DON'T LOSE ACCESS:
Your IP access to ForeignPolicy.com will expire on June 15.
To ensure uninterrupted reading, please contact Rachel Mines, sales director, at email@example.com.
Russia Is In Tailspin Over MH17 Shootdown Report
Moscow’s counterspin hits high gear to discredit a Dutch-led inquiry that strongly indicates Russia played a role in downing of Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine.
A new Dutch-led investigation of the 2014 deadly shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in a separatist-held area of Ukraine corroborates what was already widely documented: A Russian Buk missile system caused the crash. Prosecutors stopped short of directly blaming Moscow, which has denied involvement. But for officials in Kiev and elsewhere, Wednesday’s findings confirmed Russia’s hand in the ongoing conflict — and its follow-up attempts to muddy the investigation of the crash that killed 298.
Moscow’s spin machine quickly took flight after the inquiry’s report became public. Calling the investigation “biased” and “politically motivated,” it pointed fingers right back at Ukraine.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Ukraine’s role in the Joint Investigation Team gave it “an opportunity to falsify evidence and have the case develop to its advantage.” Yet even she acknowledged how far-fetched the theory seems: “It sounds like a cruel joke,” she said.
“To this day, the investigators continue to ignore the overwhelming evidence provided by the Russian side, despite the fact that Russia is the only side that submits accurate information and constantly discloses new data,” Zakharova added.
Russian Buk manufacturer Almaz-Antey also held a live press conference to dispute the investigation’s versions of events with its own report, arguing the multinational team had distorted evidence to implicate Moscow.
The Dutch-led investigation found that the Buk missile was launched from outside Pervomayskoye, a rebel-held, pro-Russian area in eastern Ukraine. But Mikhail Malyshevsky, an adviser at Almaz-Antey, said that evidence did not match the real damage: Instead, he said, three experiments by the company showed the Buk was more likely launched from a Kiev-controlled area. He also added the missile launch could have been a mistake.
The latest round of theories builds upon past disinformation campaigns by the Kremlin, including floating the idea that the CIA tried to frame Russia by filling a drone airliner with bodies and crashing it, or the theory that the Ukrainians themselves made a mistake when trying to shoot down Russian President Vladimir Putin’s airplane.
The results of the latest investigation support U.S. intelligence analysis and the work of the website Bellingcat.com, which has been investigating the crash and posting evidence alleging Russian involvement for two years.
The website, run by citizen journalists, was the target of a hacking takedown in 2015. A Wednesday report by ThreatConnect found the hack jobs were perpetrated by CyberBerkut, a Ukrainian hacking group suspected of having ties to the Kremlin. The group infiltrated and defaced Bellingcat’s website and hacked into the accounts of a Moscow-based Bellingcat researcher, posting his personal details online, including his passport scan and personal pictures.
“If Russia is willing to go to these lengths to compromise a small journalist organization and its contributors, consider what they are willing to do to major news and media outlets that publish similar articles,” the ThreatConnect report warned.
Photo credit: ROB STOTHARD/Getty Images