Luhansk

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An Assessment of the June 2 Luhansk Administration Building Attacks

***Update: I can now conclude the damage to the Luhansk administration building was almost certainly caused by the jet shown in vision shared online over the past two days. Read on to see how I came to this conclusion.

There is no doubt people were killed yesterday after the Luhansk regional administration building was attacked. Just how many remains to be seen, though reports indicate at least five.

What was in doubt, however, was who orchestrated the attacks. Russian media claims it was the Ukrainian military, specifically an SU-25 using “cluster bombs to deliver a pinpoint strike“.

Western media is sceptical, and Ukrainian media completely disagrees with the theory, arguing that while the Ukrainian Air Force was in the Luhansk Oblast, it was providing support at a border post being sieged by some 500 separatists.

The Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, was questioned on the subject (6:44) and responded, “no… even Russian experts recognise that it was not a Ukrainian air-strike… it was misuse of grenades by the terrorists themselves. No bombing either by air-plane or artillery was permitted by the Ministry of Defence.”

There is much conjecture on both English- and Russian-language social media regarding the incident, so I decided to investigate myself.

The video below was one of the first to surface after the incident, and shows Shevchenko Park in Luhansk.




At 0:02, we see a flash between the flagpole and the tree to the left, which critics of the separatists claim is a misfired rocket-propelled grenade. This theory is certainly believable as we can see what appears to be a blow-back flash to the right of the first flash immediately afterwards. The rocket then hits the ground – perhaps a second (or third) is also fired – and hit the administration building.

Certainly seems believable.

The second video below shows a ground-support jet releasing defensive flares as well as at least eight unguided missiles before flying away.




Russians and separatists claim this video shows the exact moment the regional administration building is attacked by the Ukrainians. There are definitely rockets fired, but the location of filming is ambiguous. Could this simply be a video showing the Ukrainian Air Force providing support to the soldiers surrounded near the border?

The final video was streamed by “Newsfront” and shows the chaos immediately following the incident. It shows damage to the fourth floor of the administration building (0:45), as well as what appear to be small craters in the road and footpath (10:12, 13:44) in the park. Warning: video shows dead and injured people.

Given the contradictory information, I decided to use some free software to try to make sense of the situation. Firstly, I found the location on Google Earth, then, using geo-tagged photos uploaded to Panoramio, located the positions of each camera. I have included stills from all three videos as well as the locations on a map of central Luhansk. The administration building is highlighted in green.

Luhansk

 

The letters on the map correspond with the letters on the stills from the videos in order to link the filmed events with the map.

What I found from the first video is the first flash (A) could have occurred anywhere along the yellow line drawn. The second (B) and third (C) flashes are clearly on the road.

The second video was a lot harder to analyse given the zooming and panning, but the location I have indicated for ‘Camera 2’ is 100% accurate to within about 20 metres. Make up your own mind on the trajectory of both the plane and the missiles, but given there is no obvious turn made by the aircraft, I have indicated a rough flight path on the map. How far to the left the missiles were released (D) is hardest to tell, but it’s certainly to the left of the administrative building.

It’s pretty damning evidence. As much as I would like to hope the Ukrainian military wouldn’t fire on the centre of a major city, it certainly appears that’s the case. While the trajectory of the rockets is impossible to calculate precisely, they definitely aren’t travelling in the opposite direction to the building. We can’t discount provocation by pro-Russians nor Russians, but it seems highly unlikely that a Russian jet would enter Ukrainian airspace, let alone fly over a major Ukrainian city and – even more impossibly – fire missiles on it. I just hope some further evidence comes out that proves this was just a horrible accident, not a government-sanctioned air strike.

Update:

We have a fourth camera, and I’ve located it using Yandex Streetview!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPf1IM6zgaY

Luhansk


Below is an updated map with each of the four cameras, and rough flight paths for the jet. The dotted lines show roughly where the camera was pointed when the rockets were launched. A good project for someone with more time than me would be to precisely calculate the direction of each camera, and triangulate the position of the plane when the rockets were fired.

Luhansk

Unfortunately, the new angle agrees with the existing conclusion.

Update:
As accurately as I could, I have identified the location of the jet at the moment which it released the rockets, using the two videos.

I calculated the location by pinpointing first the location of the camera holder. Camera 2 was pretty easy – I just used Yandex maps and lined up the sign on the building with the trees either side when he pans. Camera 4 was even easier, as he moves forward past the last tree in front of the bar just before the rockets hit.

I then paused frame on both videos just as the rockets were released. On Camera 2 you could see the edge of the trees as he zoomed out, and when he turns the other direction later, you can see roughly how far back he is standing. I gave a wide margin of error for Camera 2 as it is unclear how far from the road he is standing.

Camera 4 was a little easier, as the jet releases the rockets directly over the building in the distance.
rockets

I then used these two points to extrapolate the red and green lines you see on the picture below. The yellow line runs perpendicular to the entrance of the administration building, for reference. The plane most likely fired its rockets from somewhere inside the “box” created where the red and green lines intersect.

impactzoom

impact

Original Google Earth file download for reference.

If you still have questions or are intrigued by this story, please read the comments as I go to some length to respond to questions there.

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33 Comments

    • Actually, we agree on the position of the camera. What the article you link fails to acknowledge is that the camera-person pans from the extreme left at the start of the video. The camera is not pointing towards the TV tower when the plane releases the missiles.

  1. Complete bullshit. That was air-strike. Lots of air-rockets fragments and multiple craters were found in the park. Rocket-peoplled grenade can’t make such damages.

      • Sorry, i was too hasty. Ukranian jet hit all these people. And much more are dying these daysin south-west.
        What kind of pictuture do you have in your media?

          • ok, at least it’s better than those things that Urkraine authorities say. Lie, lie, lie.
            I strat to think it would be better if Russia help somehow. After overthrow in Kiev, Ukraine proclamed 5 mlns people in SE as terrorist… only because they don’t recognize new authorities. And they are ready to kill all of them. But Russia won’t invade. Unfortunately… Nobody will beat ukranian Nazi (((

          • Sergey, those are Russian authorities who lie, constantly. There was no overthrow in Kiev. Terrorist are Russian mercenary which have overthorwn local authorities in Donbass region. They are kidnapping killing and torturing people. They are waging full-scale diversionary war against Ukrainian army. And some people unfortunately are supporting them. Because of Russian aggressive propaganda(Lie). There is no such thing like “5 million people don’t recognize new authorities”
            Real Nazi is Putin. Fascism in 21 century…

      • By thay way, did you know that Ukranian offcials said about this incodent?
        They said that was anti-jet rocket that hit the an air-conditioner on the wall of building becaues it was hot (probably 900 degress as jet turbines). They consider people are so stupid and continue to kill people.

        • Yeah I saw that Rozmaznin said that. It seems unbelievable – but as a journalist I can only talk about the facts.

          This information war is totally unprecedented.

        • Sergey you are very bad person. I don’t know if are you lying deliberatly or unconsciously. That is not official version of ukrainian side what has happened. It’s an answer to the claim that it was airstrike of ukranian jet. The story with air-condition is what has MAYBE happen near Luhansk amdinistration buulding.
          Russian suboteurs are killing people. Ukrainian army and ukrainian innocent people.

          • Murderers / terrorists are all on the NaziGard side. Odessa, Mariupol, Lugansk, Maidan – the Kiev junta and its Nazis are always murdering and mutilating innocent people. Countless have been kidnapped and arrested by unlawful junta regime.

            The invading Nazional Guard should go back to Galicia before they are killed! But if they stay and fight the locals, may they be incapacitated quickly, in shallah!

          • I agree with you that the officials said that “maybe” a heat-seeking rocket hit an airconditioner, but they also said that it was definitely not the jet. Even in Kyiv’s eyes, surely the jet theory must also be a “maybe”.

          • What is wrong with you?
            I saw an offcial statement of some ukranian military guy. I saw!!! He proclamed that Ukranian army is not responsible for that attack. Of course its not possibel to hide such a big lie, so finally ukranian have admitted air attack. But they tried to lie from very beginning.
            By the way there way there are tonns of comment in differnet blogs where ukranians are speculation about grenade misue. In those animals are even joking about womens that died in Lugansk. Such a shame for Ukraine.

  2. Hi Tom, I looked at your schemes. I do think your calculations are wrong. The biggest mistake you make is that when a jet is flying high, it SEEMS as if it is flying over your head, while a straight line down would show it is hundreds of meters away. It means you give the jet a wrong path.
    But even when you don’t consider that, it is easy to see that the first jet is not firing at the park. I agree with your positioning of what you call camera 2. The park is NOT in the line of sight of this camera. The park is to the left of the view of this camera. Now the jet is firing from top LEFT to RIGHT. But It would need to fire to the LEFT would it have to hit the park!
    Basically it as easy as that. See my blog: http://ukraineatwar.blogspot.nl/2014/06/flightpath-of-jet-and-rockets-in.html
    It would be nice if we can find consensus about this, because I did some calculations too ;-).

    • It’s pretty clear when a jet fires 8 rockets and moments later 8 rockets hit a building. All of your “perspective” and “air conditioner” arguments are laughable. There simply is no other explanation.

      As to air conditioner: (1) there was no air conditioner at the impact spot; (2) air conditioners are not “hot” – try touching one as it works, you will see (DUUHHHHHHHH!!), (3) it was a cool day and most windows were open, so even if air conditioner were activated, it owuld not be working; (4) numerous rockets clearly hit in the street, as per the CCTV camera across the street; (5) many of the dead were in the street with serious leg lacerations, consistent with a blast in the street, not above them; (6) a MANPAD has a 1,2 kg warhead, but the smoke cloud from the blast is at least 20m high and 40m wide; etc. etc.

      You pro-Nazis are really pathetic in your attempts to justify crimes against humanity. That you are pure evil is well understood, however.

  3. Great job at analysis! Nazis like “Anton” still try to turn black to white but this time the evil will be defeated!

  4. Hi Tom,

    very good work. what I don’t understand is how 8 non guided missile shot horizontally, suddenly dive at a 90° angle to fall vertically on the target, like old school bombs. Any idea?

    • Hi Emmanuel, thanks for your comment. I don’t claim to be an aviation expert or rocket scientist, but it looks to me as though the plane shot the missiles at an angle. In the video featuring the TV tower you can see from the video a “spread” of missiles.

      Rocket spread

      This, plus the obvious angle, indicates that they are not travelling horizontally (or they would be “chasing” each other in a straight line.

      Further, by my calculations, the jet fired the missiles between 2 and 5km from the impact site – plenty of time for gravity to pull the rockets down to earth.

      Also, given the first rocket had the greatest angle, it’s no surprise that the first “flash” seen in the park was the one furthest from the building.

      Let me know if you need anything more explained.

      Cheers.

      • Good work. We need an urgent international investigation on this, although I fear that most pieces of evidence disappeared or may have been tampered with. A few problems, though:

        *In the CCTV camera video, the first flash left of the flagpole, coming from inside the woods, doesn’t seem provoked by any air dropped object. We don’t see trees being smashed, nor any movement over the trees, even if you freeze frame carefully. It really looks like that inside of the woods some burst occurred. It doesn’t look like a MANPADS, but it could be a four barreled rocket launcher, a «Spigot» or Spandrel type of ATGW, etc….

        2. Difficult to say if the Frogfoot is launching flares, chaff or unguided rockets, or air to ground guided missiles, or laser guided bombs or other devices. But what puzzles me more is one of the videos where you see civilians close to the Luhansk admn. building, seeing the plane dropping its ordnance, and while this is still airborne, you hear the noise of impact and a car’s alarm going on, etc. How could this be: a rocket doesn’t hit the ground immediately! And these are still being launched…

        2A – An ex- Russian Air Force pilot also alerts me to the ultra low trajectory of the ammunition or weapon that stroke the admn. building. claiming unguided air to ground rockets would not come at such an angle… On the other hand, the MANPADS theory doesn’t convince me, due to the level of destruction, too much for a misfired Sa-7/14/16…

        3. The only investigation I see possible involves the Ukranian Air Force delivering all tapes of communciations air to ground and air to air (with a Su-27 also visible), registers and coordinates or attacks and ammunitions dispensed, etc. It would also be interesting to see the exact distance of the besieged DPSU command post (the hacienda like base) to the Luhansk central square, as the UAF states it only attacked the vicinities of the besieged installation.

        Regards

        NR

        • Hi Nunu,

          Thanks for your reply, what you’re saying is very interesting.

          I will have a closer look tonight when I am home, but I will attempt to respond to each of the above as much as I can now.

          1. Regarding the CCTV footage: it’s pretty clear footage and you’re right, there is no movement in the trees before the flash, however we saw a lot of the damage occurred in the open areas – on the paths in the park, as well as on the open grass. I do agree that it’s strange that we don’t see any rockets, but given the angle we don’t get much time to see them passing through the air at high velocity. I wonder if we can get a figure on how quickly the rockets travel, and if they slow after a certain distance?

          2. If you look at some other videos of the Su-25 in action, you can see the rockets only leave an initial trail of smoke (I guess when the rockets are initially burning), and shoot off without a trail. I do find this part of the investigation interesting now that you mention it, and would love to find out how quickly these rockets travel. If we can get a figure on that, I can definitely ascertain if it is possible, given we know roughly how far the plane was from the admin building (between 2 and 5km, probably about 2.5km), and can take into account the sound delay once they hit, given we know how exactly far the admin building is from each camera.

          2a. The images of the rockets and craters in the soil appear consistent with the angle the rockets were released from the plane. To investigate this further, I’d need someone to provide an estimate or calculation of the altitude the plane was at when firing the missiles. I feel as though this is possible to calculate given we can compare its length to fixed objects at known distances like the TV tower etc.

          3. I will see if I can find the location of the border post that was being attacked to see if it is even possible for the plane (given I know its rough location) to attack it from the position it was in over the city.

          Thanks again for your input, it adds a lot to the discussion. Let me know if you can answer any of my questions and I will definitely get back to you tonight!

          Cheers,

          Tom

          • I edit a weekly TV show in Portugal (SIC TV), and we concluded that the Su-25/27 attacks against the LPR positions besieging the camp took place some kms away, west of the HQ attack area.

            An Ukranian source (military, but serving at the UN) says that the Forgfoot seen in some videos is firing chaff «clouds» and flares, not rockets. But I know that there is a piece of footage where you can see clearly an attack by a Frogfoot with S-24/25 e.a. rockets and the Gsh30-2 embedded gun and Ghs30-2 gun pods. The problem is that in that footage you see the plane but there are no other elements that can enable to establish coordinates.

            It is important to know if/what kind of ammunition was being delivered: the Ukrainian AF have in its inventory 57, 80, 240 and 330 mms rockets, and as you may understand they cause different types of damage.

            The craters you mention may correspond to rocket impacts, but not of large caliber ones, and may be also caused by shrapnel, debris and , if there was an MRLS on the ground, rockets from this one…

            Do you know the video where civilians are watching the plane dropping its ordnance and SIMULTANEOUSLY hearing the explosion? That’s the most intriguing part for me, having seen lots of these incidents in other wars, African and, alas, European…

            I know some of the OSCE personnel in Ukraine. They state to me that their assessment of the attack is not based in any privileged information but on…documents and discussions like these.

            The tree thing is crucial. We maybe wrong, but the explosion or flash inside the woods looks like provoking and horizontal movement, right to left, suggesting a ground to ground trail. We also zoomed and studied frame by frame, and it looks like the flash comes from inside the woods, on a covered area, not open space.

            Then we have motive and rationale: why would the UAF attack a distant civilian target, that would have no influence on the outcome of combats against the DPSU in the base area?

            Regards

            Nuno

  5. This pic shows screengrabs of Ukrainian twitter feed – first one they claim responsibility – second one – they change it to no – they didn’t do it. http://t.co/xopcrnS6j1 If that doesn’t work, it is on mt twitter feed @mkj1951 Thank you for taking the time to put this together.

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