“The country that denied invading Crimea now says it had nothing to do with the downing of the Malaysian jet” – Michael Weiss
Evidence that Kremlin-backed separatists in east Ukraine downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 is now so overwhelming as to rule out any other culprit, at least outside the imaginations of conspiracy theorists or professional Kremlin propagandists.
For months, Russian President Vladimir Putin has waged maskirovka warfare in east Ukraine – an old, Soviet-perfected model of destabilizing foreign countries which is characterized by dissimulation, misdirection and plausible deniability, all done with the use of arms-length proxies.
Putin, a former KGB lieutenant colonel, continues to maintain that he has nothing to do with the separatists even as their political leadership has lately visited Moscow begging for more materiel and even opened a satellite office there to coordinate their activities more closely with their master and patron. It also pays to remember that Putin denied invading and annexing Crimea – until he didn’t.
U.S. officials, including one from the Defense Department, have confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the separatists – many of whom are in fact Russian nationals – downed the commercial airliner over the skies of the separatist-controlled region of Donetsk on July 17 using the Buk anti-aircraft missile system. This is a Soviet-era, vehicle-mounted munition with a range of 46,000 feet. The MH17 was blown apart at an altitude of 33,000 feet.
The separatists, who have previously claimed credit for shooting down Ukrainian military planes and helicopters, said they haven’t got the capability to hit an aircraft at the MH17’s altitude. Except that they admitted, albeit privately and inadvertently, that they’d done just that.
The Ukrainian Security Service, or SBU, has leaked a series of what it alleges are intercepted phone conversations from the separatist camp. In one, recorded in the aftermath of the tragedy, a separatist commander named Igor Bezler (or “Bes,” meaning “Demon”) tells Colonel Vasyl Geranin, a man whom the SBU says is an officer of Russia’s military intelligence agency, or GRU: “Just now a plane was hit and destroyed by the Minera Group,” referring to a rebel unit.
A week ago, Bezler admitted in a recorded “press conference” held in Donetsk that separatists had received tanks and armored vehicles from Russia for the purpose of defending Slavyansk, a city that recently was retaken by Ukraine’s military.
Western intelligence officials have told the Financial Times that they have judged the SBU intercepts to be genuine.
Defense experts say that there is no way ragtag insurgents could operate a surface-to-air missile as sophisticated as the Buk. But the rebels are not quite ragtag insurgents.
Their self-proclaimed military commander is a man named Col. Igor Strelkov (also known as Girkin). According to the European Union, which sanctioned him in April, Strelkov is also an officer of the GRU. This means that the entire anti-Kiev insurgency is not just pro-Russian in orientation but overseen and led by an outed Russian spy.
This is a crucial fact that has been obscured in much of the recent media coverage of the war for east Ukraine and just who’s involved in waging it. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said yesterday: “Russia can end this war.” What she meant was, the separatists are a wholly owned, if not quite wholly operated, subsidiary of the Russian government. Continue reading