Everything on Bellingcat and the official inquiry into the destruction of Flight MH17
Everything on Bellingcat and the official inquiry into the destruction of Flight MH17
by Jürgen Cain Külbel
Jürgen Cain Külbel is an ex-investigator for the criminal police of the Democratic Republic of Germany. He became a journalist after the reunification of Germany. He has managed to identify the author of the reports posted on the Bellingcat site which influenced the international police team tasked by Ukraine with establishing the cause of the destruction of Flight MH17. This amateur, who « found » evidence of Russian guilt which he claims to be « irrefutable », is in reality a musician, with no competence whatsoever in criminalistics.
Voltaire Network | Berlin (Germany) | 5 April 2019
A bouquet of flowers on the wreckage of Flight MH17. This Boeing 777, travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was destroyed on 17 July 2014 over the zones of combat between the Kiev putchists and the Donbass independentists, killing the 298 persons on board. Since then, the two camps have been accusing one another of being responsible for this catastrophe. The Western powers finally adopted the hypothesis published on the British Internet site Bellingcat.
Daniël Romein and the journalists of De Volkskrant
He calls himself Daniël Romein. That is not his real name. We made an appointment to meet in a cafe. He sits down, seeming a little embarrassed. He has a friendly face. From time to time, he glances to the right. Then he looks at the people outside who are walking in the rain. « I always try to have a head start on my adversary », he says. And for him, the enemy is Russia. He wants to take precautions. « As a specialist in computers, I know what counter-measures I need to apply ». And he adds - « This job is risky, because I know that the Russians are really unhappy about our research ».
In February 2016, Daniël Romein met with a group of journalists in this cafe  - secretly, of course. Huib Modderkolk and Bert Lanting from the Amsterdam daily De Volkskrant wrote later that Romein’s « discoveries » were the foundation of the Bellingcat reports in 2015 and 2016 on the catastrophe of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17). Jikke Zijlstra and Michael de Smit, of Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS), a Dutch public service radio station, noted that - « Although [British subject Eliot] Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat, their Dutch employee, Daniël Romein, wrote the greater part of the report (in 2016) ». Modderkolk and Lanting even wrote that Romein had provided the basis for these reports, that he was the principal author of the studies, and that he works « in secret for the Bellingcat research collective. Almost no-one knows this. His family, his friends, his colleagues – most of them don’t know. He likes to maintain a small circle. He himself estimates their number at a maximum of ten. Last year (2015), he was engaged in research to discover which Russian soldiers were implicated in the destruction of Flight MH17 », and uses « his computer as a weapon. He watches his screen for hours, scrolling through Russian Web sites and the social media. He does this by choice, on top of his work as an IT professional. Sometimes he works very late – until two o’clock in the morning - and comes to work at the office the next morning with tired eyes ... that’s when it becomes difficult, and he can’t talk to anyone. « Sometimes it feels as if I’m living a double life ». Romein declared to the journalist that media attention should be focused on the people involved rather than on himself – he wants remain anonymous. « Only his colleagues in Bellingcat know his real identity », affirms De Volkskrant.
Daniël Romein, liaison agent between Bellingcat and the Joint Investigation Team
Around Christmas 2015, on the request of the founder of Bellingcat, Eliot Higgins, Romein sent his work of investigation and that of Bellingcat to the Dutch Openbaar Ministerie, in other words the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which takes precedence over the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) tasked with the international criminal investigation into the catastrophe of Flight MH17. The Public Minister declared that he would « pay serious attention to the information, including its usefulness for the criminal investigation ». « They are satisfied with our efforts and our work », declared Romein, who has regular contacts with the detectives from the JIT. For example, on an invitation from the JIT, he had on numerous occasions exchanged information on Bellingcat’s enquiries with the Public Prosecutor’s team. Eliot Higgins, the head alchemist of Bellingcat, was twice heard as a witness.
Bellingcat’s « criminological investigators »
Eliot Higgins’ firm Bellingcat, the « research platform of citizen journalists » which brags that it carries out « criminalistic enquiries », enjoys an uninterrupted barrage of media hype in the dominant Western medias – due to their « investigations » into the catastrophe of Flight MH17 or in the case of the poisoning of the Skripals. However, the methodology of the group, its conclusions, and its impartiality raise some very serious doubts. The dominant Press unhesitatingly elevates the members of the team to the rank of « experts ». But the Bellingcats charged in 2015 and 2016 with the enquiry into the affair of Flight MH17 do not stand out either as recognised experts, nor as investigators who specialise in the legal sciences. They are
Pieter van Huis (Dutch), degree in History,
Stijn Mitzer (Oryx), analyst and blogger,
Daniel Romein, IT specialist
Sean Case (British), specialist in environmental sciences and plants,
Eliot Higgins, director of Bellingcat, without any significant qualification,
the Americans Andrew Haggard, ex-member of the US army,
Aric Toler, literary researcher and linguist,
Nathan Patin, ex-intern in foreign politics and defence for the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington,
Veli-Pekka Kivimäki (Finnish), an officer at the University of the Finnish Defence Forces in Helsinki,
Olaf Neitsch alias Timmi Allen (German), ex-employee in a service of the Ministry of State Security of the RDA , ex-owner of a pub, today an insurance salesman,
Igor Ostanin (Magnitski), (Russian) freelancer, as well as Anders Klement of StopFake, an anti-Russian propaganda initiative based in Kiev.
We should keep on mind - independent of the fact that Bellingcat is supported by sponsors such as George Soros’ Open Society – that among the « founding members » of the group in 2014 and 2015, we find the British ex-spy Cameron Colquhoun and Nour Bakr from the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chris Bigger from the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) as well as Christoph Koettl from the New York Times, Leroy Aliaume from BBC World, and Aaron Stein from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British research institute connected with the Intelligence Services – even a blind person could understand where Bellingcat’s « expertise of savoir-faire » is going. Their intention is to howl like a cat in heat, and make a lot of noise, all of it aimed at Russia.
Neutrality, objectivity, impartiality – the qualities which should distinguish a professional investigator and an expert – do not work this way. Normality in the daily life of the legal and security organisms of each country resides in the fact that the criminalistic investigations and associated reports are carried out by qualified experts, and that the resulting report, like any other proof, has in any case no conclusive value if it has been decided in advance. Only the tribunal can decide on its conclusive value. The reports must therefore contain a certain number of definite qualitative characteristics, such as the presentation of elements of proof, the method of investigation, etc. Journalists from the general public, in particular those of the trans-Atlantic persuasion, deliberately ignore the necessity of a precise scientific and legal approach, and fail to question the accuracy of Bellingcat’s reports on any point. They therefore practice the art of copy and paste so that later, they will be able to pocket the coward’s reward of thirty pieces of silver.
Why is « Daniël Romein » investigating the catastrophe of Flight MH17?
Question of the enquiry: What motivates Daniël to analyse the catastrophe of MH17?
Result of the enquiry: Modderkolk and Lanting have written that « the images haunted him ». For him, the catastrophe is a mixture of terror and obsession… He has been interested in this region for some time. He learned Russian a long time ago … He visits all sorts of Web forums. « I wanted to know who did it ». The members of the Dutch forums seem ill-informed. He quickly seeks out Ukrainian and Russian forums. « Jikke Zijlstra and Michael de Smit from NOS, who qualified the search for the authors of these crimes as being almost obsessional », gave us this quote: « It’s on my mind a lot. The catastrophe really moved me. I thought it was so terrible, I was so angry, even though I knew none of the victims personally,.I wanted to know who were the idiots behind it all ».
The genesis of the research into the « Daniël Romein » Character
According to Wikipedia: « Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is data collected from publicly available sources to be used in an Intelligence context. In the Intelligence community, the term "open" refers to overt, publicly available sources (as opposed to covert or clandestine sources) ». The definition is rather pretentious, since it concerns no more than the minimal daily work of criminal investigations; going from house to house, knocking on doors, so to speak – but in this case, it means visiting the Internet on the World Wide Web, scrolling from blog to blog, from post to post.
Knocking on the doors of OSINT via Yandex and Google in order to find « Daniël Romein » led nowhere; most of the entries were linked to Bellingcat. However, the Dutch search engine Geneanet proposed the variant « Romein / Romijn ». The entry « Daniel Romijn » generated almost 2 million results. Using the combination « Romein Romijn », Commissioner Hasard found a broken link which it was possible to reconnect with the Wayback Machine: on the page Pink Floyd Fans Nederlands, the Floydian author Theo wrote about the musician « Danyo Romijn (keyboards, guitar, Hammond) », whom he named, a few lines further on in the same message, as « Danyo Romein ». Research into the meaning and origins of the name reveals that « Danyo » is the German variant of Daniel.
Searching for « Daniël Romein »
From the rare publications in the Dutch media on « Daniël Romein », we note that he
has been working for Bellingcat since November 2014,
is an IT specialist,
works in an office during the day,
speaks fluent Russian and
has skills in photography.
Answer 1: Daniël Romein, Danyo Romijn and computer science
The search using « Daniël Romein » and « IT » gave no results; « Danyo Romijn », associated with « IT » hit the spot on Linkedin. On that site, a certain « Danyo Romijn » from The Hague introduces himself as an « IT expert in the management of applications, and developer of software ». After having studied computer science at the Den Haag University of Applied Sciences (from 1988 to 1995), he worked from February to September 1996 as a developer of software at the Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties (Minister of the Interior and Relations of the Kingdom - BZK) before being transferred to the Immigratie - en Naturalisatiedienst (Immigration and Naturalisation Service - IND). As from May 1997, he pursued his activities in the IT sector as a developer of software and Web applications from April 2010 to November 2016 as a specialist in IT applications in the province of Zuid-Holland. In November 2016, he changed direction and joined the team of the POSG Den Haag project, provider of services for Work and Careers. Danyo Romijn’s profile on Contactout.com identifies him as a specialist in IT technologies, a regional coordinator in the province of Zuid-Holland, and a member of the Tibet Support Group; on contactout.com one can also find a fragment of his email address - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Answer 2: « Danyo Romijn » and « Photography »
A search using a combination of « Danyo Romijn » and « Photografie » revealed another match.
Beeldbank Haags Gemeentearchief not only proposes photos by « Danyo Romijn », with all sorts of views of the street, but also his complete electronic address: email@example.com (which we shall not reveal here). In Europeana’s online collection, you can also see 152 photos by « Danyo Romijn ».
Answer 3: « Danyo Romijn » and « MH17 »
The search for « Danyo Romijn » combined with « MH17 » provided a break-through. From Monday 4 to Wednesday 6 August 2014, a user named « Danyo Romijn » published a total of 14 contributions concerning his own enquiries about the catastrophe of MH17 on the English-language discussion forum Niqnaq. He posted links to photos from the Russian and Ukrainian medias, and described his research on a multi-lingual Russian social network, Vkontakte.ru, on DNR Press, on the page of the Ukrainian Intelligence services, on the page of the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, concluding that the « rebels » of Donetsk, who had stolen the BUK-M1 missile system on 29 June 2014, could have used it to shoot down the plane. He also deduced that the shape of the « impact holes » in the cockpit could have been made by a BUK-M1, but at this moment formulated no direct incriminations. In short, he had looked into this affair extensively at that time; far more than an average consumer who wishes only to inform himself. This « Danyo Romijn », we may now affirm with a probability close to certainty, had researched the matter in full knowledge of the facts.
Question of the enquiry: Is Danyo Romijn, the user who had signed on to Niqnaq, really identical to the Dutch IT specialist « Danyo Romijn »?
Result of the enquiry : « An IP address is an address on the IT networks, which, like the Internet, is based on Internet protocol. It is given to the computers which are connected to the network, rendering them addressable and thus accessible », indicates Wikipedia. From the United Kingdom, the author received the information that user « Danyo Romijn » had connected to Niqnaq with the IP address 188.8.131.52 and the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, which had already been attributed to Dutch user Danyo Romijn. This IP denomination belongs in turn to a « composite » IP - IP 184.108.40.206 à 220.127.116.11 – of du NET-NL-PROVINCIE-ZUID-HOLLAND.
Intermediate result: The Danyo Romijn who really exists had apparently used his name and his electronic address in August 2014 on the Niqnaq forum during a discussion on the catastrophe of Flight MH17.
Question of the enquiry: Is the Danyo Romijn who really exists the same Daniel Romein who works for Bellingcat?
Result of the enquiry: On the English-language discussion forum Websleuths, at 2.22 p.m. on 2 November 2014 (the post had been erased, but was able to be « resuscitated » by the author), a commentator named « danyoromijn » appeared and added a single post during the discussion on the affair of Flight MH17 : « Hi everyone, this is my first post on this subject on Websleuths, but I’ve been here since 17 July, and I’ve read everything about Bellingcat here and on numerous other sites, including sites in Ukrainian and Russian (I can read a little Russian - Google Translate is my friend). I went to Ukraine and to Russia (in Ukraine recently, I mean two years ago, and to Russia fourteen years ago), which helps me to understand things a little better. I’m surprised that there are only 16 pages on Websleuths when there is so much information we could share … Well, since it’s so complex, I haven’t yet published anything about MH17, but now I have some information which I’d like to share with Bellingcat… ».
This user « danyoromijn » also reveals personal information. First of all, he speaks a little Russian. Secondly, the Danyo Romijn who really exists, as claimed by « danyoromijn » on Websleuths, went to Moscow, the capital of Russia, in 2000, and two years later, to Ukraine, where he visited Kiev, Cherkasy, Kirovohrad, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Khmelnytskyi, Lviv, Chernivtsi, Ternopil, Volhynia, the Zakarpattia Oblast, and Rivne. To sum up – so far, Romijn has visited more than 50 countries, including Belarus in 2004, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia in 2008 and also the United Kingdom in 2015, the home of the « chief expert » for Bellingcats, Eliot Higgins.
A reminder - on 2 November 2014, « danyoromijn » posted on Websleuths that he would like to share some information with Bellingcats. We remember the comments by Modderkolk and Lanting from De Volkskrant, who, in February 2016, described the « work » of Daniel Romein, a member of Bellingcat, in the following terms - « He examines the photos taken by the Russian military forces on Vkontakte, and thus gets to know the region and the Russian military presence. He gleans his topographical knowledge mainly from Google and its Russian equivalent Yandex. In order to collect more photos, he watches the amateur images taken from Dashcams, cameras which film the road as people drive. For hours, he walks back and forth in his room, as if he were journeying to the other side of the frontier between Russia and Ukraine ».
Then - « In November 2014, he sent the summary to the British founder of Bellingcat, Eliot Higgins, who thanked him warmly in return. Two weeks later, he received another email from Higgins. Romein said - « He was impressed when I wanted to do more ». Which he did. There was a flurry of exchanges by e-mail, and Higgins asked Romein if he wanted to join the group. Romein had difficulty in understanding the meaning of that. There was no selection committee, he was not asked to send a letter or even undergo a telephone interview. He met no-one. He had never even shaken Higgins’ hand. In fact, nothing changed. Well, he has access to Bellingcat’s « i-channels » - an information platform where members of Bellingcat send one another messages, which are coded. Romein therefore became the seventh member of Bellingcat » .
Initial meeting and communication with Danyo Romijn
At the end of February and the beginning of March, the author contacted Danyo Romijn – the two electronic addresses email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org turned out to be active - and invited him to answer the following questions:
Author: « Do you have a degree or any training in digital criminalistics and / or digital criminalistics for the study of images? Do you consider yourself an expert in criminal investigations? Do you know how to carry out legal and criminal investigations? »
Since Romijn threatened the author with prosecution, I am only able to quote his replies from memory. After three requests by email, Romijn replied - « I’m sorry, you’re confusing me with someone else. I have nothing to do with Flight MH17 ».
Author: « I am not confusing you with anyone. I followed your previous IP 18.104.22.168 (NET-NL-PROVINCIE-ZUID-HOLLAND). You used it for your communications concerning MH17. We should talk. »
Romijn’s repose, quoted from memory: « My previous job was indeed in the Provincie Zuid-Holland. But I am absolutely certain that we never had any contact by email, and certainly not about Flight MH17. I may have sent someone an email about it, but there’s nothing strange about that. Almost everyone in Holland was talking about it. »
Author : « You’re right, we have not yet had an exchange of emails. I don’t have any emails that you wrote to anyone. I’m talking about your own lP 22.214.171.124, connected to much detailed information concerning Flight MH17 which was researched, produced and written by you a few years ago. »
Romijn’s reply from memory: « That IP address is a general IP address from my previous job, and is one of the rare IP addresses listed on line: http://www.lookip.net/whois/126.96.36.199. However, I can see no connection between that IP address and any activity by me. My ex-employer would probably not have accepted my writing long fragments of text which were not linked to my work. Whatever you want to write and publish, do not forget that the laws on the protection of personal data are very strict in Holland and Germany. and if you write anything totally stupid about me, you’ll only ridicule yourself - with the added risk that your article may be deleted. And if you break the law, if you commit a digital hack, you also risk an extra ten days in prison. Of course, you may write about my journeys, my work, and my music. I hope that a few people will order my latest CD because of your publication. Smiley. »
Author : « You were very active for a while with that IP address (also linked to one of your message accounts) in order to do your research work on Flight MH17.
Please send me a sworn declaration stating that you, Danyo Romijn, have never used the general IP address 188.8.131.52 to research, write or send information about Flight MH17. »
Background information about Danyo Romijn
That was the end of my contact with Danyo Romijn. The explanation I requested never arrived, but on the contrary, he deleted his Internet page from the network, and also deleted items on numerous data portals which gave information about himself. However, the author had saved all important data before contacting Romijn.
It is remarkable to note the abundance of information that Danyo Romijn posted on the Web. On his Web site, which was emptied out and is currently « in construction », it is stated that he was born in The Hague on 14 May 1970, where he still lives, that he has a daughter named Patricia, born on 20 October 2005 in The Hague, that he has been divorced since 2009, and has the partial charge of his daughter. « My work since 1996 has been developing software and Web applications, but I also have experience in the management of application changes. I recently followed courses in project management. As well as my job, I have also participated in the development of sites ... ». Apart from Web sites, his favourite hobbies are his journeys, his music, and his photography. « As far as my journeys are concerned, I have not only travelled in Europe, but also in India, Nepal, Cuba, Aruba and Curaçao. I mostly take photographs when I’m travelling, but I also photograph nature and my daughter. I’ve been working in music for years, as a listener, but also for many years in musical groups and musical projects. Now I play music at home with synthesisers ». Then comes a list of his favourite music, his favourite films, his favourite comedies, his favourite books, his favourite drink, his favourite pet, his favourite colours and his private email address email@example.com, Elsewhere, in the forum for Singles Wamba, he gives his height, 1.83m, and his weight, 90kg. He does not smoke, is a social drinker, has a regular income, and would like to meet a « girl » aged between 36 and 40, or else a woman aged between 37 and 45. The difference is not clear for the author. He also practices a Korean form of martial arts, the Taekwondo Koryo.
Danyo Romijns reveals not only all the details of his professional career on his old Web site, but also his leisures - « I also really like photography, which I usually practice on holiday, but also architecture (old buildings), nature, and of course family photos, for example of my daughter Patricia. I always think of myself as an amateur / leisure photographer, even though I have a good eye for composition ». Then he draws up a list of various types of camera which he claims are his.
We can’t confirm that this is a leisure activity, but the Single Romijn is also on the lookout for a woman. Even on this subject, the blood of an investigator courses through his veins. On the Dutch dating site Lexa.nl, he discovered « bad » things, and immediately complained: the names of the women who flirted with him are specifically « always constructed the same way: myszka_a_450, alinda_a_228, butterfly_a_723, karina_b_242, maymay_a_744 , sandra_a_179, monika_c_221, primavera_a_824 and jolanda_a_375 ». Romijn reached his conclusions in the Bellingcat style, « These names are generated by Lexa.nl itself. I don’t like that at all, Lexa.nl really doesn’t need them, there are enough real members, so why create false profiles?? ». Lexa.nl vehemently rejected the « investigations » by Danyo Romijn.
Music is his other passion. He began playing the piano at a young age. At 18, he was interested in hard rock and heavy metal. He played guitar in a metal group called Eclipse, then keyboards and guitar in Pink Project, a Dutch Pink Floyd tribute band. In 1995, he joined the group Nangyala, and in 1997, recorded an album of synthesiser music called Void. Danyo Romijn, alias Danyo Romein, as he was also called by the Floydian Theo, is thus a fan of the British singer, bassist, composer, wordsmith and music producer Roger Waters, the singer of Pink Floyd - the ferocious critic of the White Helmets in Syria – the best friends of Bellngcat? If that does not constitute a conflict of interests!
Since the highly experienced experts from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Holland and Ukraine, who make up the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), were unable to find proof of Russian responsibility for the catastrophe, they rallied to the conclusions of Daniël Romein and the Bellingcat site: i.e. that the plane was brought down by a missile made in Russia – a strange conclusion which does not correspond to the débris of the aircraft.
I shall leave the question of whether the Daniël Romein of Bellingcat is the Danyo Romijn investigated by the author to be answered by the reader. But if you should ask my opinion, I would estimate the probability as being close to 100%.
For me, as an ex-professional investigator, there is another question that needs to be asked: in what sort of pitiful state are the investigation teams led by the Dutch authorities and the Joint Investigation Team - to the point that they adopt the do-it-yourself enquiries of an amateur?
Concerning the catastrophe of Flight MH17, we have published the conclusions of the enquiry by Ivan A. Andrievskii, first Vice-President of the Russian Union of Engineers : “Analysis of the reasons for the crash of flight MH17”, by Ivan A. Andrievskii, Оdnako (Russia) , Voltaire Network, 27 September 2014.
 “De Nederlander die vanuit huis het MH17-gebied uitkamde”, Huib Modderkolk en Bert Lanting, De Volkskrant, 24 februari 2016.
Source : “Everything on Bellingcat and the official inquiry into the destruction of Flight MH17”, by Jürgen Cain Külbel, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 5 April 2019, www.voltairenet.org/article205934.html
Ancien enquêteur de la police criminelle de RDA (1974-1988), Jürgen Cain Külbel est journaliste au Neues Deutschland. Dernier ouvrage publié : Mordakte Hariri. Unterdrückte Spuren im Libanon.