MH 17: Dealing With Moscow’s Propaganda Machine

It can be expected that during the Hague District Court international tribunal trial of the MH17 case which starts on Monday 9th March, Russia’s propaganda machine will be rolled out to play the usual tricks designed to divert public attention. The Kremlin information manipulators will also try to influence the position of the Netherlands using methods such as the introduction of conflicting evidence and bizarre theories to muddy the waters, writes James Wilson.

The Netherlands is host to a galaxy of paid civil society activists and journalists who are actively associated with the Kremlin, and whose mercenary mission it is to misinform and manipulate public opinion with a view to influencing the course of the international tribunal.

In the Netherlands, the Russian Federation funded the “Committee on the Global Rights of Peaceful People” that actively campaigned during the Netherlands referendum in 2016 concerning the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU.

In the lower house of the Dutch parliament, the Kremlin put pressure on the policy of the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee, banning criticism of Putin’s policies, S. Sjurdsma (Democrats-66), and putting him on the Moscow sanctions list. The committee was even forced to cancel the visit of its representatives to Russia, originally planned for February 24-27 of this year, following threats from Russia of “the negative consequences of such a move, which will entirely fall on the Dutch side.”

Kremlin support was given to ex-member of the Socialist Party of the Netherlands G. Van Bommel and the head of the Freedom Party G. Wilders.

The Netherlands Prosecutor’s Office has denied the Russian Federation the right to judge on its territory Russian citizens accused of an international crime, the downing of the plane of flight MH17 of Malaysia Airlines. In addition, Russia has been accused of refusing to arrest and extradite to The Hague the ex-anti-aircraft gunner V. Tsemakh, who is alleged to have been involved in the movements and actions of the combat crew of the BUK-M1 air defence system that shot down the plane.

It is very clear from the evidence that has been made public, and will be presented in court next week that the military and the political leadership of the Russian Federation bears international responsibility for state terrorism and the disaster of the shooting down of MH17 in the territory of Donbass.

But Russia continues to try to exclude their military and political leadership from involvement in the attack and pervert justice. Indeed, justice for Putin is only when the verdicts are in his favour, but not the other way around. Russia is attempting to exploit the gaps in international justice to evade responsibility. But according to the independent Bellingcat investigation, Putin and the top military-political leadership of the Russian Federation are personally responsible for the decision to send the Buk complex and military personnel from the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade to Ukraine and the subsequent downing of the civilian Malaysian Boeing aircraft. The report prepared by Bellingcat was provided by the Netherlands-led International Investigation Team and may become an important element in proving Russia’s guilt in the downing of the flight. According to preliminary results of an investigation by experts of the International Investigation Group, the plane of flight МН17 was shot down from the Buk-M1 complex, brought from Russia (from the Kursk region, where the 53-yabrigada of the armed forces of the Russian Federation is based) to the territory controlled by militants who fought against APU under the leadership of the Russian military and carried out the orders of Russian supervisors who also reported on their implementation.

Buk M1

After the disappearance of the air defense system, which shot down MH17, was returned to Russia, the investigating team also restored the route along which the air defense systems were transported. Back in May 2018, the Netherlands and Australia officially accused Russia of shooting down the Malaysian Boeing flight МН17. There are two main investigations that were conducted by completely different experts, and which were carried out within different organisations (the International Investigation Team and representatives of the authoritative world publication Bellingcat, which specialises in investigations in this area). But, the results are largely identical and show us the same thing: Russia is to blame for shooting down flight MH17. Ultimately, the responsibility should be borne by the officials of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin Together with these Russians, the leaders of the “LDNR” must also bear responsibility.

The prosecutor from the Netherlands, Fred Westerbeck, said that he had no doubt that flight МН17 was shot down from a unit belonging to the 53rd brigade of the Russian Armed Forces in Kursk. Westerbeke accuses the Russian authorities that over the past 5 years they have not provided any assistance in the investigation.

The goal of international justice should be not only to punish the accomplices of the crime that led to the tragedy of MH17, but also those who were its organizers and made political decisions. The very fact that the Buk installation was transported from Russia to Ukraine indicates that there was an order from Moscow to bring down the aircraft at the height used by civil aviation. Potential culprits include: the commander of the anti-aircraft missile system of the Western military district, Colonel Alexei Zodotov, the head of the air defence and aviation forces of the air defence forces Andrei Kokhanov, the commander of the air defence forces of the Russian Armed Forces, Alexander Leonov, the commander of the troops of the Western military district, Anatoly Sidorov, the commander-in-chief of the ground forces of Russia Oleg Salyukov, Minister of Defence of Russia Sergey Shoigu, together with his deputies and directly commander in chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Putin.

In Moscow in 2014, they knew much more about the situation with the downed Malaysian Boeing than the world community assumes. Before the disaster of flight MH17, Ukrainian aircraft An-26, An-20B, Il-76MD were shot down on the territory controlled by the Russian Federation. A few minutes after the Malaysian airliner was shot down, the “militias” in their chronicles boasted of “the destruction of the Ukrainian plane.” Russian media raced to broadcast news about a downed Ukrainian plane until they found out that the Malaysian Boeing-777 had been shot down. News headlines were full of headlines “Militia shot down another Ukrainian Air Force transport plane over the city of Torez in Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine,” “Militiamen of the proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic shot down the AN-26 plane of the Ukrainian Air Force”.

The Russian Federation showed some “strange foresight” and closed its skies for flights of international civil aviation from 00:00 on July 17, 2014 at an altitude of exclusively up to 16 km (to FL530), which is comparable to the maximum height of the Buk anti-aircraft missile system (about 18 kilometres).

The Netherlands officially asked questions of the Federal Air Transport Agency, which did not answer why the airspace was closed to a height of 16 thousand 150 metres. Those who issued these restrictions knew that a Buk appeared on the adjacent territory, and it stands in such a way that its radius of action captures the airspace bordering Russia. Accordingly, all the corridors that cross the adjacent space with Ukraine were closed.

The Bellingcat research team and The Insider reporters found that Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov, an officer of the Russian GRU, participated in the deployment of Buk air defense systems to Ukraine. He (or Orion) was previously the Minister of Defence of the unrecognized South Ossetia after its capture by Russia.

The Kremlin will not succeed in convincing the world community of its innocence, although it has utilised massive human and material resources. Moscow will have to admit its mistake back in 2014 as Iran did in the recent shooting down of the Ukrainian Boeing near Tehran. But the admission of guilt and compensation for payments to injured relatives is tantamount to admitting that the Buk was brought in with the assistance of Russia.

Already during the early stages of the investigation and the identification of those responsible for the aviation tragedy, it became obvious that the responsibility lay with the Russian side, the military aggression by whom against Ukraine led to the escalation of the armed conflict in Donbass and the transfer of part of the region to the control of terrorist groups. If Russia admits their error, it will also mean admission of participation of Moscow in the armed conflict in Donbass and the sponsorship of international terrorism. We all know instinctively that this is true despite the weasel words and obfuscation coming from Russia’s propaganda machine.

It is time for the international court to declare their findings and for the world to prepare to impose the full weight of the law on a congenital liar and a terrorist.

This article was originally published on EU Political Report

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James Wilson

James Wilson

James Wilson is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to EU Today. He is a long term resident of Belgium, and has more than 30 years international experience in media, journalism and corporate communications and publishing.

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