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LifeNews Accidentally Tells the Truth

Before they realized it was a civilian craft, pro-Russia rebels bragged about downing a plane. 

by Halya Coynash 18 July 2014

Since Russian pro-Kremlin media are already suggesting that Ukraine brought down the Malaysian airliner, the following is a reminder of the first, damning, reports that came from the Kremlin-backed militants and Russian media, including the LifeNews TV channel. The latter’s report came shortly before it became clear that the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 had come down near the border between Ukraine and Russia, killing all 298 passengers and crew.


LifeNews reported that “Insurgents have reported a downed AN-26 [military transport plane] in the east of Ukraine. They say that at around 17:30 local time the plane was flying over the city of Torez in the Donetsk oblast.” 


Malaysia airline 350


The video shows what is almost certainly the Malaysian plane burning.


Shortly before this, a post on the social media website VKontakte, purportedly from militant leader Strelkov [Igor Girkin] stated that:


17.07.2014 17:50 


“In the vicinity of Torez we just downed an AN-26 plane, it’s lying somewhere behind the Progress Mine.


We warned them – don’t fly ‘in our sky’ ”


The same image as in the LifeNews broadcast is shown, with the words that no residential area was touched or civilians hurt.


This post has now been removed, and Strelkov’s people are claiming it’s a fake.


Alexander Borodai, “prime minister”’ of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic [DPR] has claimed the plane was downed by the Ukrainian military, and this appears to be the version the Russian media are now assiduously pushing.


Even if the post really was a fake, the fact remains that LifeNews and a number of other pro-Kremlin media that have consistently demonstrated close coordination with the militants showed video footage of the crash, citing militants as saying that they had felled a military plane.


And just to be clear: the rebels had apparently downed an AN-26, but that was on 14 July, three days before yesterday’s tragedy and it was clearly not the plane referred to in the conversation.


On Thursday evening, Valentin Nalyvaichenko, head of the SBU, Ukraine’s Security Service, made public two intercepted calls the SBU says show that the plane was downed by pro-Russian Cossack militants. The first conversation is allegedly between Igor Bezler, a military commander of the DPR, and Vasyl Geranin; the second between two militants. The first reports that “we have just downed a plane” and that they’re going to the scene to find the pilots and take photos. The second is after one of the militants has discovered that they shot down a civilian plane.


The SBU has put out a recording with subtitles




Borodai’s claim that the militants did not have the capacity to fell a plane at 10 kilometers (six miles) is false. The militants have brought down a number of military planes by now with surface-to-air missiles, and the militants themselves stated on 29 June that they would “protect the sky over Donetsk with Buk missile systems.” A pro-Kremlin political analyst stated back on 13 July that the militants were in possession of Buk surface-to-air missiles and were ready to use them. The Buk missiles in this picture were photographed near Snizhne in the Donetsk oblast. They are highly sophisticated equipment that you won't find in a hardware shop. Even if some militants had come upon them during plundering trips to SBU and police units, they would still not have known how to use them without special training. 


According to CNN, A U.S. official has confirmed that the plane was shot down. “One radar system saw a surface-to-air missile system turn on and track an aircraft right before the plane went down Thursday, according to the official. A second system saw a heat signature at the time the airliner was hit, the official said. The United States is analyzing the trajectory of the missile to try to learn where the attack came from,” the network reports.


Video footage was reported early on Thursday that appeared to prove that GRAD rockets were being fired from Russian territory. There has also been talk that the Malaysian airline could have been shot down from within Russia. This does not necessarily clash with the reports from the militants themselves, who could have simply wanted to “boast” of another such “victory,” or could have tried to provide a cover for use of missiles from Russia whatever the target. 


Malaysia airline 2 350


The Russian media are now going flat out to try to prove the Ukrainian military shot down the plane, while incredibly leaving intact previous reports where the militants are boasting of their new “hit.”


German journalist Boris Reitschuster reports that Russia Today has deleted the incriminating report, while the German version of Voice of Russia has not. He may be right that English is being prioritized, with even the LifeNews Russian original item still on the site. The video footage in the latter (which the top screenshot above is from) was, however, removed around midnight. 


An English report on RIA Novosti suggests the Ukrainian military was to blame. Quoting an unnamed “expert source,” it writes, “A Ukrainian army battalion of Buk air defense systems was deployed near the city of Donetsk a day before the crash of a Malaysian passenger plane on Thursday, making the downing of the aircraft by one of the missiles highly probable.” The militants are not flying aircraft and there would therefore have been no reason for the Ukrainian military to be using a surface-to-air missile system. It is the militants who have already shot down a number of Ukrainian military transport planes.


An especially manipulative item from the same RIA Novosti agency in Russian is titled “Merkel demands an independent investigation of the plane crash in Donetsk.” The text repeats three times that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that “Ukraine can expect a new tragic spiral of conflict if the presumed causes of the air disaster are confirmed.”  It goes on to suggest that this could be a “repetition of the 2001 tragedy” (when the Ukrainian military did bring down a plane from Novosibirsk to Tel Aviv). The report ends by stating that the militants do not have the appropriate weapons, with the assertion by Borodai subjected to no scrutiny or question.


The plane was almost certainly shot down. It is known who had used surface-to-air missiles to bring down Ukrainian military aircraft and who boasted of having done the same on early Thursday evening. Removal of incriminating videos and manipulative media coverage cannot erase that.


Two hundred ninety-eight people were killed on Thursday evening, among them 80 children. Those who play with human life for dubious geopolitical gain must be stopped. 

Halya Coynash is a journalist and member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, on whose website this commentary originally appeared.

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