Russia Deploys Its ‘Hunter’ BUK Missiles To Ukraine That Was Used To Shoot Down Malaysian Flight MH17 In 2014?

As Russia steps up military assaults on Ukrainian cities, it has started to field its advanced weaponry. After the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, Moscow’s troops appear to have deployed the latest surface-to-air weapon in the war-torn country.    

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Undated footage doing the rounds on social media shows the 9K317M Buk-M3, the newest version of the self-propelled, medium-range Buk system.

The Buk-M3 is designed to intercept cruise missiles and aerodynamic targets of all types. The launcher has 12 missiles, and the self-propelled fire unit has six missiles. The export variant is known as ‘Viking’.

Compared to previous versions, the new anti-aircraft missile system includes a larger chassis that can store more missiles, a better control system, and better anti-blast protection for the crew.

The footage surfaced on March 21 shows the weapon system somewhere in Ukraine or near its borders. The vehicle carrying these missiles have distinctive ‘Z’ markings on them, meaning they are Russian hardware. 

The video is believed to have been recorded in Kherson Oblast, in southern Ukraine, in early March. If confirmed, this is the first time the Buk-M3 is spotted in Ukraine. 

Previous clips, however, showed the systems being transported closer to Ukraine’s borders in the weeks leading up to the invasion, which began on February 24. Last month, a radar vehicle related to the Buk-M3 was purportedly seen in the Belgorod region of Russia. 

The Buk-M3 medium-range surface-to-air missile systems went on combat alert for the first time in December 2020 in the Altai Region of Western Siberia, providing air defense to Russia’s Central Military District’s area.

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It was previously reported that at least one vehicle linked to the Buk-M3, presumably a 9S18M1-3 acquisition radar vehicle with the Western reporting name ‘Snow Drift’, was destroyed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces on March 5. 

Buk Missile Shot Down Malaysian Flight

On July 17, 2014, pro-Russian separatists used a Buk missile system to shoot down Malaysia Airlines aircraft MH17, a Boeing 777, over eastern Ukraine when it was on its route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. To date, 296 of the dead have been recognized, with only two passengers’ remains missing. 

MH17 took off from Schiphol Airport at 12:31 p.m. local time and flew east over Germany and Poland. To avoid probable thunderstorms, it changed course to fly through Ukraine. When it was shot down, it was just three hours into a 12-hour journey.

9K317M ‘Buk-M3’ medium-range anti-aircraft missile system (via Twitter)

The crew’s final words were a transmission to a Ukrainian flight controller, repeating the coordinates ‘ROMEO NOVEMBER DELTA, Malaysian one seven.’ 

According to the investigation, the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. It was also claimed that the missile, a Buk 9M83 surface-to-air missile, was supplied to the rebel forces by the Russian military and later returned. Moscow, on the other hand, continues to deny involvement in the downing of the passenger jet. 

US To Send Soviet Missile Systems To Ukraine?

The US is set to transfer a Soviet-made air defense weaponry that Washington got through a secret program decades ago, to Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported on March 21. 

The system, which includes the SA-8 short-range SAM, was acquired by the US in order to examine Russian military technology and assist in the training of American forces, US officials told WSJ.  

Ukrainian soldiers can easily operate these weapons since their military is familiar with Soviet-era systems. Both the US National Security Council and the Pentagon have remained tightlipped about what armaments the US has provided to Ukraine to assist in the country’s fightback against the Russians.

A US military-owned SA-8 Gecko (via Twitter)

“Operational security matters to the Ukrainians, right now,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters. “They’re fighting for their country, and the Pentagon is not going to be detailing publicly the tools with which they are doing that.”   

The US has a small number of Soviet missile defense systems such as SA-8 and the S-300 air defense system that it obtained over the past 30 years as part of a secret project. The SA-8, which can be quickly deployed with ground forces, provides cover from planes and helicopters. Some of these weapons have been retained at the US Army post at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

Although the Ukrainian military operates S-300, the same system will not be transferred to Kyiv by the US. As The EurAsian Times previously reported, Slovakia can deliver its S-300 missile defence system to Ukraine, but the NATO ally wants assurances from the US that it would receive a “proper replacement” promptly.

The two countries have yet to reach an agreement. According to the White House, President Biden will visit Brussels for a NATO summit this week to discuss ways to assist Ukraine.

“We are continuing to work with our allies and key partners to surge new assistance, including Soviet- or Russian-origin anti-aircraft systems and the necessary ammunition to employ them, every day to Ukraine,” a US official told WSJ.