of the same year, Bellingcat reported.

Satellite imagery purports to show the area where MH17 was shot down July 17, 2014. This photo does not appear to show a missile launch system. (Image source: Russian Defense Ministry via Bellingcat.com)

"They're removed the [Ukrainian] Buk missile launcher from the July 17 picture to make it look like it's left the base," Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins said. "In the second image of a big open area, they've added missile launchers to make it look like they were in the area when they weren't."

Satellite imagery purports to show a missile launch system in the area where MH17 went down on July 14, 2014, three days before the plane went down. (Image source: Bellingcat.com)

The British citizen-journalist said he discovered the "discrepancies" by using publicly available satellite imagery on Google Earth Pro.

"The forensic analysis conducted by the Bellingcat investigation team clearly and undoubtedly demonstrates that the dates of the satellite photos have been falsified, and that the photographs were digitally modified using Adobe Photoshop CS5 software," the report states.

In the hours after the July 2014 crash, state-sponsored media in Russia were quick to suggest that a Ukrainian surface to air missile was responsible for the deaths of all 298 people on board the Boeing 777 plane traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Search and rescue team search for human remains amongst the wreckages of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 after it was downed close to Russia's border with Ukraine on July 17, 2014, near the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on July 18, 2014. (Soner Kilinc/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Many Western countries were always skeptical of Russia's explanation. The U.S. State Department called it a "preposterous" attempt by Moscow to "obfuscate the truth and ignore ultimate responsibility for the tragic downing of MH17."

Bellingcat echoed the State Department's claims in its new report, saying the photos were a "clear attempt by the Russian government to deceive the public, global community and the families of the flight MH17 victims, only days after flight MH17 was shot down."

A number of other individuals also believe Russia isn't telling the truth about who's really to blame.

Russian author Mark Solonin said Russia's photos appear to be edited to fit his own country's narrative. Others indicated that the plane depicted in Russia's satellite images appears to be a Boeing 767 jet while MH17 was a Boeing 777 plane.

Russia still denies responsibility for the crash. The findings from an international investigation of the plane crash are set to be released in October.

(H/T: Daily Mail)

Follow Jon Street (@JonStreet) on Twitter

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