Who’s Responsible for Shooting Down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17?

On 17 July 2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 departed from Amsterdam with approximately 300 passengers and was headed toward Kuala Lumpur before it was blasted out of the sky in Ukrainian air space. Nobody survived.

Within hours of the disaster, Petro Poroshenko’s coup regime in Kiev boldly asserted that the plane had been shot down — either by the separatists in eastern Ukraine or by Russia.

The separatists quickly denied having any role in the disaster, claiming that their weapons were capable only of reaching targets flying below 4,000 feet – which was well below the 33,000 feet at which Flight 17 was flying. The Russians dismissed Kiev’s allegations as “stupidity.”

The Obama administration remained wisely agnostic about Kiev’s assertions until later in the afternoon, when it concluded that the Malaysian airline was, indeed, shot down. As reported in the Kiev Post, “a senior U.S. official told CNN’s Barbara Starr… [that] one radar system saw a surface-to-air missile system turn on and track an aircraft right before the plane went down on July 17… A second system saw a heat signature at the time the airliner was hit… The United States is analyzing the trajectory of the missile to try to learn where the attack came from.” On Friday, the Obama administration would claim that a surface to air missile was fired at the airliner from somewhere in Ukrainian territory occupied by the separatists. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, asserted: “We cannot rule out Russian technical assistance.”

Unfortunately, America’s mainstream news media ran far ahead of the facts. Within hours of the catastrophe, ABC and CNN were not only emphasizing the allegations made by Ukraine, they also stopped discussing the possibility that the plane might have been shot down by Ukraine. People who should have known better (clowns like Jim Sciutto at both networks) would claim, on the one hand, that the separatists were known to have captured antiaircraft missiles from Ukraine’s inventory and yet, on the other hand, speculate about how bad it would be for President Vladimir Putin and Russia, were the world to discover that Russia had supplied the missile that shot down the airliner. Later in the evening, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews – who almost always seems to be in over his head – said something similar.

Like the separatists and Russia, Ukraine had no obvious motive for downing Flight MH17. But, like Russia and, perhaps, like the separatists, it certainly had the capability. Yet, ABC and CNN inexplicably dropped Ukraine from the list of suspects.

But, if anti-Russia and anti-separatist bias began to permeate the discussions on ABC and CNN, pro-Russia bias became equally apparent on RT. Personally, I found it a bit much to see RT suggest that Ukraine probably fired the missile, thinking that it was about to bring down President Putin’s plane, which had colors and markings similar to MH17, as well as a similar flight path.

Yet, RT correctly reported that it was Vladimir Putin, who first informed Barack Obama about the crash. It also reported statements made by Russia’s Defense Ministry. According to the Defense Ministry, the Malaysian Airliner was flying outside the air defense capabilities of Russia. According to the Defense Ministry, Russian air defense systems were not deployed on Thursday near the Ukrainian border and no Russian air-force planes were flying over the area.

Significantly, the Defense Ministry asserted that 27 “Buk M1” launchers are deployed by the Ukrainian forces in the Donetsk region, with the capabilities to shoot down targets at an altitude of more than 30km. The Russian Ministry also said that Ukrainian fighter jets are constantly patrolling the skies over Donetsk.

Kiev’s statements that Ukraine’s forces did not fire over its airspace raise serious doubts, because, “In such a short time with fierce fighting in the area it is impossible to come to such an unequivocal conclusion. Such responsible statements that involve serious legal consequences, require a comprehensive investigation.”

Even more significantly, on July 18 RT reported that Russia’s Defense Ministry knew about a Kupol radar deployed as part of Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft battery in the village of Styla, outside of Donetsk. Thus the Buk battery was operational on the day that Flight MH17 was shot down.

On July 17 RT reported that “The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, which controls the area around the crash site, says that it will pass the flight recorders of the downed plane to Russian authorities. Yet, ABC reported on July 18th that “the location of the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine has still not been confirmed.”

During the course of the day on July 17 the claims and counter-claims went on without end. The AP quoted Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow in Russian studies at the Royal United Services Institute, who said both Ukrainian and Russian forces have SA-17 missile systems – also known as Buk ground-to-air launcher systems. Mr. Sutyagin said “Russia had supplied separatist rebels with military hardware, but he had seen no evidence ‘of the transfer of that type of system from Russia.’”

According to a report by RT retired Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan, the director of the Defense and Intelligence Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs thought it “unlikely that the self-defense forces could’ve used Buk surface-to-air missile systems to down the Malaysian plane.” He told CNN, “It takes a lot of training and a lot of coordination to fire one of these and hit something. This is not the kind of weapon a couple of guys are going to pull out of a garage and fire.”

“According to Ryan, if the plane was really taken down then it was done by a professional military force.”

According to Reuters, the eastern Ukraine separatist leader Alexander Borodai said the airliner was shot down by Ukrainian government forces. But, Kiev denied involvement. Meanwhile Nataliya Gumenyuk, a founder of the Ukrainian Hromadske.TV, implied that Ukraine could not have shot MH17 down because Kiev has no need for anti-aircraft missiles – because the separatists do not have an air force.1 Her assertions were unintentionally demolished by journalist Jonathan Landay, who noted that the separatists had captured “a Ukrainian anti-air military installation” in the region just three weeks ago.1

Moreover, “On June 29, the official news agency RIA Novosti quoted a separatist from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic saying that pro-Russia militants had ‘assumed control of A-1402 military base,’ equipped with ‘Buk mobile surface-to-air missile systems.’”

Notwithstanding these claims and counter-claims, by the end of the day it seemed probable that the separatists fired a Buk at MH17, thinking that it was a Ukrainian military transport plane. Why probable?

Because: (1) The U.S. appears to have established that Flight MH17 was shot down. (2) The Ukrainian government has released intercepted communications between the separatists and Russian intelligence agents that reveals how shocked and surprised the separatists were, upon learning that the plane carried civilians.

(3) Igor Strelkov initially boasted about shooting down a plane.
“We did warn you — do not fly in our sky,” he wrote.
Thinking it was a Ukrainian transport plane, Strelkov added that “a plane has just been downed somewhere around Torez, it lays there behind the ‘Progress’ mine,” referring to the mining town of some 80,000 people.

“And here is the video proving another ‘bird’ falling down,” he continued. “The bird went down behind a slagheap, not in a residential district. So no peaceful people were injured,” But, he then deleted the post after he realized that a commercial airliner had been shot down. (Christopher Miller, Mashable, July 17, 2014)

(4) According to the BBC “A tweet (in Russian) from a key Twitter account used by pro-Russian separatists, in which they claim to have captured a Buk surface-to-air missile system, has now been deleted.”

Thus, although the early evidence indicated that separatists in eastern Ukraine fired the Buk missile that destroyed MH17, that evidence also suggested that the separatists thought they had fired at a Ukrainian transport plane. More significantly, the early evidence suggested that the separatists acquired its Buk missile from Ukraine’s own arsenals. Thus, Russia could not be accused of supplying such a weapon. (Moreover, ABC News reported on July 18th that “U.S. officials said earlier today that intelligence showed nothing that definitively links Russia to the training of those who launched the missile on Thursday.”)

Perhaps the most notable event on July 18th was President Obama’s press conference, which was largely devoted to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Sensibly, Mr. Obama called for an immediate cease fire, in order to facilitate an investigation of the causes of the catastrophe.

But he quickly demonstrated the unwarranted anti-Russia bias of his administration when he incorrectly claimed: “For months we’ve supported a pathway to peace, and the Ukrainian government has reached out to all Ukrainians, put forward a peace plan and lived up to a cease-fire, despite repeated violations by the separatists, violations that took the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and personnel.” Wrong! Anyone who has followed the conflict in eastern Ukraine knows that the Ukrainian forces violated the ceasefire with the same impunity as that shown by the separatists.

Moreover, there is reason to believe that the government led by President Poroshenko does not have complete control over all the forces fighting against the separatists. For President Obama to fail to make these obvious points suggests either ignorance or bad faith.

But he was at his hypocritical worst when he asserted that “the United States is going to continue to lead efforts within the world community to de-escalate the situation, to stand up for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to support the people of Ukraine as they courageously work to strengthen their democracy and make their own decisions about how they should move forward.” Why? Because, as everybody knows, representatives of the U.S. Government, like the obnoxious Victoria Nuland and the limelight hog John McCain, violated the sovereignty of Ukraine when they openly encouraged protesters in their clash with the democratically elected government led by President Viktor Yanukovych. They possessed neither shame nor class.

And, as for Ukrainians making their “own decisions about how they should move forward,” neither the Americans nor the protesters in Kiev gave one thought to the desires of the Ukrainians living in Crimea or eastern Ukraine when they imposed their anti-Russia coup and anti-Russia policies on them. Now the separatists, with Russia’s assistance, are giving Kiev and Washington a dose of their own medicine. It’s called “blowback.” And it should continue until Kiev adequately recognizes the legitimate interests of the people in eastern Ukraine.

Unsurprisingly, America’s mainstream news media failed to notice the gross hypocrisy embedded in President Obama’s paeans to Ukraine’s attempts at self-determination and oligarchical democracy. The media also fell in line with the administration’s anti-separatist, anti-Russia point of view regarding the catastrophic downing of Flight TM17. Thus, they had nothing to say when evidence emerged on July 18th which indicated that the shooting down of Flight TM17 was a “false flag” operation.

Numerous pieces of evidence now suggest that Ukraine shot down Flight TM17. None are bullet-proof or definitive. But, there is evidence to suggest that at least one of the videos — supposedly showing separatists acknowledging their role in downing the aircraft – was actually created the day BEFORE the attack took place. That’s right, a video uploaded by the Ukrainian government on 2014-07-18 00:09:00 (for delivery to the world’s news media) was actually created on 2014-07-16 19:10:24. I’m told that creation dates don’t lie, so if the document is authentic – a big if – then the Ukrainian government created it in anticipation of shooting down an aircraft and blaming the separatists.

Then there is the matter of the Spanish air controller, who was working in Ukraine at the time of the shoot down. According to the author of the website, The Vineyard of the Saker, “The air traffic controller suggested in a private evaluation and basing it on military sources in Kiev, that the Ukrainian military was behind this shoot down. Radar records were immediately confiscated after it became clear a passenger jet was shot down.”

(Complementing this information is a report from the BBC claiming that “Ukraine’s SBU security service has confiscated recordings of conversations between Ukrainian air traffic control officers and the crew of the doomed airliner, a source in Kiev has told Interfax news agency.”)

These two allegations, as well as others, have been addressed by Paul J. Watson: Additional allegations can be found at The Vineyard of the Saker’s post titled: “Evidence Continues to Emerge #MH17 Is a False Flag Operation.” What would be Kiev’s motive for a false flag shoot-down? Serious military defeats recently inflicted by the separatists. (I am unable to agree or disagree with any of these allegations.)

Finally, when looking to assess blame for the shooting down of Flight MH17, President Putin was correct when he claimed: “Certainly the state over whose territory this happened bears responsibility for this terrible tragedy. This tragedy would not have happened if there was peace in this land.”

However, had he given more thought to his statements, Mr. Putin might have realized that they also condemn his and Russia’s contribution to the absence of peace in Ukraine. For it’s an open secret that Russia is providing men and weapons to support the separatists who continue to fight Kiev’s coup regime forces.

But blame for the shooting down of Flight MH17 must also extend back to Victoria Nuland and the neocons who supported the regime change that precipitated the civil war that eventually cost some 300 innocent airline passengers their lives. That is something none of us should forget as we attempt to decide who to blame for the attention-grabbing and heartbreaking catastrophe of the moment.

  1. New York Times, July 17, 2014. [] []

Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including Dissident Voice, The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA). He can be reached at: waltuhler@aol.com. Read other articles by Walter C., or visit Walter C.'s website.