Ukraine air disaster inter-imperial football (already)

President Obama in his statement on the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in Ukraine emphasized that it was "shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine." He added that "we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia." Vladimir Putin, of course, blamed Ukraine for the incident, saying: "Without doubt the government of the territory on which it happened bears responsibility for this frightening tragedy." Of course he was referring to Kiev's military offensive against the rebels, but Business Insider wryly notes that placing the blame on "the government of the territory" where the disaster occurred "technically points the finger at the rebels themselves, who have proclaimed the area 'The People's Republic of Donetsk.'"

Reuters reports that the Russian-built Buk anti-aircraft missile, known as the "Gadfly" in NATO jargon, has been identified as the culprit in the attack. Russia's ITAR-TASS wastes no time in citing "a well-informed source" that Ukraine's armed forces had dispatched a Buk battalion to the area of Donetsk the day before the disaster. We are helpfully informed that "militias of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk have said they do not possess armament systems of this class."

The Conversation media watchdog blog, under the headline "Russian news—reporting revisionism as it happened," notes how ITAR-TASS changed its tune as events unfolded. According to the blog, the first ITAR-TASS report (now apparently removed from the web) was headlined "Donetsk People's Republic militia downs another Ukraine's An-26 plane—eyewitnesses" (sic). Boasting that this was the second Ukrainian An-26 cargo plane brought down by separatist rebels (except, of course, it actually wasn't), ITAR-TASS happily wrote:

Militiamen of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) brought down a military transport Antonov-26 (An-26) plane of the Ukrainian Air Force on the outskirts of the town of Torez, eyewitnesses said. A missile hit the An-26, it fell on the ground and caught blaze, they said.

The Conversation notes: "Half an hour later, it was as if the previous report never existed." It was promptly replaced by the one cited above.

Inevitably, amateur Internet sleuths and propagandists are confusing the two plane shoot-downs. Aviation Herald writes: "Videos circulating in the Internet and media claiming to show the stricken MH-17 coming down with a raging fire at the right hand wing are in fact videos of the shoot down of an Antonov AN-30 in Slavyansk on Jun 6th 2014."

The New York Times reports that the Kiev government has released what it says is audio from phone calls between rebel fighters and Russian officers after the downing of the flight, making it clear they were responsible. In one call, a rebel says, "We have just shot down a plane."

The Daily Mail claims to have uncovered a "sick boast" on the part of the perps:

Laughing rebels filmed the plane as it crashed, gleefully bragging 'That was a blast—look at the smoke!' while a fireball rose from the debris. One of the voices is believed to be militia commander Igor Strelkov, who then penned a triumphant war cry on Twitter, saying: "We warned you—do not fly in 'our sky'." A sickening mobile phone video posted online shows a pall of black smoke billowing over the crash site as three rebels provide an excited commentary. The extraordinary footage—apparently filmed by the shooters—charts the terrible final moments of the doomed airliner. 

The video footage is provided, but Daily Mail doesn't say how they came upon it.

Another Daily Mail report shows a picture of the same rebel commander, but names him as "Igor Girkin" rather than "Igor 'the Terrible' Strelkov" (is one a nom de guerre?), and implicates him in both the downing of the flight and a crude attempt at a cover-up. He apparently told Russian media that the bodies at the crash site "aren't fresh." This will certainly provide fodder for the kneejerk "false flag" theories around the disaster, which have already begun (see InfoWars, Top Conservative News, Above Top Secret, etc.).

James Miller in The Daily Beast writes that in the days before the downing, "several Russian citizens post[ed] videos to social media which they said show GRAD rockets being fired from Russian territory toward Ukraine… Thursday morning, there were reports that a group of Ukrainian soldiers had been hit by the rocket fire and were actually receiving medical treatment on the other side of the border, ironically enough in the same town from which the rockets had been launched in the first place." Miller sees the plane shoot-down as permitted if not actually instrumented by Putin, who has been "recklessly escalating the crisis in eastern Ukraine" in a bid to ride out the sanctions on a wave of war fever.

While the 295 who lost their lives on the Malaysian flight are reduced to political footballs in the inter-imperial game, BBC News reports that with Ukrainian government forces advancing on Luhansk, electricity and water have been cut off to much of the city, and a nearby oil refinery is on fire. Shelling has killed more than 20 people, the city council says. Amid all the media games, there is little concern with the Ukrainian people who are caught between both sides in the war.

And despite the politicized charge of "fascism" that the "left" (sic) media in the US echo from Moscow propaganda (see the latest shamelessly one-sided polemic in The Nation from the repugnant Stephen F. Cohen), there is no shortage of fascistic imagery, rhetoric and behavior on both sides in the conflict—but actually somewhat more on the (pro-)Russian side. Amnesty International reported July 11 that it has "gathered graphic and compelling evidence of savage beatings and other torture meted out against activists, protesters and journalists in eastern Ukraine over the last three months." The new briefing, "Abductions and Torture in Eastern Ukraine" (PDF), "documents allegations of abduction and torture perpetrated by separatist armed groups and pro-Kyiv forces." But not equally. Says Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia: "The bulk of the abductions are being perpetrated by armed separatists, with the victims often subjected to stomach-turning beatings and torture. There is also evidence of a smaller number of abuses by pro-Kyiv forces."

Amnesty cites hundreds of cases in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, finding: "Those targeted include not only police, the military and local officials, but also journalists, politicians, activists, members of electoral commissions and businesspeople." Says Krivosheev: "Now that pro-Kyiv forces are re-establishing control over Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and various other places in eastern Ukraine new captives are being released almost daily with an increasing number of disturbing cases emerging. It is time that these are meticulously documented with perpetrators brought to justice with victims awarded compensation."

"Hanna," identified as a pro-Ukrainian activist, told Amnesty how she was abducted by armed men in Donetsk on May 27. She was held for six days before being released in a prisoner exchange. She described to Amnesty how she was violently interrogated. "My face was smashed, he punched me in the face with his fist, he was trying to beat me everywhere, I was covering myself with my hands… I was huddled in the corner, curled up in a ball with my hands around my knees. He was angry that I was trying to protect myself. He went out and came back with a knife." Adds the report: "Hanna showed us the scars on her neck, arms and legs where she was sliced with the blade: there is a stab wound in her knee, her right index finger is still heavily bandaged in a plastic splint."

What, no fascism here.

  1. Surfeit of Igors in Ukraine reportage

    The Linux Beach blog, citing a translation of the Ukrainian government statement on World Civil Aviation Resources Net, names the rebel commander speaking in the released transcript about the shoot-down as "Igor Bezler." This is presumably the same man as that variously identified by the Daily Mail as "Igor Girkin" or "Igor Strelkov," although the accompanying photo is different from that run in the Mail. Linux Beach links to an entry in the Wiki-site Total War that asserts Bezler is a former (?) officer in the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, which has endearingly kept its Soviet-era name…

  2. ‘Cossack commander’ behind Ukraine air disaster?

    A report in The Guardian provides a little clarity on the multiple Igors. Two of those cited by the Daily Mail are apparently different people. The report names three rebel leaders who reportedly discussed the downing of a plane shortly after Flight MH17 exploded and crashed. Two are Igors: Igor Strelkov, an alleged Russian intelligence agent leading the military forces of the "Donetsk People's Republic"; and Igor Bezler, named as "a notorious loose cannon who rules the town of Horlivka with an iron fist." The third suspect is Nikolai Kozitsyn, commander of a group of Russian Cossacks now fighting for the rebels.

    The "left" (e.g. The Nation) rooting for the fucking Cossacks.

    Through the proverbial looking glass.

  3. Ukraine air disaster suspect linked to Bosnia cleansing

    A report in the frequently conspiracy-obsessed International Business Times says that social media in Bosnia (no links provided) are circulating a photo purporting to show Igor Girkin AKA Igor Strelkov along with fellow "Russian mercenary" Boban Indic in Visegrad in 1992—when the town was "cleansed" of Muslims by Serb forces, with some 3,000 killed and hundreds of women raped. Both men, and an unnamed third, are dressed in camo and holding rifles, smiling happily at the camera in the obvious flush of victory.

  4. Investigators: Russia downed Malaysia Airlines jet in Ukraine

    Investigators probing the 2014 downing of flight MH17 said for the first time that the missile which brought down the plane over eastern Ukraine came from a Russian military brigade. The Joint Investigation Team "has come to the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia," top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen said. "The 53rd Brigade forms part of the Russian armed forces," he told reporters at a press conference in the Netherlands.The Joint Investigation Team "has come to the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia," top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen said. "The 53rd Brigade forms part of the Russian armed forces," he told reporters at a press conference in the Netherlands. (SCMP)

  5. Dutch court finds Russia-controlled group downed airliner

    A Dutch court has found three men guilty of murder for shooting down a passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people. The court found that a Russian-made missile supplied from Russia and fired by an armed group under Russian control brought down flight MH17.

    The men—two Russians and one Ukrainian—were found guilty in absentia and sentenced to life in jail. A third Russian was acquitted.

    The judges found that the attack was a deliberate action to bring down a plane, even though the three found guilty had intended to shoot down a military not a civilian aircraft.

    Igor Girkin, the military leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, was convicted of deploying the missile and seeking Russian aid. Sergei Dubinsky was found to have ordered and overseen the transport of the BUK missile launcher. Leonid Kharchenko was found to have overseen the BUK, acting on Dubinsky’s instructions.

    Oleg Pulatov, the only one of the four accused to have legal representation at the trial, was acquitted, although the judges found he knew about the missile. (BBC News)