Tag Archives: Malaysia Airlines

#Reuters: #Gunmen said to chase investigators from #MH17 crash site

A part of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is pictured in a field near the village of Grabove on July 23, 2014. © AFPA part of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is pictured in a field near the village of Grabove on July 23, 2014. © AFP

KIEV/KHARKIV, Ukraine, July 24 (Reuters) – Gunmen chased investigators from the site where the Malaysian airliner crashed and “lunatics” were still making life difficult for those who wanted to find out what downed flight MH17, officials said on Thursday.

As foreign ministers from Australia and the Netherlands met Ukrainian officials to coordinate the investigation, the head of Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Service and the chief of a Dutch police mission said their work at the site was being hampered.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, however, said there had been no incidents, and that they had been joined by experts from Malaysia and Australia, which lost 28 citizens in the crash.

The West has called for a thorough investigation into the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine to get justice for the 298 people who were killed, but have voiced concern that the rebels were preventing investigators from doing their job.

“They took away our tents, the ones which were at our base camp,” Serhiy Bochkovsky, the head of the emergencies service, told a news conference in the eastern city of Kharkiv from where the remains of the victims are starting their journey home.

“We were allowed only our equipment and machinery and we were chased away at gunpoint.”

He did not say when this happened.

The head of the Dutch police mission in Ukraine also said it was difficult to get access to the site to look for more of the remains of the victims, many of whom were Dutch.

“But the process is not over, there are still remains in your country and it’s very hard to get there because there are some, and I would say it’s not politically correct, but there are still some lunatics there,” Jan Tuinder said.

“It’s very hard for us to get to the remains.”

Asked about the incidents, Michael Bociurkiw, an OSCE spokesman, said: “None whatsoever.”

The Netherlands formally took over the investigation into the crash from Ukraine on Thursday after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the downing of the plane and demanding armed groups allow “safe, secure, full and unrestricted access” to the crash site.

In Kiev, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she expected the separatists to allow a better international presence at the site.

“Now that the legal framework is in place … and that Ukraine has transferred legal responsibility to the Netherlands, we feel we’ll get more progress from the separatists,” she said.

Putting the Dutch in charge of the criminal investigation was a way to get around the opposition to the U.N. Security Council resolution voiced by Russia should Kiev lead the probe, Bishop said.

(Additional reporting by Alexander Vasovic in Donetsk; Editing by Giles Elgood)


It’s not just about the Malaysian flight. #Russians are living in an alternate reality.

The plane crashed in eastern Ukraine, not the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)The plane crashed in eastern Ukraine, not the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

MOSCOW—Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has already shined a spotlight on the Russian public’s somewhat, um, unique views.

Russian media are running with conspiracy theories: that MH17 was shot down by NATO to spark a conflict with Russia, that MH17 wasn’t full of innocent civilians but week-old corpses, or that MH17 was shot down because it was mistaken for Vladimir Putin’s personal jet (as if anti-aircraft missiles weren’t aimed with radar but with a really large pair of binoculars). The only theory missing is the right one: that Russian-backed separatists accidentally shot down the plane when they mistook it for a Ukrainian military transport.

This may seem like the entertaining sideshow to a tragedy, but actually it’s just a window into a hugely dangerous problem. I recently moved to Moscow, and it’s hard to miss the extent to which Russian society exists in an alternate universe. Even well-educated, sophisticated people who have traveled widely in Europe and North America will frequently voice opinions that, in an American context, would place them alongside people wearing tinfoil hats. Russia is not living in the reality-based community.

One particularly easy and glaring example is Russian TV reporters, filing from Eastern Ukraine, who say they are reporting from the “Lugansk People’s Republic” or the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” Regardless of your views on the worsening civil war in Ukraine, which is not a neat story of black and white or right and wrong, it is obvious that these republics are almost entirely fictitious and that their “territory” is largely confined to a handful of government buildings. Despite their extremely dubious claims to legitimacy, the non-existent states are treated with deadly earnestness by both the state media and large numbers of ordinary Russians. (Ukraine has been a problem for Russian media ever since protests there began at the end of 2013.)

On almost any other issue you can think of, Russian views differ radically from the consensus here in America. Russians have extremely different opinions about the conflict in Syria, viewing the war in that unlucky country not as a brave struggle for freedom but as a chaotic war of all against all. They have different views about the war in Libya, where they see the overthrow of Gaddafi not as a new beginning but as the start of chaos and disorder. They have different views about 9/11, with shockingly large numbers of Russians supporting “alternate” explanations of one of history’s most carefully studied and well-documented terrorist attacks. (I was recently asked what “theory” of the attacks I supported only to be told that it was “my opinion” after I noted that al-Qaeda was clearly and obviously responsible.) Even something as seemingly straightforward and non-political as a meteor strike attracted a range of bizarre theories and pseudo-scientific “explanations” like the onset of an alien invasion or the testing of a new American super weapon. These wacky ideas (“the aliens are attacking Siberia!” “The grand masons are responsible for 9/11!”) would be extremely funny if they didn’t represent such a tragic deficit of reason.

I’ve asked people about these notions. Particularly if they’re a bit bashful about the position they’re about to advocate, Russians will often highlight their country’s long track record of superstition and its history as a rural, peasant society. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard “we’re a superstitious people” as an explanation for some kind of seemingly nonsensical position. In contrast to Western Europe, Russia really did urbanize and become literate much later. This delayed development has left a lasting impression on popular consciousness and public attitudes.

But while there is clearly some truth to the idea that Russia’s unique cultural history renders it susceptible to conspiracies, explanations centered on the “Russian soul” strike me as a cop-out. Far more important than the legacy of peasant life or any kind of natural penchant for mysteriousness and inscrutability is the Soviet legacy of propaganda. The older generations here all grew up in an environment in which the government systematically manipulated information on a scale that is hard to fathom. Although you might expect that this would engender a healthy skepticism, it appears to have created an unhealthy over-reaction. Russians don’t just doubt the “official line.” Several expats here, like me, have observed that they seem to doubt everything.

Like many Americans, I used to think that these differences would recede with time, and that, as they traveled the world, got jobs, and got rich, Russians would eventually start to think more and more like us. After Ukraine and the Malaysia Airlines crash, I’m a lot less optimistic. Despite ditching communism and its call to world revolution, Russia appears to becoming more, not less, different from the United States. It doesn’t just have its own system; it now has its own facts.

Mark Adomanis specializes in Russian economics and demographics.

By Mark Adomanis - The Washington Post.

In Kyiv, mourning continues a week after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight #MH17

Kyiv Post Editor’s Note: Kyiv photographer and video journalist Zoya Shu shot this video, with English subtitles, outside the Netherlands Embassy in Kyiv, where hundreds have come to pay their respects daily to the 298 people killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17. Most of the victims were Dutch residents flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

People in Kyiv mourn the victims of the MH17 flight

Shu writes: 

“At once after the #MH17 tragedy people in Kyiv, Ukraine, started bringing flowers, toys and candles to the embassies of the Netherlands, Malaysia, United Kingdom and others, to express their condolences as they mourned the victims of the flight.

They keep coming evan now. People stand there in silence, pray, cry. And only kids violate the silence by asking about it, with the childlike directness. It was rather hard to make this video, it’s just plain sadness…Ukraine, always such a peaceful and calm place, has been in turmoil for months, there have already been so many victims of this artificially fomented conflict.

I can not comprehend why people do all that evil to other people. It does not look like it will stop any time soon, but that’s one of my biggest wishes right now.”

Kyiv Post.

BBC Newsnight Transcript: Borodai defends Ukraine rebels over #MH17

Alexander BorodaiPro-Russian rebel leader Alexander Borodai denied neglecting bodies at the scene

Rebels in east Ukraine continue to deny that they brought down Flight MH17. Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, spoke to BBC Newsnight’s Gabriel Gatehouse at rebel headquarters in the city of Donetsk.

Our correspondent began by asking if the rebels had, as alleged, tampered with evidence at the crash site in an attempt, as US Barack Obama said, to hide the truth.

A: “That’s pretty impudent slander, to be honest. I don’t want to accuse Mr Obama of anything directly, because he’s probably not in full possession of the facts in question. He’s simply being fed by the Ukrainian propaganda machine.”

Q: “Nevertheless, for several days, international inspectors did not have access to the crash site.”

A: “That’s a lie. How did they not have access? Excuse me. We invited the international experts and waited for them to arrive. But Kiev was blocking them at every turn. Kiev quite obviously didn’t want anyone to come. Through all possible channels I personally, and all other members of our government, called on, insisted, practically yelled at the representatives of the international organisations. We were shouting: ‘Come as quickly as possible and bring your experts, damn it! Why are you not bringing them?’”

Q: “Maybe they were afraid?”

A: “Maybe they were afraid but that means that the Kiev side intimidated them because, for our part, we immediately announced that we’d provide all possible guarantees of safety. But obviously, when they start asking how those guarantees can be 100% – well, how can there be 100% guarantees of safety in a country at war? It’s absurd. You can see that yourself.”

Q: What do you say to the accusation that your forces just allowed the bodies to decompose in the summer heat?

A: “We wanted to collect the bodies from the very beginning but we were under extreme pressure from the OSCE [Organisation for Security Organisation in Europe] representative, who said to us: ‘I represent 57 countries. Don’t you dare touch the bodies of the dead. Under no circumstances. Or else all the 57 countries of the OSCE will do this and that to you. This is terrible. You need to wait for the experts.’ So we wait a day. We wait a second day. A third day. Come on! Not a single expert. We say: ‘Where are you, dear experts? Where are you? Where is the international community? Why is it not coming here?’ They’re just sitting in Kiev. Well to leave the bodies there any longer, in 30-degree heat is absurd. It’s simply inhuman. It’s a scene from a horror movie.”

OSCE monitors, journalists and rebel fighters stand near recovered MH17 bodies in east Ukraine on 19 JulyOSCE monitors, journalists and rebel fighters stand near recovered MH17 bodies in east Ukraine on 19 July

Q: How great is the Ukrainian military pressure on your forces now?

A: “We have indeed retreated from several towns. It was a forced retreat, but a tactical retreat, which allows us to pull back our front line and concentrate our forces. Yes, we admit it honestly, the size of our force does not compare to the mobilised forces of the Ukrainian army, whose ranks are swelled by huge numbers of mercenaries from many different countries.”

Q: “You’re also getting reinforcements from different countries: weapons and mercenaries.”

A: “No, we’re getting trophy weapons, I assure you. In large quantities. By trophy weapons, I mean those we take from the enemy. There were Ukrainian military bases here, army bases or interior ministry bases, and so when those bases surrendered, we acquired weapons, armoured vehicles etc.”

Q: “Buk missile launchers?”

A: “No we didn’t get a Buk. There were no Buks in this area.”

Q: “What about the photographs of that Buk, apparently in the town of Torez, in Snizhne?”

A: “I don’t know about those photographs. You’re talking about an information war here. You yourself can see that these photographs are the fruits of… I don’t want to say Photoshop, but maybe some kind of more advanced programme.”

Q: “So they’re fake?”

A: “Of course they’re fake.”

Q: “Can I ask you about Russia? Are you getting enough support from Russia?”

A: “We are getting support from the Russian people.”

Q: “What about the Russian state?”

A: “We are getting support from the whole Russian people. Volunteers are joining us. In fact, I am part of that help from the Russian people. Help for the Donbas [ie the Donets Basin] from the Russian people. Let me remind you, I myself am from Moscow. I am Russian. A citizen of Russia, and a resident of the city of Moscow. I am not from the Donbas, not at all. I came here as a volunteer. It just so happened that, instead of sitting in a trench with a rifle or a machine-gun, I’m now in the prime minister’s chair. Well… that’s fate.”

Q: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the FSB [Federal Security Service] or other Russian intelligence agencies?”

A: “No I am not now nor have I been.”

Q: “Never?”

A: “No.”

Q: “Have you had contacts with representative of such organisations?”

A: “Of course I have many acquaintances in the security services. I am a professional political scientist. I know many politicians, many businessmen, and of course people who work for the security services.”

Rebel commander Strelkov, flanked by guards, in Donetsk on 11 JulyRebel commander Strelkov, flanked by guards, in Donetsk on 11 July

Q: “How often are you in contact with them?”

A: “It varies. You know.”

Q: “When was the last time?”

A: “I have one very good acquaintance who is a member of the security services, albeit an ex-member. That is Colonel Strelkov – also a Muscovite by the way – who is the defence minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic. He’s a former security service agent and my good acquaintance. He was my good friend even when he was a serving member of the security services. We have known each other for 20 years at least. So what?”

Q: “So when people say you have links to the FSB, that’s true?”

A: “As anyone would have, who has dealings with the elite of society. Because the elite, in Russia as in any other society, includes representatives from business as well as representatives from different branches of the state.”

Q: “Through these contacts, the Russian state can influence your actions.”

A: “Purely theoretically, of course it can. Right. But it doesn’t.”

Q: “Why not?”

A: “Ask the Russian state.”

BBC News.

Planes with Malaysia Airlines flight #MH17 victims leaves Ukraine

Prince Laurent of Belgium, Dutch Labor Minister Lodewijk Asscher, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands, and Dutch Prime minister Mark Rutte attend a ceremony for the victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 at Eindhoven Airport on July 23. © AFPPrince Laurent of Belgium, Dutch Labor Minister Lodewijk Asscher, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands, and Dutch Prime minister Mark Rutte attend a ceremony for the victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 at Eindhoven Airport on July 23. © AFP

KHARKIV – Two military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster departed for the Netherlands on July 24, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash scene which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — most of them Dutch citizens — were killed when the plane was shot down on July 17. U.S. officials say the Boeing 777 was probably shot down by a missile, most likely by accident.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who says he fears some remains will never be recovered unless security is tightened, has proposed a multinational force mounted by countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Malaysia that lost citizens in the disaster.

To that end, Abbott said Thursday he had dispatched 50 police officers to London to be ready to join any organization which may result.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was traveling with her Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans to Kiev to seek an agreement with the Ukraine government to allow international police to secure the wreckage, Abbott said.

Details including which countries would contribute and whether officers would be armed and protected by international troops were yet to be agreed, Abbott said.

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Australia demanding that rebels cooperate with an independent investigation and allow all remaining bodies to be recovered.

The first bodies remains arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday and were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and hundreds of relatives.

Ukraine’s government said 51 containers of bodies and body parts had been cleared for Thursday’s flights. At least 200 bodies were aboard the train that brought them from the crash site to Kharkiv earlier this week.

Dutch police spokesman Ed Kraszewski told The Associated Press that a team of 25 forensic experts and dozens of support staff began working to identify remains Wednesday evening at a military barracks on the outskirts of the central city of Hilversum.

Soldiers load coffins into cars under a Ukrainian flag during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. After being removed from the planes, the bodies are to be taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones.Soldiers load coffins into cars under a Ukrainian flag during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. After being removed from the planes, the bodies are to be taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones.

Staff will “examine the bodies, describe the bodies, take dental information, DNA and put all the information together in the computer and compare this information with the information they gathered from the families in the last days,” Kraszewski said in a telephone interview. “Then we have to see if there is a match.”

Meanwhile, police and traffic authorities appealed to the public not to stop on the highway as a convoy of hearses passes by Thursday on its way from Eindhoven Air Base to Hilversum.

On Wednesday, the convoy of hearses passed through roads lined with thousands of members of the public, who applauded, threw flowers or stood in silence as the cars drove by.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the number of Dutch victims had risen by one to 194, taking into account a woman with joint German and Dutch nationalities who earlier had been listed as German.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the crash, but offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The officials said the plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. officials cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

Russia on Thursday brushed off the accusations. Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in a video statement that if the U.S. officials indeed had the proof the plane shot down by a missile launched from the rebel-held territory, “how come they have not been made public?”

Pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government troops have been fighting for more than three months, leaving at least 400 dead and displacing tens of thousands.

Ukrainian forces are trying to ride the momentum of taking the strategic city Slovyansk on July 5 which was in rebel hands for more than two months. Government forces are now closing in on Donetsk, where insurgents regrouped after leaving Slovyansk, and are trying to cut off supply routes to rebels based in the neighboring Luhansk region.

Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Lucian Kim in Donetsk, Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Rod McGurk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

Associated Press.