Simple and undeniable facts of the Ukrainian crisis are that Russia, using military from the Crimea, pressured the people there and organized a so-called referendum (in fact annexing the peninsula), then, almost openly supporting the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The culminating point of this conflict was the shooting down of the Malaysian commercial airliner, Boeing 777 flight no MH17 with 298 people on the board (cited as such by the head of the polish National Security Bureau gen. Stanisław Koziej: https://twitter.com/SKoziej/status/491179285005090816
This article is an attempt to present and analyse information from different sources to establish the premises to direct the blame for the tragedy to the guilty parties. Another aim is to present the reasons for actions of people who committed this terrible massacre in the Donetsk province in Eastern Ukraine. But I have no doubt it will not convince any of Putin’s “true believers”. Every point can be dismissed by saying: all information from the west is a manipulation of the CIA or other “secret forces”. I am well aware that mine is just one of many voices in this discussion, but it may be helpful to those who want to get to the truth.
Speaking of the credibility of the global flow of information, we need appropriate measure. In the next text, which I will prepare, I will discuss propaganda, access to information and the level of democratization – considered as the plurality of opinions, helping the decision making process in the Western and in Russia. All this should be taken into consideration when we try to analyse the information coming from different directions as we search for the truth.
- The evidence of perpetration
First the Russian versions, which focus on three variants:
a. President Putin officially claim that Ukrainian authorities are responsible, because if they had not proceed with the war in eastern Ukraine, there would have been no tragedy of the civilian plane (http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/jul/18/ukraine-malaysia-airlines-mh17-vladimir-putin-video).
In other words he said that Ukraine should let go of one third of its territory to Igor Girkin and Alexaner Boroday, who officially admitted their aim to transfer those territories to Grand Russia. Concurrently, any movement of the Ukrainian military forces in the direction of Crimea, provokes a reaction from the Kremlin and statements that it will defend its integrity! Even for pro-Russian observers such a philosophy has to seam inappropriate.
b. There are suggestions on the website “Russian Today” and other Russian media, that MH17 could have been shot down by the Ukrainian military jet SU-25 (Ukrainian Su-25 fighter detected in close approach to MH17 before crash – Moscow, Russia Today, July 21, 2014, http://rt.com/news/174412-malaysia-plane-russia-ukraine/). A film has been presented by a Russian officer which purportedly shows a Ukrainian military jet following a civilian plane. Of course such “evidence” like that from other sides of the conflict, could easily be fabricated. But what is really important, is the problem that this scenario presents could be easily checked by European or US intelligence. Maybe that is why president Putin did not mention this version at all. It was released just to create informational confusion, a routine propaganda action. Even if western intelligence kept such information a secret from the public, their governments would still consider Ukrainian authorities as being culpable.
c. The last option raised by Russian media states that there was a flight of the Russian president on the same day and route, and even “the contours of the aircrafts are similar, linear dimensions are also very similar, as for the colouring, at a a quite remote distance they are almost identical” (Reports that Putin flew similar route as MH17, presidential airport says ‘hasn’t overflown Ukraine for long time’ July 17, 2014, http://rt.com/news/173672-malaysia-plane-crash-putin). In fact if we compare those planes, they are not as similar as Russia Today claims. Even ground forces in areas of operation are trained to recognize plane types and nation of origin. I am sure that pilots are trained much better and such a “mistake” is not possible. This version seems the most peculiar and looks like pure propaganda with no sense to it at all. In fact, the Russian president did not mention this version either, so even for him this option is not worth using, but makes for very useful information noise. This “gossip” was spread for two groups of receivers: “Putin’s believers” who search through the media to validate that their idol has done everything right. Second are those who are undecided, and are thus pushed into even greater confusion and creates a basis for doubt. The last argument should also be considered the most persuasive. What if the Ukrainians really shot down the Russian president? In such a situation a much more radical man would come to power. For Ukraine it would be end of their short independence and could even cause a humanitarian disaster.
President Putin tried to simplify his claim and said that “Obviously, the state over whose territory it happened bears responsibility for this terrible tragedy,” (Reports that Putin flew similar route as MH17, presidential airport says ‘hasn’t overflown Ukraine for long time’ http://rt.com/news/173672-malaysia-plane-crash-putin). No matter how absurd it might seem, the President of Russia uses this argument officially and often so it merits some consideration. Of course he could say otherwise, that the state which controls the territory over which it happened, bears the responsibility… He could, it looks just like a game of words, but in this version it would direct accusations towards Russia. In fact this second phrase would be much more honest and reasonable. If he would be serious in this question we could ask him the same about the terrorist attack in Dubrovca in 2002. Didn’t Russia own and control the territory of the Moscow Theatre? And yet the tragedy happened. Chechen citizens were blamed and nobody in Russia had any doubts, they bear all responsibility, even if Russian special units made dramatic errors during this anti-terrorism operation. Also 9/11 is another example of huge tragedy happening over territory owned and controlled by the state which can’t do anything about it. Christo Grozev presented in his blog, how the Kremlin’s propaganda works: http://cgrozev.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/the-pot-smoking-gun/, and I also will develop this subject as I mentioned, in my next text.
Now, the most important and at the same time most obvious premise pointing at the pro-Russian separatists as the perpetrators of this tragedy:
- Area of the plane crush is in full control of pro-Russian separatists.
All this happened on the territory fully controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Even after the plane crash, they said that Kiev’s envoys are not allowed near the crash site because it lies deep in their area of operations. Meaning there are too many secrets, logistic lines or preparation areas to allow the enemy to enter. So the territory lies far behind the fighting line. There are no reports that the Ukrainians have any anti-craft equipment capable of this act in the vicinity. The Ukrainian PM stated that their forces didn’t even use such equipment because pro-Russian separatists did not have aircraft. From another angle, there are many indications that pro-Russian separatists could get the BUK-1M missile system from Russia and could have used it. There are pictures from the Donetsk area, transport routes and US intelligence information. But most important is that just week before the MH17 tragedy, Russians encroached 3km deep into Ukrainian territory. There are no other reasons for such action other than the transfer of people and equipment into a combat zone. In fact in this area pro-Russian separatists shoot down many ukrainian planes untril now and not russian or pro-Russian plane was shoot down by the Ukrainian army (https://twitter.com/dpjankowski/status/492557547023654912/photo/1)
- Pro-Russian separatists self confession.
There are plenty of recordings of the pro-Russian separatists admitting they committed this attack (just one example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mid_kTCWLzI&app=desktop). Those recordings could be manipulated as Russians claim. But the first recording, linked to above, was released just hours if not minutes after tragedy. Even if it was manipulated, it couldn’t have been done professionally in such a short period. There are number of methods and tests to use to verify those recordings. There are other recordings as well and the voices there seams to be the same. Cristo Grozev was even able to connect with one of those from the tapes and he also confirmed the voice is the same, even if this man denied everything. And the last, but most important. Just after the plane was shot down, pro-Russian separatists sent a message about shooting down a Ukrainian military plane. On that day they did not have any other such “achievements”. Shortly after, the message was deleted (All those deleted ifnormation are gathered in this blog: http://ukraineatwar.blogspot.nl/2014/07/russia-shoots-down-malaysian-mh17.html). We all know that our “Big Brother” – NSA records every message and every phone call we make. It was confirmed by many people that the communication went out into the world, confirming the shoot down of a Ukrainian military plane, which proves they made a “mistake” and shot down a civilian plane thinking it was Ukrainian. By the way, if it was Ukrainian, with the same number of people on-board, the reaction in the west would not be nearly the same as it is now.
- If BUK was used, then Russia is responsible in the first place?
From the beginning there were speculations that the BUK-1M missile system could have been used by the pro-Russian separatists in the shoot down. At the beginning Russians spread the three versions of events as described in the first part of my article. But all investigations were presenting more and more evidence that it happened with the use of BUK (“Military analysts said the size, spread, shape and number of shrapnel impacts visible all point to a missile system like the SA-11 Buk as previously suspected” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2702002/US-Russia-created-conditions-shoot-down.html#ixzz38Wnmfm1Y). Now the black boxes from the plane are pointing to a shoot down by artillery. Because of that, new information appeared in the Russian and pro-Russian media. It said the Ukrainians could use their BUK even from an enormous distance.
Why are there contradicting US intelligence reports regarding Russia’s role? In one information they say: “U.S. intelligence officials today said Russia did bear ‘responsibility’ for the downing of Flight 17 but they offered no evidence that Vladimir Putin was directly involved.” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2702002/US-Russia-created-conditions-shoot-down.html#ixzz38WoLNt3O) In another we read: “Unnamed US officials are telling Associated Press that their intelligence suggests Malaysia plane shot down by anti-Kiev militia, no link to Russia found” (http://rt.com/usa/174796-intelligence-malaysia-plane-mh17-us/). There are two reasons for the contradictions. One is connected with information chaos created by Russia and another with the track two diplomacy of the US and EU. The first statement was official, spread by the British Daily Mail. It suggest that Russians “loaned” the BUK to the pro-Russians separatists and that is why they bear responsibility. But Russians couldn’t know against whom those rockets would be used. They are out of the control of the Kremlin thus Putin cannot bear any responsibility. But Russians are still responsible for supporting those pro-Russian “fighters”. The second message is slightly different. There are no links to Russia at all. So no equipment could be “loaned” and certainly no launching from Russian territory, although the Russian border was much closer to the shooting point than any Ukrainian BUK at that time. Both versions lay responsibility on pro-Russian separatists. And let’s look who in fact spread this second piece of information. Russian propaganda TV and some “Unnamed US officials”. Well… not really convincing. In both cases, they say that president Putin cannot be responsible. Of course, everyone who follows the Ukrainian conflict could be angry, because if Putin supports pro-Russian “rebels” he obviously bears responsibility for their actions. It is true and hard to discuss. But there have to be diplomatic solutions to this difficult and bloody situation. There have to be solutions that prevent the full scale Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory, which would be a disaster for Ukrainians in the first place, then for the region and in the end for Russia itself. That is why president Putin has to be absolved of the heaviest accusations. He has a way out of this with the full, popular support of his own people and those from abroad, “Putin’s believers”. At the same time western media and even politicians leave no space for speculation and openly say that president Putin is responsible for all that happens in the Ukraine. So despite the truth, track two diplomacy is used to show president Putin the way out of this situation. The message is clear: “Cut all connections to the “rebels”, blame them for everything and then we will go back to much better economic relations. You will have Your World Cup in 2018, F1 track in Sochi and so on.” It has to be very attractive for president Putin, but it is not for Girkin, Boroday and others who have staked everything on this conflict. If they lose, they would have to build their reputation from the beginning. All of their “achievements” in Moldova, Chechnya or the Balkans would be forgotten because they failed in Ukraine – the most important aim of their imperial plans. Influencers in Moscow like Malofeev do everything to stop Putin from caving in. They have great impact on the Russian president and a big influence on the Russian economy and Armed Forces. In most pessimistic scenario, they can create a short-term economic crisis (which in fact is imminent considering the war, Crimean annexation and the costs of realizing imperial plans), spread information about the failure in Ukraine and even claim that the President betrayed Great Russia (which in fact they do on Twitter) and ultimately cause Putin to lose his position.
All those circumstances led to tragedy for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight no. MH17 and has now caused many complications in the area of operation of the pro-Russian separatists. This tragedy is another example of the innocent civilians losing lives in the conflicts caused by the imperial ambitions of the people who have powerful capabilities at their disposal. In fact, Russians fighting in Ukraine makes this conflict another proxy war – which is more brutal, because it consists of mercenaries and people from another countries who don’t care about the people in the territory where they are fighting. Igor Girkin (Strelkov) or Alexander Boroday are no different than the leaders of ISIS in Iraq or Boko Haram in Nigeria. They any and all methods to achieve their aims, they pursue an extremist ideology and they do not have any humanitarian inclinations whatsoever. In their minds a political victory achieved through military or rather terrorist methods is the absolute, top priority. They even could believe they are helping other people, because sometimes “it has to be hard before it gets better in the future”. But such an idea is not appropriate in all circumstances
What makes them different from the most radical terrorist groups in the Middle East or Africa, is that they operate in the middle of Europe – which despite western views is in Ukraine. They have strong sponsors. Political sponsors are located in the Kremlin, but financial support comes from people like billionaire Constantine Malofeev. Such influential and rich sources of support make those pro-Russian separatists very powerful. They refuse to listen to orders from the Kremlin, but have their own ideologists like Alexander Barkashov, whose ideals fit much better with the aim of a “Great Russia” than Putin’s complicated policy. A great advantage of the pro-Russian separatists is the situation in Russia. Close connection or even unification of Russian politics and organized crime in that country, makes the state highly unpredictable. If western analysts base their assessments on relatively healthy state organisms of western countries, they will have great difficulty in analysing Russian behaviour and predicting their next moves. We hear, that the Dutch Prime Minister was deeply shocked by the pro-Russian separatists behaviour in front of the MH-17 wreckage and the dead bodies lying all around. Well… Ukrainian, Polish or Lithuanian analysts and politicians were not shocked by this. In this part of Europe, people know much more about those fighting the Ukrainian Armed Forces, about the situation in the Russia and the geopolitical conditions that this situation creates. The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister and the organizations such as the National Security Bureau with its director, General Stanisław Koziej, warned western politicians, journalists and societies of the importance and danger of the situation in Ukraine and Russia role in it.
Operating in the centre of Europe also has disadvantages. Europe is filled with high- level intelligence technology, the European Union cooperates in strategic alliance with the USA which creates great capability for diplomatic and intelligence actions. Despite the leaks about wire-tapping of European leaders by the USA, western intelligence has the greatest access to the global flow of information. Russia is also deeply involved in cooperation with the European Union, which makes warlike politics much more complicated.
The geopolitical situation in the twenty-first century is proof that every international relations actor of enormous power will act in their self-interest, become arrogant and ultimately aggressive. Today Russia resembles the USA from 2002 and 2003. The beginning of the war in Iraq was not a mistake. There were false reports presented in the UN Security Council, bunch of false media information. Although there was also large critic in the West. France and Germany did not surrender to the US pressure. Even in US there were medias which informed about anti-war opinions. So Russia is same arrogant, and starts to be aggressive but uses much more total propaganda than it is possible in the West. USA regards Iraq as their largest mistake. They also see many others mistakes they did and many others do not see. But Russia starting aggression against Ukraine is wrong in the same way and in Russia there is no real debate. There is no TV channel like “Democracy Now” in Russia or senators like Ron Paul on the Kremlin (or were excluded from Duma). Only West can force Russia to understand that they are not over any international relations and international Law. If US economy started to shrink because of the wars in the Middle East, what caused less international actions by the USA in the second decade of the XXI c., than poor and retarded Russian economy does not allow them to play that game also (This is stated by Zbigniew Brzezinski often: http://t.co/MZRSbMqTw3).
(I would like to thank to Nick Siekierski for correcting this text)