Minutes after the Malaysia Airlines passenger airline crashed late today in eastern Ukraine, close to the Russian border, Russian media exploded with graphic images of corpses - including those of women and children - lying amid smoldering debris.
What followed the footage and photos were commentaries by Russian weapons and media “experts” blaming the Ukrainian military for downing the plane.
Differed only in the degree to which the act was purposeful, the experts seem to favor the theory that the Ukrainian military shot the plane in an incident that was a blend of both -- a mistake by the the shooters and ill will by those who set them up.
All commentators on official Russian media outlets agreed in alleging that the ultimate culprits are the “puppeteers,” the “enemies of Russia” who they claimed are bent on pushing Russia and Ukraine to a an all-out war, in order to weaken Russia. Since Russia annexed a part of Ukraine earlier this year, Russia propaganda use the words “puppeteers,” “enemies of Russia,” and the “United States” interchangeably.
In support of the theory that the plane was shot down by mistake, the Russians cite the Ukrainian government’s concern about Ukraine’s air defense capability in the aftermath of an incident several days ago in which a Ukrainian military aircraft was shot down with a ground-to-air missile over a Ukrainian territory controlled by pro-Russia secessionists who claimed the as their doing.
The proponents of that theory theorize that the Malaysian Boeing 777 with nearly 300 people aboard was shot down by a newly redeployed Ukrainian air defense unit that was keeping the aircraft in their sights as part of a “live exercise” training, during which someone inadvertently pushed the start button, which would usually be blocked in the training mode but somehow wasn’t.
The Russians allege “the puppeteers” timed the incident to immediately follow the latest U.S. sanctions against Russia’s leading defense and energy firms in order to escalate the armed conflict in Ukraine, provoke an open armed intervention by Russia in Ukraine, and get the European Union to introduce similar sanctions.
President Vladimir Putin’s propagandists, however, are jumping the gun.
It would take some time to decipher the Boeing’s black boxes seized by pro-Russian rebels, let alone to collect other evidence that would shed light on what really happened. And we may never know the truth because their leadership has already told on air they are going to hand them over to Russia -- read Mr. Putin -- for lack of local expertise.
So far, at least equally probable are other theories, including those held by supporters of Ukrainian government, that the plane was shot down either by the Russian military or by the pro-Russian rebels who have been boasting heavy weaponry brought in from Russia.
One thing is clearer. It is the pro-Russian rebels who are interested in the escalation of the conflict as the U.S. sanctions are putting a pressure on Russia to rethink its involvement in that Kremlin-provoked affair.
Mike Sigov, a former Russian journalist in Moscow, is a U.S. citizen and a staff writer for The Blade.