No. 4 security official under Putin coordinated with rebel military during the shooting down of Flight MH17, which killed 298 people

  • Phone and Viber messages link Russian President Vladimir Putin’s No. 4 security official to the site of the MH17 killings.
  • “The Dutch got their guy,” an official at NATO headquarters in Brussels told Insider. “This is the ‘smoking gun’ that links Putin directly through the chain of command of the FSB to the rebels. They’ll obfuscate and deny, but the links are very strong.”
  • 298 people died in the crash of the Malaysia Airlines jet in 2014.

A high-ranking Russian security official was present in eastern Ukraine coordinating military operations with the rebel separatists accused of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, killing 298 people in 2014, according to journalists and open-source investigators.

Dutch intelligence – using hundreds of intercepted phone calls – had previously determined that an unidentified Russian official using the alias “Vladimir Ivanovich” was a go-between in the relationship between Ukrainian seperatist rebels in the eastern portion of the country and Russian military-support efforts that were poured into the breakaway region of Donbass.

But on Tuesday multiple news outlets – including Bellingcat, a Russian publication called The Insider, and BBC Russia – identified “Ivanovich” as Col. Gen. Andrey Ivanovich Burlaka, a high-ranking official in Russia’s internal security service, the FSB, and a man believed to be the No. 4 official in Russia’s domestic security chain of command. According to those same news outlets, Burlaka, 54, as first deputy for the border service of the FSB, was sent to Ukraine just days before a BUK antiaircraft missile system from Russia’s 53rd brigade targeted the commercial jet, killing everyone on board.

Despite no official confirmation of Burlaka’s involvement in the Donbass conflict, investigators were able to link Burlaka’s internal travel records and other official documents – obtained through leaks to Bellingcat’s Russian-language partners – to the same travel and phone communications patterns as “Ivanovich.” He was regularly caught speaking over phones and radios to coordinate the movement of Russian men and equipment into the region at the time of the downing of the aircraft.

‘This is the smoking gun’

Bellingcat also used a reverse search for the phone numbers used by “Ivanovich” to issue orders that had been intercepted by Dutch intelligence and eventually used the messages to link “Ivanovich” as the alias of a high-ranking official in the FSB named “Andrey.”

Screenshot 2020 04 29 at 13.02.12

Foto: An excerpt from a transcript of a conversation with Col. Gen. Andrey Ivanovich Burlaka. Source: Bellingcat

A NATO military official – speaking on the condition of anonymity to Insider because they were discussing top-secret investigations – confirmed that Dutch investigators are convinced Ivanovich and Burlaka are one in the same.

“The Dutch got their guy,” said the official, who is based at NATO headquarters in Brussels. “This is the ‘smoking gun’ that links Putin directly through the chain of command of the FSB to the rebels. They’ll obfuscate and deny but the links are very strong.”

The BBC concluded in its investigation – which was separate from Bellingcat’s effort – that Burlaka was present at the largest Russian military base in the area in the city of Rostov-on-Don two days before the Malaysia Air flight was hit. The BBC used flight records to show that Burlaka arrived on the previous morning of June 15 before leaving the area for Moscow on June 18, after the airliner had been destroyed.

Russia’s conflict with Ukraine has taken the lives of over 12,000 Ukrainians.


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