MH17 crash: Сhronicles of Russian lies

19:20, 17 July 2017
8 min. 1395

Three years ago, on Thursday, July 17, came the day that changed the attitude of Europe toward Russian aggression in Ukraine, from "we are concerned but the conflict has nothing to do with us" to "we are outraged, and the guilty will be punished." Today, in 2017, the punishment already seems inevitable.

In early July this year, five countries involved in the joined investigation of the disaster - the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine - agreed that the trial of those responsible for the tragedy (100 persons involved in a plane crash have already been established to date) will take place in the Netherlands. This is due not so much to confidence in the Dutch judicial system as to the non-viability of an alternative option, the International Tribunal.

The draft resolution on its creation was defeated at the UN Security Council in the summer of 2015. Despite the fact that 11 delegations voted for the draft (another three - China, Angola and Venezuela - abstained), Russia used its veto right and blocked the vote. Explaining the reasons for this decision, the now-late Russia's permanent representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, dodged as much he could. According to him, it is Russia that "consistently stands in favor of promptly establishing the cause of the MH17crash," it is Russia that is convinced that the perpetrators should be brought to justice, and it is Russia that "repeatedly contributed to the fulfillment of these tasks by real actions." And, of course, he said it was Russia that was ready to promote a full, independent and objective investigation.

At the same time, Russia had serious objections to how the investigation had been carried out before the vote on the resolution on the creation of the International Tribunal. One of Churkin’s main arguments was that the Russian experts had not been provided an equal access to the materials of the technical investigation. Such attitude was, perhaps, caused by the fact that Russian experts had not been attracted to such work on a constant basis. In particular, it was most likely about the experts of Almaz-Antey, the company, which, according to Russian diplomats, declassified tactical and technical characteristics of the Buk missile launcher; besides, the Russian ministry of defense, they said, had released their satellite data...

In other words, “Russia is all clean”  and in every way trying to help the investigation, while other countries taking part in the investigation are for some reason rejecting this "help."

"The bird is down..."

In fact, there is more than enough reasons to reject Russia’s assistance in the investigation of the crash, which Russia itself has contributed to.

To begin with, it is worth recalling the reaction of pro-Russian militants and their Russian supervisors to the crash of the aircraft. For example, the commander of the militants, Russian citizen Igor Strelkov (Girkin, the one who is planning today, three years after the Russian military started the war in the Ukrainian Donbas, to hold debates with the famous Russian liberal, Aleksei Navalny) were happy to report on the Internet: "In Torez area an AN-26 aircraft has just been shot down, it has crashed somewhere behind the Progress coal mine. We warned them not to fly in our skies. Here is a video confirmation of another ‘bird down’. The bird fell... "

Russian media immediately picked up on this hot news, and a video was uploaded showing the joy over the alleged downing of the Ukrainian aircraft, as well as looting at the site of the tragedy.


Later, Strelkov demanded from militants to surrender everything they had stolen to the "Defense Fund of the DPR."

Actually, one of the videos, published a year after the disaster by Australian journalists, not only shows the facts of the looting, but also the conversations of militants who realized what they had done. In particular, one of the conversations goes like this: "They say that ‘Sukhoi’ has shot down a civilian plane..." "It is so ... It's a passenger plane." And, a little later: "See, they are foreigners," says another man. "Who allowed them the corridor to fly here?" asks another one.

Closed and open skies

The issue of this notorious "corridor" was used by Russia to blame Ukraine for the crash. Among the versions voiced by Moscow was the idea that "Ukrainian air traffic controllers lowered the altitude of the MH17 flight," or that they "sent Boeing beyond the air corridor" (although official evidence suggests the opposite).

"Why hasn’t Ukraine closed down its airspace?" various Russian "experts" said on TV panel shows. Now, three years on, this hypocrisy has gotten another twist as it turned out that while constantly accusing Ukraine of not closing its airspace, none of the officials of the Russian Federation ever even mentioned that Russia had in fact closed its sky right before the time the tragedy occurred, on July 17.

According to some media reports, referring to the final report on the results of a technical investigation by the Dutch Security Board (DSB), published in October 2015, Ukraine had closed its air corridors below an altitude of about 8,000 meters on July 14. This is not surprising, since before that, pro-Russian militants shot down several Ukrainian transport aircraft and helicopters. Separately, it should be noted that Ukraine does not use Buks in combat operations, since the pro-Russian terrorists do not have their own aircraft. And, probably, Ukraine does not see the need to close the sky above 8,000 meters as its transport aircraft just do not fly higher, and the militants, in theory, have no weapons capable of causing any trouble above this conditional "mark".


However, Russia, a few days after this, on July 17, also closes its airspace, but does so for the altitude up to 16,000 meters (!), allegedly "to ensure flight safety," indicating as a reason "the fighting in the territory of Ukraine near the state border of the Russian Federation and the fact of shelling from the territory of Ukraine in the direction of the territory of the Russian Federation." Curiously, however, Russia did not inform anyone about this decision. Meanwhile, civilian flights continued flying as usual (above 8,000 meters but below 16,000 meters). Russians never responded to the DSF request to explain the reason for the introduction of a flight ban for higher altitudes. "The coordination of restrictive measures with the adjacent airspace of Ukraine" can hardly be considered an answer. However, perhaps the answer is that Buk launchers are capable of engaging targets at an altitude of up to 18,000... But it is unlikely that Russia will have the courage to admit it.

Lies at the official level

We also cannot but mention other Russian "versions" claiming that it’s Ukraine that is guilty. They alleged that "other aircraft were spotted near the Boeing", and it is likely that the goal of Ukrainians was to shoot down Russia’s Air Force 1 with their president on board; moreover, that Boeing was struck by an air-to-air missile, especially since the “MH17 flight was accompanied by two Ukrainian fighter jets." “Eyewitnesses of the junta fighter jets" from the well-trained "locals" told Russian media that they had seen both warplanes and missiles these jets had fired (at an altitude of 10,000 meters). But such evidence apparently did not seem convincing enough to the Kremlin, therefore, a "Spanish air traffic controller from Boryspil" named Carlos emerged in social networks, claiming that "military aircraft flew near Boeing 777 three minutes before it disappeared from radar screens, just three minutes... When the Boeing simply disappeared from the radars, the Kyiv authorities told us that it had crashed. How could they know this so quickly?"...

Of course, under the pressure of the evidence of international investigators who conducted a thorough analysis of Russian "versions," Russia had to reverse all these claims. But even when the Dutch Security Board and the Joint Investigation Team came to the conclusion that the MH17 flight crash had been caused by a surface-to-air missile launched from the Buk launcher that had arrived in Ukraine

At the same time, "offended" Russia refuses to take into account that its "proof" of Ukraine’s guilt is nothing else but repeatedly debunked fakes. For example, Bellingcat experts established that satellite images provided by the ministry of defense of the Russian Federation and submitted by Russia as key evidence confirming Ukraine’s guilt, were made at another time and were heavily edited before publication. In other words, all "evidence" is an outright forgery.

However, it has long become a Russian habit to call black things white. Therefore, the words of the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Maria Zakharova, voiced in 2016 in relation to Bellingcat, must be perceived through the prism of Orwell's books. "All this nonsense under the banner of Bellingcat is prepared for the purpose of additional earnings of a dozen of bloggers who, as you know, have neither data nor idea about the real aspects of the incident," she said, adding that the evidence collected by the group was "falsified."

Separately, we should mention the report by the Russian military concern, Almaz-Antey, which allegedly conducted its own investigation and “proved” that the deadly missile had no longer been used by the Russian army and launched from quite a different location than indicated in the reports of the Joint Investigation Group and Bellingcat. Trying to prove that the Buk could not be Russian, and, moreover, that pro-Russian militants could not have obtained such missiles, the Russian Federation for some reason completely disregarded the fact that both the Russian media and the militants themselves on the eve of the plane crash boasted their presence.

Moreover, when, in response to the introduction of anti-Russian sanctions by the EU, Almaz-Antey tried to challenge them in court, the EU court overruled this motion and stated that it was Russia that was supplying heavy weapons to Donbas, including those produced by Almaz-Antey, according to Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine on European integration Serhiy Petukhov.

Of course, one of the most cynical versions by Russia is that the MH17 downing is in fact a “special operation of the CIA,” and that there was an explosion on board, or that all the passengers were “dead people initially...”

Fear of responsibility

Russia will resist in every possible way and will go for full denial against any, even the most incontrovertible proof of their guilt. But the MH17 crash is a “zugzwang” for the Kremlin. While in every way resisting the official investigation of the plane crash, and also continuing to mercilessly criticize the initiative to create a tribunal for the downed Boeing, Russian officials, might spill a drop of truth as well.

For example, at in early June of this year, speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation (the same body that on March 1, 2014 allowed Putin to use the Russian army on the territory of Ukraine), Valentina Matviyenko (the third highest Russian official) stated that Russia's principled position remains "not to allow interference in the affairs of Russia and its allies." She called the attempt of such interference the recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea, the initiative to establish an international tribunal in the MH17 case, and the investigation of the International Court of Justice of the events in South Ossetia in 2008.


Matviyenko also said that the decisions of international courts are nothing more than an instrument of pressure on Russia and interference in Russia's internal affairs. Therefore, an important element of counteraction by the Russian Federation remains the adoption of a federal constitutional law authorizing the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation to recognize that it is impossible for Russian courts to enforce the decisions of international courts if they contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Russian president’s spox Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on these statements. But Matviyenko has de facto recognized the responsibility of the Kremlin for aggression against Georgia and Ukraine (calling what is happening on the territories of other countries "internal affairs of the Russian Federation"), and responsibility for the Boeing downing...

However hard Moscow try to deny its direct participation (soldiers and officers of the Russian armed forces are being captured by the Ukrainian military), arms supplies (militants can’t keep getting hi-end Russian weapons from “Donetsk coal mines” forever) and financing of the conflict in Ukraine, everyone understands what’s going on. That is why, on the anniversary of the Boeing crash, families and friends of the MH17 victims staged a silent protest in The Hague right outside the embassy of the Russian Federation.

They expect "responsibility and complete clarity." And the whole world does, too.

Tatyana Urbanskaya

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