Members of the Russian secret service are controlling English-language media platform Bonanza Media, international research collective Bellingcat reported on Thursday. Emails intercepted by hackers show that the platform exists solely to spread disinformation, mostly about the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, according to Bellingcat

Dutch blogger Max van der Werff and Russian journalist Jana Jerlasjova have been publishing stories on MH17 through Bonanza Media since 2019, mostly raising doubts about the findings of the Joint Investigation Team – a team of investigators from the countries affected by the disaster set to find out who was responsible for downing the plane. Russian whistleblowers shared telephone data from two Russian officers with Bellingcat.

This shows that the two Russian secret service officers had regular contact with Bonanza Media, Bellingcat said. According to the the collective, the officers were also allowed to see Bonanza Media articles and production before they were published. And Van der Werff and Jerlasjova were given access to areas in eastern Ukraine that were closed to other journalists at the time. 

It is unclear whether the Russians initiated the foundation of the platform.

It is also unclear whether Russia is funding it, Bellingcat said.What is clear, is that the Russians are using Bonanza Media to try and influence the trial against the first four men suspected of involvement in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing, according to Bellingcat.

Bonanza Media reports were used by the lawyer representing Oleg Pulatov as evidence. Pulatov is the only one of the four suspects putting up a defense in the trial in the Netherlands