Russians fed conspiracy theories on MH17 crash

21:56, Jul 22 2014
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A pro-Russian separatist stands at the crash site of MH17 near the settlement of Grabovo in Ukraine's Donetsk region.
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A man looks at debris from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which landed in a field of sunflowers in Rassipnoye, Ukraine.
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Coal miners take a break after searching fields looking for remnants of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Grabovo, Ukraine.
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A man shows a piece of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which landed in his garden in Rassipnoye, Ukraine.
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Wreckage is pictured at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the Ukraine settlement of Grabovo.
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Flowers and mementos lie on wreckage at the crash site of MH17, near the Ukraine settlement of Grabovo.
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Mementos placed at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the Ukraine settlement of Rozspyne in the Donetsk region.
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Wreckage is pictured at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the Ukraine settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 wreckage near the Ukraine settlement of Grabovo.
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Flowers, candles and other tributes in front of the Netherlands embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, in memory of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
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Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry carry a body near the wreckage at the crash site of MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo.
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People look at flowers and messages left by local residents for MH17 crash victims outside the Dutch embassy in Kiev, Ukraine.
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Kiev residents light a candle for victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, outside the Dutch embassy in Ukraine.
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People look at flowers and messages left by Kiev residents for victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, outside Ukraine's Dutch embassy.
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Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry carry a body at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo.
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A pro-Russian separatist stands at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in Ukraine's Donetsk region.
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A pro-Russian separatist guards the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
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Flowers and mementos are left for the victims of the plane crash.
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Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and members of a forensic team inspect the remains of victims from the downed flight MH17, at a railway station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Torez.
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Bodies are loaded into a truck at the crash site by Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry staff.
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A pro-Russia rebel guards a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines crash.
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Senior Ukrainian separatist leader Aleksander Borodai gestures as a rebel places the black boxes of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on a desk.
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A satellite image shows the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine, dangerously close to a village.
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A guard stands on the train carrying the remains of MH17's victims as it arrives in the city of Kharkiv after days of delays.
MH17 black box
Armed pro-Russian separatists watch as monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Malaysian air crash investigators inspect the crash site.

An assassination attempt against Russian President Vladimir Putin. A desperate ploy to draw the West into the battle for Ukraine's east. A botched mission to commit mass murder against Russian citizens.

Russian news consumers are getting plenty of explanations for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which killed 298 people. While they vary wildly in content, all point the finger at Ukraine. None admits the possibility that Russia may bear responsibility.

The story of the airline tragedy that is unfolding for Russians differs starkly from the one that people are following in the West. As US Secretary of State John Kerry told American TV viewers that rebels shot down the plane with Russian weaponry, Russians were being fed a diet of scenarios about forces in Ukraine conspiring to commit an atrocity in the skies.

Yekaterina Andreyeva, one of Russia's most famous TV anchors, delved into one theory hours after news of the crash broke: Putin, travelling home from Brazil, passed along the same flight path as the Malaysian passenger jet less than one hour before it was hit - suggesting an assassination attempt.

"The presidential plane and the Malaysian Boeing crossed paths at the exact point and at the same flight level," said Andreyeva. "The shape of the plane and the length are absolutely similar, and their colour would appear almost identical at such a distance."

By Friday morning, the assassination theory was replaced by other scenarios.

One focused on the Buk missile launcher that Ukraine says brought down the plane. State-owned Rossiya TV pinned blame on Kiev by saying the rebels did not own one, while Ukraine recently deployed a Buk launcher to the area. An Associated Press journalist saw a Buk launcher - which rebels have bragged about owning in social media - in rebel-held territory near the crash site hours before the plane was brought down.

Rossiya further said that the red, white, and blue of the Malaysia Airlines logo "resembles the Russian tricolour" - hinting at a Ukrainian attempt to blow up a Russian passenger jet.

Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's most-read tabloid, took another tack. It claimed that Ukrainian air traffic controllers redirected the Malaysia Airlines plane to fly directly over the conflict zone, publishing pictures from flight-tracking websites that appeared to show fluctuations in the plane's route.

On Tuesday, the paper appeared to suggest that the jetliner was shot down by a Ukrainian military plane with American help: "A Ukrainian attack plane and an American spy satellite were following the fallen Boeing," a report claimed.

Russia media have suggested that Ukrainian authorities orchestrated the downing to make it look like a rebel attack, in hopes it would be the catalyst for luring Western powers into military intervention.

Nationalist politicians are also heating up the tone in Russian media - and fuelling conspiracy theories.

"The fact that the plane fell is an American provocation," firebrand member of Parliament Vladimir Zhirinovsky told Vesti FM radio station. "They always do everything possible to blame Russia. It's possible that there were corpses that were placed ahead of time in the seats of the plane."

Russian state-controlled television, which is where a majority of Russians get their news, tends to toe the official line and abrupt changes in language on the air can reflect changes in Kremlin strategy. In June, Putin began soft-pedalling his rhetoric on Ukraine after recognising May 25 presidential elections, in an apparent attempt to stave off Western sanctions.

After the airline tragedy, Putin led the shift to a more aggressive tone.

"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," Putin said. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."

Outrage has grown in the West over what appears to be a bungled start to the investigation. Rebels allowed a group of monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe only a superficial inspection of the crash site on Saturday (local time) before firing warning shots when two Ukrainian members of the group attempted to study wreckage.

In Russia, meanwhile, news reports repeat that the rebels have been cooperating with the observers - and blame Kiev for stalling the arrival of international investigators.

"Yesterday the OSCE group worked in the field all day at the scene of the plane crash," First Channel's Sunday broadcast began. "So far the Ukrainian authorities do not want to send a group of international specialists to Donetsk."

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Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Malaysia Airlines flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
The crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Emergencies Ministry members work at the site of a Malaysia Airlines plane crash near Grabovo, Ukraine.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Emergencies Ministry members work at the site of a Malaysia Airlines plane crash near Grabovo, Ukraine.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight 17 smoulders at the main crash site.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight 17 smoulders at the main crash site.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight 17 smoulders at the main crash site.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight 17 smoulders at the main crash site.
Part of the wreckage of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 is seen after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
Part of the wreckage of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 is seen after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
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The site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
The upper floor of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport is reserved for family and relatives of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
The upper floor of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport is reserved for family and relatives of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Ukraine plane crash
An Emergencies Ministry member walks at the site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in Ukraine.
People bring flowers and candles to the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
People bring flowers and candles to the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
Family members of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on a bus bringing them to a separate area at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
Family members of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on a bus bringing them to a separate area at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranked officials observe a minute's silence for victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranked officials observe a minute's silence for victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
US President Barack Obama speaks about the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, during a visit to Wilmington, Delaware.
US President Barack Obama speaks about the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, during a visit to Wilmington, Delaware.
Armed pro-Russian separatists stand at the site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo.
Armed pro-Russian separatists stand at the site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo.
Talking to reporters, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (R) demands swift justice for those responsible for the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, as Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein looks on.
Talking to reporters, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (R) demands swift justice for those responsible for the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, as Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein looks on.
Schiphol Chief Executive Jos Nijhuis, Malaysia Airlines Senior Vice President Huib Gorter (middle) and Malaysia's ambassador to the Netherlands Fauziah Binti Mohd Taib at a news conference on flight MH17 at Schiphol Airport.
Schiphol Chief Executive Jos Nijhuis, Malaysia Airlines Senior Vice President Huib Gorter (middle) and Malaysia's ambassador to the Netherlands Fauziah Binti Mohd Taib at a news conference on flight MH17 at Schiphol Airport.
Smoke rises from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Smoke rises from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
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A firefighter stands as flames burst amongst the wreckages of the MH17.
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The wreckage smoulders at the site of the MH17 crash.
An Emergencies Ministry member walks at the site of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
An Emergencies Ministry member walks through the site of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.
A woman who said she believed her sister was on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, cries as she waits for more information.
A woman who said she believed her sister was on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, cries as she waits for more information.
A father and daughter light candles at the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
A father and daughter light candles at the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
People light candles at the Malaysian embassy for victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
People light candles at the Dutch embassy for victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
People place candles and flowers at the Dutch embassy for victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
People place candles and flowers at the Dutch embassy for victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
A family member cries as she receives the news of the ill fated flight MH17.
A family member cries as she receives the news of the ill fated flight MH17.
A Malaysian woman who had a relative on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 reacts to messages on her mobile phone as she waits to travel to Kuala Lumpur.
A Malaysian woman who had a relative on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 waits to travel to Kuala Lumpur.
Relatives of passengers onboard the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Relatives of passengers onboard the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
A father and daughter light candles at the Dutch embassy to commemorate the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17.
Malaysian Siti Dina weeps after seeing her daughter's name on the list of passengers on board MH17.
A security officer passes a Malaysia Airlines advertisement at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia.
A security officer passes a Malaysia Airlines advertisement at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang
A man (in blue) whose family was onboard the Malaysia Airlines MH17 consoles another who had just arrived with her wife to receive confirmation that their daughter's family was onboard the plane, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
A man (in blue) whose family was onboard the Malaysia Airlines MH17 consoles another who had just arrived with her wife to receive confirmation that their daughter's family was onboard the plane, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
A relative of a passenger onboard the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH17 is assisted by MAS staff members as she leaves Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
A relative of a passenger onboard the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH17 is assisted by MAS staff members as she leaves Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Malaysian Siti Dina speaks to media as she arrives to confirm news that her daughter was on board Malaysia Airlines MH17 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Malaysian Siti Dina speaks to media as she arrives to confirm news that her daughter was on board Malaysia Airlines MH17 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
AIDS Conference
Members of the public walk past signage on the Princes Bridge for the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-seven Australians and more than 100 AIDS activists, researchers, health workers and delegates bound for the major conference were among those aboard MH17.
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Relatives of passengers on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash
A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry search for bodies near the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry search for bodies near the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry search for bodies near the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry search for bodies near the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
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A woman lights candles at a memorial for victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Kuala Lumpur.
MH17 crash
Pro-Russian separatists look at passengers' belongings at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
MH17 crash
A pro-Russian separatist holds a stuffed toy found at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
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A flower placed on wreckage is pictured at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
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A man blocks access to the scene of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 as emergency personnel remove the bodies of passengers.

AP