By Baiba Zile*
On 17 July, seven years had passed since the MH17 flight was deliberately shot down in Eastern Ukraine. This was one of the saddest incidents of 2014 that took the lives of 298 innocent people, and those responsible have still not been punished.
For seven years, Russian authorities actively tried to hide their involvement in this mass murder by using the MH17 tragedy as a tool to present Russia as the victim. Those that died in the disaster are used by the pro-Kremlin media to prove that the US and NATO are conspiring against Russia, which is washing its hands in innocence.
The Kremlin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov has stated numerous times that Russia has never attacked anyone and has no intentions of doing so. The Kremlin believes that the US, NATO and other international organizations are attempting to besmirch Russia’s good name. According to the Kremlin’s propaganda mouthpieces, Russia did not invade Georgia in 2008, just like Crimea was not annexed in March 2014. All the evidence points to the opposite, and the international community has already proved Russia’s involvement in the aforementioned crimes. The Kremlin doesn’t really care and continues lying to the Russia people by saying that the lying West want to eradicate not only Russia, but the entire Russian-speaking population as well.
It’s the same with the MH17 disaster – the Kremlin sees it as nothing more than means of manipulation. For seven years, Russian authorities tried to hide its involvement in the killing of 298 civilians. According to public information, Russia’s first comment on the tragedy of 17 July 2014 was quite eloquent.
Literally minutes after the tragedy, the self-proclaimed “minister of defense” of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and former Russian army officer Igor Girkin shared photos of the downed airplane and proudly commented: “We warned you – don’t fly over our skies.” Girkin tried to delete the entry shortly after and pretend that he never said anything, but thanks to the internet this piece of evidence has been immortalized.
On 18 July, nearly 24 hours later Girkin, trying very hard to hide his triumphant smile, provided the first false version of the tragedy that resembled the scenario of the BBC’s Sherlock episode A Scandal in Belgravia. He said that the people in the airplane had been dead for several days and continued mocking them and their grieving relatives. The Kremlin, instead of admitting its involvement in the disaster or at least pretending that it was an accident, decided to stick to lies and denial.
In addition, the Kremlin’s “truths” reveal how it’s degrading the minds of the Russian people. According to EUvsDisinfo, during these seven years roughly 300 disinformation cases concerning the MH17 disaster have been identified. Every single one of these cases attempts to establish alternative versions to what happened and blame anyone else except Russia and its elite. Some readers, especially those representing Russian intelligentsia with an IQ of 0.01, will, of course, see this as a provocation and an attempt by the international community to discredit Russia.
The Kremlin isn’t the one rewriting history – the Kremlin is the only one not rewriting history. This is the same as with the Kremlin’s lying reports about the occupation of the Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia wanted to joint the USSR, there was no occupation, even if the international community recognizes the fact of occupation. The Kremlin says and the Kremlin does, but then the Kremlin denies saying or doing anything it did. We can see that the Kremlin is doing exactly that, i.e. despite all the evidence pointing to Russia being the one to blame for downing the airplane, fans of Putin’s regime will make up hundreds of stories to say that that’s not true. They are even willing to borrow scenarios from popular TV shows.
One of the most ruthless lies from the Kremlin’s disinformation machine came on 19 July 2014 via a Twitter entry by a Spanish air traffic controller named Carlos who had allegedly worked at an airport in Kiev. He wrote that Ukraine responsible for the disaster, i.e. that two Ukrainian fighters had downed the passenger airplane. But, to everyone’s surprise, it turned out that there is no employee named Carlos working at the airport. The Twitter entry came from a Spanish citizen living in Romania who had absolutely nothing to do with airports.
However, pro-Kremlin media outlets continue citing Carlos and his story as “evidence” that Ukraine caused the disaster. On 22 June 2021, one of the Kremlin’s largest propaganda mouthpieces www.vz.ru wrote that the version of Ukrainian fighters is still being considered, despite the criminal trial in Netherlands stating that the version was investigated and that all evidence points to the fact that the MH17 flight was downed with a Buk surface-to-air missile. But this is no obstacle because lies are always an option – in order to avoid admitting Russia’s involvement in the disaster, pro-Kremlin media outlets reported that the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces, despite the evidence, once again, pointing to Russia.
According to the available information, the Ukrainian Armed Forces indeed have Buk missile systems, but all missiles are documented and accounted for. Instead, documents on the movement of forces, intercepted radio messages and the public announcements made by separatists link the evidence to Russia’s scheduled military operations. Evidence proves that the missile system was brought from Kursk to Ukraine for a brief period of time. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) announced that missile system belonged to the 53rd Missile Brigade – a military unit of the Russian Armed Forces located in Kursk. Based on this, the government of the Netherlands decided to bring the case against Russia to the European Court of Human Rights.
Instead of taking responsibility for its actions, Russia continues denying any involvement in the incident and is deceiving people by lies and manipulation. Russia continues insisting that it was not allowed to fully participate in the JIT’s activities, as well as that the version about Ukraine being the one that downed the plane from its own territory has not been appropriately investigated. Russia continues deceiving people by saying that the West is deliberately trying to smear Russia. The Kremlin tirelessly continues making up different versions of what happened, saying that Ukraine is bitter about the results of the Crimea referendum and that is why it’s trying to paint Russia as a monster.
I, however, believe that it’s more than clear who’s the one manipulating people and attempting to rewrite history. The relatives of those who died in the MH17 tragedy are witnessing how Russia is rewriting their history, just as the USSR rewrote the histories of the nations it occupied. The Kremlin has always used disinformation to acquit itself and deny any blame. Like a misbehaving child, the Kremlin is standing in front of the international community and the relatives of the victims in an attempt to convince everyone that the Kremlin is the victim and how everyone is now vilifying the innocent Putin regime. What is an unimaginably sad tragedy for others is just another lesson in disinformation for the Kremlin.
*Baiba Zile is an independent Latvian journalist