The Bikeman of Bucha

The whole case for making war with Russia over its alleged war crimes hinges on a single satellite image, which has quite clearly been manipulated.

 As many observers of the conflict in Ukraine have observed, the NATO states and their associated media have already won the “war of words”, in what could fairly be described as the longest and most comprehensive campaign of disinformation and lies ever effected against a country and its leaders. But as this drive to push back against Russia morphs into a real hot war, the many European and Western states who have allowed themselves to be dragged into this “Anglo-Imperial” project may soon be in for a shock. 

 It can hardly be doubted that those countries driving their think-tanks into battle with Russia know they are driving on ice, given the hand they clearly had in organising the false flag provocations now immortalised in collective Western memory. These include not only those in Ukraine – the Mariupol Theatre bombing, the Bucha killings and the Kramatorsk Station attack – but also the precedents in Salisbury and Syria and Europe, without which these might have been treated with more scepticism - a scepticism demonstrated over claims of WMDs in Iraq twenty years ago.

 But so sophisticated has the control of information become, and so pervasive and subtle its dissemination, that it is now possible for those “bad actors” in NATO governments and their intelligence agencies to literally get away with murder. 
It may be hoped that in time this pattern of behaviour will catch up with them, as they must resort to more and more extreme subterfuge to conceal their accumulating pile of crimes. With each new one too, the deceptions that enabled its forerunners become more evident – at least to those now awake to them. All it takes is for one such lie to be proven, and everything else is then in doubt. 

 Under the circumstances it may seem a bit flippant to introduce what I believe is proof of Western deception with this composite illustration, yet it is strangely appropriate. On the day that pictures emerged of the bodies lying on Yablunska St in Bucha, including a man on a bicycle, a picture was also circulating showing Prince Charles on a bicycle on his estate in England:
  On that day, April 4th, the involvement of the UK’s intelligence services and agents in the Bucha killings “provocation” was not yet evident, though the story attributing them to Russian forces was everywhere. All that was evident was that the bodies – if truly dead – were obviously not long dead. Their clothes looked clean and undamaged, while people were seen standing nearby without recoiling at the smell. This was particularly true of the unfortunate cyclist, of whom we luckily have an excellent photograph. Not only are his shoes and jeans fresh and unmarked, but he shows no sign of rigor mortis nor of apparent injury. He appears simply to be lying down, as if blown over.

 Following the inevitable speculation on the oddities of these bodies, photographed four days after Russian forces had left Bucha and nearby Irpin, the release of satellite photographs by Western agencies played a crucial role in proving that the bodies were there on the street well before the Russians departed. In a comprehensive analysis from the New York Times, which was supplied with special satellite images by Maxar technologies – the private company that took over Google Earth in 2020 – the NYT’s “Visual Investigations team” matched up the positions of the bodies shown in the satellite images with photographs taken on Yablunska street on April 3rd. 
“Before and after” satellite photos from Maxar, and Google Earth view June 2018.
 Or so they claimed. Leading the team at the NYT was Malachy Browne, whose credentials included sharing a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for exposing Russian culpability in bombing hospitals in Syria. For those familiar with the Syrian insurgents’ use of hospitals as protected bases however, this immediately marks the NYT’s claims as suspect, particularly as the same trick has already been used in Ukraine with the supposed Russian bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol. It was repeatedly stated by Russian authorities that the Azov battalion had moved all the patients out of the hospital before the strike so as to use it as a base, and that the little stunt with a pregnant woman on a stretcher was just for the cameras – like so many productions before by the famed White Helmets in Syria. 

As a consequence of this background, setting a very high bar for claims based on satellite photographs and Bellingcat-style analysis, the appearance of the Maxar “before and after” photos only convinced the Western media audience that the bodies on the streets were really there before the Russians moved out “as an act of good faith” on March 29th. Not only was the later “high definition” Maxar photo dated March 18th, but it was claimed the bodies had already been there for a week. This made it over three weeks that these bodies had lain there untouched and still looking fresh, which was impossible to believe, even it would seem for the mayor of Bucha, Anatoliy Fedoruk.  He had complained to journalists only a week after Russian forces moved in that dead bodies were piling up in Bucha: “We can’t even gather up the bodies because the shelling from heavy weapons doesn’t stop day or night. Dogs are pulling apart the bodies on the city streets. It’s a nightmare.”

 The only evidence for this alleged extraordinary preservation of the Bucha victims on Yablunska Street, enduring rain and snow and passing traffic and marauding dogs for nearly a month, was the dating of the Maxar satellite photograph, on whose authenticity we only have Maxar’s word. To reconcile this incomprehensible time-lapse, and with the knowledge that the bodies had only been there since the Russians left, I had concluded that Maxar had simply and intentionally mis-dated a photograph that was taken on the 1st or 2nd of April and showed the bodies just before the media arrived to photograph them. (It might be noted that Maxar provides near real time images to those authorised and paying for its services. Google Earth images were free but not always recent.)

 Below are images of the fallen cyclist that clearly show his recorded position and orientation on Yablunska Street, close to the curbing leading into a side road. This curbing is visible on Google Earth images back to 2017, as in Maxar's image dated February 28th 2022:
Bicycle man on Yablunska Street, Bucha. April 2nd
 It wasn’t long before the horrific story behind the Bucha killings emerged, as an act of vengeance against Russian sympathisers and collaborators by Ukrainian special forces, who then used the bodies of their victims to frame Russia for their own war crimes.  All of the dreadful claims of monstrous abuse of civilians now being made against Russian soldiers, and categorised by Biden as “genocide”, will in time be attributed to Ukrainian forces acting with US and UK consent and collaboration, should a fair and proper investigation take place. Writing in US political journal The Scrum, former ambassador, diplomat and now dissident author Tony Kevin has described in detail the apparent course of events, and reasons to conclude that Ukrainian nationalist forces were responsible for this crime against humanity, though acting with the knowledge and consent of Western agencies and governments. 

 Those countries now demanding an investigation and prosecutions of the culprits would also do well to remember, or just recognise, that a dead body is not evidence of murder on its own, nor does it identify the murderer. Standing beside a pit of bodies being exhumed ten days later, a BBC journalist prognosticated on the “chain of command” that would “lead to the top” in the Kremlin. He seemed unaware that without a first link to the murderer of each person, that chain could just as easily lead to the SBU headquarters in Kiev or GCHQ in London.

 With the continuing focus on the Bucha killings, including visits to the site from EU chiefs Josep Borrell and Ursula Van de Leyen, the attribution of these evident war crimes has become the single most important issue in the war, and one that the whole outcome of this intractable dispute hinges on. Everything now happening is being done on the absolute assumption that Russia was responsible for these crimes – and so can be assumed responsible for almost every other crime that has already and will take place in Ukraine. It is a war of words in the extreme, including quite perverse claims that Russia wants to eliminate Ukrainians from their country. US leaders in particular know this claim is false and that the truth is opposite – that it was Kiev’s desire and intent to purge all Russian influence and language from Ukraine that triggered the resistance from the Donbas region and which the Minsk agreements were intended to resolve.

 But this claim has strong historical resonance, as indicated in this recent interview with Andrea Chalupa on the ABC. Chalupa, who has Ukrainian heritage, wrote the screenplay and was the driving force behind a film that told the story of an allegedly independent Welsh journalist who went to Donbass in 1930 and witnessed the starvation there under Stalin. Chalupa was motivated to tell this story after reading the diary of her grandfather, who survived the famine. Her film was released in 2020, but its story is specially significant today, as explained in the ABC presenter's introduction:
"The terrible images of the bodies of Ukrainian civilians lying the streets, killed by Russian forces, is reminiscent of the scenes in Ukraine in the 1930s during the Holodomor, a genocidal famine brought on by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin."

  The ongoing and intensifying focus on the Bucha killings, including much theatrics over the exhumation of bodies only recently buried, as if to emulate scenes from Sbrenica or Sinjar, caused me to investigate further the “scene of the crime” – including that shown in historic imagery still available on Google Earth. What my one-man “visual investigations” have revealed is shocking; substantial evidence that the “bodies” shown on Maxar’s image from March 18th were faked. 

 What first struck me about this "special high resolution image" was its odd pixelated quality, and failure to show some features as clearly as the "before" image from February 28th. In that image, the power lines between poles are just visible, yet not discernible in the later one. Meanwhile the "bodies" are not very clearly rendered, either in shape or contrast - though we  do not have similar objects in other satellite photos for comparison. 

 The annotated photo from the BBC shown above is of lesser quality than those included in the NYT's investigation, one of which formed the basis for my own analysis, presented below in three stages of magnification. These concentrate only on the cyclist and his immediate surroundings, shown in the top right of the BBC image:
MAXAR CYCLIST’S BODY, 3 Magnifications.
A surprising amount of detail is evident in this photograph, which other than in magnification I have not enhanced in any way. The best quality image, taken from Reuters, showed the full pixel detail on magnification, and the highly irregular construction of the image, immediately suggesting it had been manipulated. Apart from the odd appearance of the "body", which is of a different shape and orientation from what might be expected from the photographs of the cyclist, it is the strikingly different shape of the concrete curbing that confirms the image has been photo-shopped - and very clumsily too. The photographs show that the cyclist was at least a metre from the corner curbstones, yet in the image above the two shapes are touching. 

 As one familiar with photo-shop - and illustrated by some other images on this blog - I can see how easily the "bodies" in Maxar's satellite image may have been cloned from nearby pixels. In the case above there are groups of pixels close by which appear to have been replicated to make the blob identified as the cyclist, some of which I have used to create a second "body" in the image below. 
  Given the extreme gravity of this fraud, it seems barely believable that the person responsible could be so careless or incompetent at his work, or that he could get away with this simple deception so easily. Perhaps the explanation is that the audience was already so well primed by warnings of Russian treachery and alleged killing of innocents that all that was needed was to wave some grainy photos at them with the imprimatur of the NYT and Maxar, and they wouldn't even bother to look.  What is more, the perpetrator of this criminal fraud was so confident of his power to deceive that he made no effort to do a better job. 

   Yet this should be no surprise, as the intelligence agencies and their agents - like Bellingcat and Digital Forensics Lab - have done it all before and fooled the world, and most ironically over Donbass. Eliot Higgins and his team at the Atlantic Council managed to sell the idea that a Russian BUK missile launcher was carried on a truck over the border to shoot down MH17, using the most clumsily photo-shopped image of a launcher stuck onto a low-loader. Even more ironically, live satellite images taken over the area by a new high-res US satellite would have showed the fighter jets that shot the plane down, or proven it really was hit by a BUK missile fired from the ground. The US' refusal to ever release these images effectively proved Ukrainian culpability for the atrocity.

Well the images speak for themselves - the cameras didn't lie, but those who presented the satellite images did, and I would challenge anyone to consider this visual evidence and argue otherwise. But if they choose to ignore it, I have another challenge - identify the dead Bucha cyclist and find out when he was last seen by members of his family, if any survived. It shouldn't be difficult - newish elastic sided boots, clean blue jeans, black jacket with side pouch pockets, ribbed grey jumper; bicycle ladies' type, rear basket, new front wheel, rusty rear wheel. 
  Cause of death unknown, but less than three days prior.

DM  17th April 2022.