For the past ten days, the world has witnessed an intensive propaganda war where both sides are trying to spin the story of how MH17 ended up widely scattered over wheatfields and farms in east Ukraine. The one known element of the story is that the Boeing 777 was shot down. The consensus is that the source was a ground-based Russian-made SA-11 missile, also known as a BUK or ‘gadfly’, but it is also conceivable that the aircraft was shot down air-to-air.
On the one side we see the Russians and pro-Russian rebels, who are seeking to separate from Ukraine. On the other side we see Ukraine. And there are other players, such as the U.S., whose top officials have satellite imagery and other advanced intelligence and certainly know far more than they are sharing with the Public.
One core element of the spin aims to create plausible deniability for the prospect of involvement by major states. Early news stories talked about Russian SA-11 missile launchers being moved into eastern Ukraine, then being seen moving back to Russia shortly after MH17 was shot down. There does not appear to be any substantial denial of these movements; instead, the early spin aims to claim that the SA-11 units were brought into Ukraine then used by separatist rebels who ‘accidentally’ shot down MH17 while aiming for a Ukrainian military aircraft. It seems hard to imagine that a complex system* would be delivered by anyone other than a trained crew, and even harder to imagine that they would then let others play with the system. It seems far more plausible that the SA-11 was used by trained Russian soldiers, under a cover claiming the separatists pulled the trigger. Alternatively, there have been some charges that the Ukrainian military used their own BUK to intentionally shoot down MH17, with the intent of pinning the blame on the Russians. Given known world history, it is difficult to reject this as the possible true story.
In a world of spin-control, one strategy is to launch a diversionary story. Ukraine was shockingly quick to release a collection of alleged intercepted communications, first between rebel leaders and Russian military officials and then amongst rebel leaders. They reflect that the news story broke as a shoot-down of an An-26 military aircraft (as first happened three days earlier, in the first high-altitude shoot-down, on 7/14/14), but soon transitioned to a realization that a civilian aircraft had been hit. Some charge that this is all a fabrication to cover for what may have been an air-to-air missile shoot-down from a Ukrainian jet.
One key area where Ukraine is clearly blocking Public knowledge is their refusal to share ATC data. The airspace is managed by Ukrainian air traffic controllers, under an international agreement. Sadly, that agreement does not mandate each state to be transparent and produce data, even after a major incident such as MH17. Interestingly, Russian radar claims to have tracked portions of MH17, and in a Defense Ministry presentation on 7/21/14, Russian officials offered radar data which they interpret as showing a Ukrainian military Su-25* shadowing 3-5 kilometers from MH17. If this is true, perhaps Ukraine is trying to hide the important fact that they did have a military aircraft in close proximity to the downed airline. That same Russian Defense Ministry presentation had many other strong arguments questioning the veracity of western claims, many of which are laid out near the bottom of the lengthy 7/26/14 report by Andre Vltcheck, at Global Research.
High-Altitude Shoot-downs were New on 7/17/2014
The first high-altitude shoot-down was just three days earlier, on 7/14/14, when an An-26 was hit; eight parachuted out and two died. Then, on 7/16/14, two Ukrainian Air Force Su-25’s were downed, apparently at higher altitudes, producing no fatalities; one was claimed to have been a MANPADS hit, and the other was claimed to have been an air-to-air hit by a Russian fighter. Prior to 7/14/14, there had been numerous shoot-downs, but most were helicopters, and all were at low altitudes, generally during takeoff or approach. In other words, the SA-11 system appears to have been first used on 7/14/14, just three days prior to MH17. Given the higher altitudes, it is quite conceivable that the two Su-25’s on 7/16/14 were also shot down using the SA-11.
Certainly, the major world military powers know the precise date and time that the Russian SA-11’s were delivered into and became operational in eastern Ukraine … but we don’t know that, because the leaders are hiding this information. The spin-games will continue and all parties will ensure the Public is in the dark. This is a pattern we have all come to expect in recent decades … from the U.S., Russian, Ukraine, the agencies (e.g., FAA), the airlines, etc. It is said that power corrupts; here, it appears a key part of the corruption is to control the flow of even basic information. Where is a good Whistleblower when we need one?
We Have to Look Elsewhere for the Facts
An outstanding resource for information on aviation accidents and incidents is AviationSafetyNetwork (A-SN). It includes two databases: one that covers major aviation incidents, and another that allows user-inputs to compile data and news links for even minor GA incidents. The A-SN database was queried by aiREFORM.com, using a filter to show all recent Ukraine accidents. Nearly all ‘accidents’ are war-related; all shoot-downs are listed in the table below:
|5/2/2014||(2) Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-24 helicopters, shot down near Luvyansk, using MANPADS. 5 fatalities.|
|5/2/2014||Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-8 helicopter, damaged by gunfire near Slavyansk. No fatalities.|
|5/5/2014||Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-24 helicopter, shot down by ground-fire near Luvyansk, crew is rescued, then Ukrainian Su-25 fires to destroy the downed helicopter. No fatalities.|
|5/29/2014||Ukrainian National Guard Mi-8 helicopter, shot down by ground-fire near Slavyansk. 12 fatalities.|
|6/3/2014||Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-24 helicopter, shot down by small-arms fire near Slavyansk. No fatalities.|
|6/4/2014||(3) Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters were damaged/destroyed by MANPADS and ground-fire near Slavyansk. No fatalities.|
|6/5/2014||Ukrainian Air Force Mi-8 helicopter, hit by small-arms fire near Slavyansk, forced to make emergency landing. No fatalities.|
|6/6/2014||Ukrainian Air Force An-30 jet with 8 on board, hit by ground-fire near Drobyshevo, catches fire and crashes. 5 fatalities.|
|6/14/2014||Ukrainian Air Force Il-76 jet, hit by MANPAD while on approach to Lugansk airport. 49 fatalities.|
|6/24/2014||Ukrainian Armed Forces Mi-8 helicopter, hit by MANPAD while taking off near Slavyansk airport. 9 fatalities.|
|7/1/2014||Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 jet, on an attack mission and hit by defense forces but able to return to its base. No fatalities.|
|7/2/2014||Ukrainian Air Force Su-24 jet, on an attack mission and hit by defense forces but able to return to its base. No fatalities.|
|7/12/2014||Ukrainian Air Force Mi-24 helicopter, on an attack mission near Snezhny, shot down by MANPAD. No fatalities.|
|7/14/2014||Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 jet, destroyed by separatists (no other information available). No fatalities.|
|7/14/2014||Ukrainian Air Force An-26 jet, 2 fatalities. near Izvaryne.|
|7/16/2014||(2) Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 jets, one shot down by MANPAD, the other allegedly shot down by Russian fighter, , near Ukraine-Russian border. No fatalities.|
|7/17/2014||Multiple older aircraft damaged/destroyed by Ukraine forces while parked at Tarasovka Airfield, northwest of Crimea. No fatalities.|
|7/17/2014||MH17 298 civilian fatalities., flying east of Donetsk.|