Who shot down the Malaysian plane over Ukraine? (2)

Instead of propaganda try thinking straight

The Dutch government has said they think it likely the plane was shot down. The US is leaking that they think it was shot down with a Buk missile. †Their anonymous briefers claim to have seen the trajectory of the missile in its final stages but not its launch point. (In other cases the US claims it can detect the launch point).

So; assuming it was shot down with a Buk missile (as the US suggests) lets consider the proposition that the Buk missile system was operated by the rebels. There are only three ways they could have got hold of a Buk missile system. Let”s review each one:

i) They were given it by Russia. This really is very unlikely. Russia is clearly trying to avoid being seen to be arming the rebels. Arguably they might (hypothetically) supply them with non-attributable small arms. A Buk missile launcher is a multi-vehicle system with “Made in Russia” stamped all over it. It would be at very high risk of being captured and detected. If it was detected Russia would be nailed. The chances of Russia having done something foolish like supply a Buk system to the rebels is really unrealistic.

Furthermore; it probably isn’t  a weapon that a hit-and-run guerilla force such as the rebels in Eastern Ukraine would even want in all probability. It is not easy to transport. It is a vehicle which needs to go by road. And it is a complicated beast to operate. (Check out the images of the control panel on Wikipedia).

ii) They got it on the black market. This too is really unlikely. Yes; there is a black market in MANPADS (portable shoulder fired surface to air missile systems). But a Buk is a very large, very expensive, system, which armies probably keep good track of. It requires maintenance. It can’t be smuggled in the boot of a car. You have to drive it. It is hardly inconspicuous. It seems really unlikely that there is a black-market in such systems. Such claims have never been made.

iii) They captured it from the Ukrainian (Kiev) side. This is the most likely. But if this was the case Kiev would have said and they haven”t. In fact they have said that all their Buk systems are accounted for. NB. Time magazine is quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying that the rebels had captured a Buk system some weeks ago. If that is true that would be a serious possibility. In this case Kiev would need to give details of the captured unit. (See the last section of this post for the details of these claims).

The fact of the matter is that the Buk system (or similar systems) are complex pieces of machinery which require multiple trained operators to use. If nothing else is known the most likely candidate is the Ukrainian military who operate these systems.

But they can”t help themselves

To check on the propaganda I went over to the Daily Telegraph. (Please note this page may open a live video feed). Sure enough I found the sort of third-rate nonsense which the Daily Telegraph appears to think is acceptable to pass off as journalism. The article makes no attempt to consider facts. They link to some YouTube video offered by the Kiev authorities which purports to show the Buk missile system used in the attack being driven back to Russia at night with two missile tubes empty. Since Kiev has Buk systems it obviously would be no trouble to create such a video. It isn’t credible. Not content with using one piece of Kiev”s propaganda they also publish a transcript of the “intercepted” phone call in which a rebel leader is said to admit to shooting down the plane. This is introduced as “One of the most shocking details to emerge overnight”. In fact audio and video files produced by the Ukrainian security services should be taken with a healthy pinch of salt. Journalism involves corroborating sources especially when they come from unreliable sources like the Kiev security services. It doesn’t mean giving it a lot of publicity and then just saying “We obviously can”t confirm it”s authenticity”. Check it out. If it holds up publish it. If it doesn’t don”t. That’s journalism. Just printing the propaganda of one side with a casual disclaimer that you haven”t corroborated your sources is sloppy journalism to say the least.

Anyone who have been following the events in Eastern Ukraine will have noticed that that there is a pattern of Kiev automatically blaming the Russians or the rebels for everything. Even the fire in Odessa which killed about 40 people was their fault. Journalists who were seriously following the story would notice this and modify their reporting accordingly.

Sentences like “Putin has, of course, denied any involvement and has blamed Ukraine as the crash was over their land” are not journalism. When a newspaper makes them we can see we are in the realm of partisanship. Missing from the Telegraph piece is the relevant background information that the Ukrainian military has history of shooting down a civilian airliner with a surface to air missile. In fact there is a link to a story about an event in 1983 when Soviet jets fired on an off-course Korean airliner killing two people. The much more relevant downing of an entire civilian plane by Ukraine”s military in 2001 is omitted.

The problem with this kind of “reporting” is it is so obvious that they want to blame Russia or the rebels. That’s the preferred narrative. Obviously. So they go all out to try and spin that along. Absent is objectively, neutrality, balance. They mix up reporting with their partisan sentiments. As we have noted elsewhere this is really the kind of reporting your expect from the press in war time.

The final irony is the reference to “RT, the Kremlin-controlled English-language propaganda channel”. Certainly there is no secret that RT is funded by Moscow and is a conscious part of Russian foreign policy. The BBC is, effectively, funded by the UK government. The Western press (including the Telegraph) is mostly funded by Western finance capital. All the press has interest groups it has to serve. RT practices a high standard of journalism. Check it out; they get first-hand accounts. They get interviews with interesting experts and dissidents. They report checkable facts. True they deliberately give the Russian point of view. But it is not as if the Telegraph, for example, is not giving the point of view of the British political, military and finance classes. The actual difference is that RT, in the main, uses journalism to carry out its mission and does so in an obvious way whereas the Western press, and the Telegraph is an example, frequently resort to propaganda and subterfuge.

The Telegraph writes:

Inevitably, many Russian media outlets are keen to play down the suggestion that Flight MH17 was shot down by the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Without noticing that they are equally keen to promote the line that it was shot down by the rebels in league with Russia.

They can’t even organise their propaganda into a coherent piece. Here is Andrii Kuzmenko, Ukraine”s acting ambassador to the UK quoted by the Daily Telegraph:

He is asked: Can you absolutely categorically say that it was not a Ukrainian missile? Yes. I can categorically say that. The Ministry of Defence from Ukraine has already undertaken a complete audit of our missiles. None are out of place; none have been shot.

In another place in the same article the Daily Telegraph quotes Time magazine:

But only three weeks ago they had plenty of those weapons. At the end of June, the Russian state media had congratulated the rebels on their latest military acquisition “a set of Russian-made BUK missile launchers seized from a Ukrainian air force base. The Donetsk resistance fighters have captured an anti-aircraft military station, declared the Kremlin’s main television network Vesti, which has been cheering on the rebel fighters since the war in eastern Ukraine began this spring. The skies above Donetsk will now be protected by the BUK surface-to-air missile complex, said the headline on the channel’s website.

So. Which is it? Surely if the claim is that the rebels used a captured Buk system the fact that one had been captured would be part of the audit?




Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer