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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17/MAS17) was a Malaysian Airlines passenger flight that was shot down in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

The plane fell near Hrabove in Donetsk Oblast — territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists at the time. It is widely assumed that the plane was shot down by the pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk oblast using a "Buk" surface-to-air missile system (such systems are used by both Russian and Ukrainian armed forces).[1][2]

Details of the accident[edit]

The nature of the disaster led to all parties shifting blame to each other, with different degrees of validity.

While the mainstream Western and Ukrainian media have resoundingly agreed on the details of the crash, the Russian media was saturated with different alternative versions of the events,[3][4] which usually blamed the Ukrainian military for taking down the plane. China also attempted to challenge the version of the events.[5]

Did the separatists have a Buk SAM system?[edit]

After the MH17 crash took place, several Russian media outlets[6][7] denied that the pro-Russian forces had access to a Buk missile system, which is the only type of locally available SAM system that could have shot down a plane at commercial airliner cruising altitude. However, these articles contradict earlier ones from other pro-Russian sources, in which the separatists claimed they had captured a Buk complex or parts thereof.[8][9]

Phone call intercepts[edit]

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) leaked videos with alleged recordings of the phone calls between the separatists shortly after the events. In the video, the separatists admit that they took down a civilian airplane.[10]

This video was quickly declared "fake" on the basis of its "creation date" tag showing a date one day before the plane crashed. This argument turned out to be false, as the mistaken creation date turned out to be a bug in YouTube, which affected all videos.[11]

Russian Ministry of Defense claims[edit]

On July 21st, the Russian Ministry of Defense issued a briefing on the MH17 accident.[12] According to them, the plane was shot down from a Ukrainian-controlled SAM 50 kilometers east to Donetsk and 8 km south to Shahtarsk. However, third-party attempts to determine the firing location based on the photos available contradict these claims.[13]

Another claim presented during the briefing is that the Russian radars detected a Ukrainian Su-25 close air support aircraft briefly following the Malaysian plane at a distance of 3-5 kilometers, which could only work if the jet defied physics.[14] Anonymous editors with Russian IP addresses promptly edited the Wikipedia article for the Su-25 to claim it could fly higher and faster than it actually can. Conspiracy theorists quickly took over these Russian claims. Apart from Ukraine having no motive (the world already supported them) it's technically impossible to shoot down an airliner at 10km with an Su-25. The Su-25 is a close air support aircraft (NOT a fighter) made by the Russian design bureau Sukhoi and in use by Russia and Ukraine (the Russian equivalent of the A-10 Thunderbolt II). Its maximum altitude is 7km, without weapons. Armed, the maximum altitude is 5km. Furthermore the Su-25, being a low altitude ground attack plane, is terribly unsuited for shooting down planes. Being a ground attack plane the Su-25 doesn't have a radar suitable for air interception and the only air-to-air weapons it carries are short range self defense. The Su-25 is also subsonic and too slow to intercept an airliner. If Russia or Ukraine would have wanted to shoot down an airliner with a combat aircraft, the Su-25 would be the last choice. Both have aircraft in their inventory such as the Su-27 and MiG-29 that actually are fighters and could technically do it.

Russia and conspiracy theorists show pictures of MH17 parts with holes as evidence that combat aircraft shot it down, claiming these would have been caused by the 30mm cannon of a combat aircraft. The holes however are different in size and even the biggest ones are too small for a 30mm cannon. They also have no knowledge of how surface-to air-missiles such as a Buk function. These don't hit the target; they have a high explosive fragmentation warhead (HE-FRAG) which explodes close to the target and then sprays the target with an enormous number of fragments. The result is the damage as seen on the debris.

During the commentary after the briefing, the Chief of Staff of the Russian Air Force also mentioned that the videos showing a Buk being moved towards the Russian border after the accident[15] were actually taken in the Ukraine-controlled city of Krasnoarmeysk. The claim relied on the misinterpretation of a billboard in the video — the commentary claimed the billboard advertised a car shop at a 34 Dnepropetrovskaya St., while the actual billboard had no such text.[16] Also, trolley bus wires are visible in the video, while the city of Krasnoarmeysk has no trolley bus system.

Wacky conspiracy theories[edit]

Some of the more outlandish theories claim that the plane was initially filled with corpses[17] (which was lampooned by The Daily Show[18]), or that the MH17 plane was the same one as the missing flight 370,[19][20] or that the CIA blew up/shot down the plane in a false flag operation[21] (or vice versa: the rebels were originally planning to shoot down a Russian airliner in order to pin it on Ukraine, rather than by accident[22]).

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Malaysia - Dutch report suggests MH-17 shot down from ground, Reuters
  2. Germany Says Pro-Russian Rebels in Ukraine Downed MH17 With Captured Missiles, Mashable
  3. MH17: Russians fed steady diet of conspiracy theories about crash, Toronto Star
  4. MH17: five of the most bizarre conspiracy theories, The Guardian
  5. MH17: China Defends Russia, Criticizes the West, The Diplomat
  6. Russian Ministry of Defense: "Russia didn't send 'Buk' missile complexes to the rebels"
  7. LifeNews: "The rebel forces have no anti-air missile systems"
  8. Archived ITAR-TASS: DNR rebels took control of an anti-air defense military unit with "Buk" anti-aircraft missile complexes
  9. Flight MH17: The evidence, The Economist
  10. July 17 Updates on Malaysia Airlines Plane Crash in Ukraine, The New York Times
  11. "Conspiracy and an off-by-one error" by GitHub user klaufir
  12. Full text of the briefing, in English.
  13. Ukraine@war: "Launch location detected of missile that brought down MH17"
  14. Could This Old Warplane Really Shoot Down MH17?, Popular Science
  15. Video reportedly shows MH17 missile launcher being moved to Russian border, Sydney Morning Herald
  16. Echo Moskvy: "Dreamers from the General Staff" editorial
  17. "The corpses on the fallen 'Boeing' weren't fresh — Girkin (Strelkov)"
  18. MH17: Jon Stewart skewers conspiracy theories, Brisbane Times
  19. "Is MH17... really the MH370 Missing Plane?"
  20. "A very strange plane..."
  21. Russian State Media Says CIA Shot Down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, Newsweek
  22. SBU chief: Mercenaries planned terrorist attacks against Russian aircraft on day of MH17 crash, Kyiv Post