Last updated: 04:41 PM ET, Thu July 21 2016

Report Alleges Russian Government Altered MH17 Images

Impacting Travel | Malaysia Airlines | Patrick Clarke | July 21, 2016

Report Alleges Russian Government Altered MH17 Images

PHOTO: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

A new report published two days prior to the two-year anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 suggests that the Russian government altered multiple images using Photoshop.

MH17 was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and carrying 298 people when it was shot down over the Ukraine on July 17, 2014.

In a final report published last fall, Dutch investigators determined that the airliner was shot down by a Russian-made "warhead" fired from eastern Ukraine. While Ukraine and many of its Western allies have alleged that pro-Russian rebels were responsible, Russia has denied any responsibility, releasing several images in an effort to prove its innocence. 

"It is clear that the images have been significantly modified or altered," wrote's Jeffrey Lewis.

One of the images in question, which the researchers analyzed through forensic software tool Tungstene, shows a suspicious cloud covering large portions of the photo. 

"One image hosted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website purports to show that a surface-to-air missile system at a Ukrainian military base is 'absent' on July 17, the day the aircraft was shot-down," writes Lewis. "Others have suggested that the image was actually taken between June 1, 2014 and June 18, 2014 – and that clouds may have been digitally added to the image to obscure terrain features that would correctly identify the date of the image."

In the other photo, two Ukranian Buk surface-to-air missile launchers appear to have been digitally added or sharpened, researchers argue.

"These manipulations include signs that the two Buk launchers do not match the underlying image, suggesting that they have been enhanced or added digitally from another image."

"Two filters show obvious signs of tampering – artifacts left by software such as Photoshop," added Lewis.

When questioned last week, the New York Times reported the Russian Defense Ministry said it would need several days to respond, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred the questions to the Ministry of Defense.

Although the alleged alterations raise some important questions, it's unclear whether the report will generate any significant answers more than two years after MH17's demise.

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