A Russian photo of alleged Flight MH17, framed with what is claimed to be a Ukrainian fighter jet launching an air-to-air missile at the passenger jet on July 17, has been debunked by online sleuths and bloggers. The sensationalized photo flap is being called an anemic propaganda attempt by the Russian media to deflect the mounting criticisms against Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Writes CBS News on Nov. 15: “The U.S. State Department on Friday dismissed the Russian TV reports as yet another ‘preposterous’ attempt by Moscow to ‘obfuscate the truth and ignore ultimate responsibility for the tragic downing of MH17.’ It renewed a call to Moscow and Russia-backed separatists to ‘grant unfettered access for international investigators to the crash site.’”
All 298 people on board MH17 were killed when the Boeing 777, departing from Amsterdam in route to Kuala Lumpur, was downed by a suspected surface-to-air missile as the jet flew over a rebel-held area of Ukraine. Presumed pro-Russian separatists and Russia-backed insurgents brought down the Malaysian aircraft, and leaders in both Russia and Ukraine immediately got busy blaming one another.
CBS News says the photo may have been released “as a propaganda effort intended to deflect criticism over the tragedy that Russian President Vladimir Putin faces as he attends the Group of 20 summit in Brisbane, Australia.” Putin’s attendance at the global economic summit has thus far met with a frosty reception, as the Russian president faces increasing condemnation over the state of affairs in Ukraine.
For example, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had this introductory greeting ready to go when he and Putin met up: “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine,” Harper told Putin, according to Harper’s spokesperson Jason MacDonald.
President Barack Obama had a more diplomatic take on the MH17 incident, saying in a speech to the Brisbane audience: “As your ally and friend, America shares the grief of these Australian families and we share the determination of your nation for justice and accountability,” and referred to the Russian aggression in Ukraine as a “threat to the world.”
The photo in question has proven to be a forgery, dating back to possibly 2012. Online investigators and bloggers showed a number of details incongruent with the allegation out of Russia that a Ukraine fighter was responsible: the passenger jet and fighter were disproportionate to the ground, the cloud formations were identical to a satellite photo from two years ago, the fighter’s wings are shaped differently than a Ukraine fighter, and even the so-called MH17 is incorrect in its shape and logo placement.
The Russian television networks behind the photo leak, Channel One and Rossiya TV, named their sources. The photo was allegedly emailed to a leading Russian crash investigator by an American.
Writes TheSpreadIt: “Talking to Channel One, Ivan Andriyevsky, the first vice-president of the Russian Union of Engineers, who is investigating the crash, revealed that [the] photo of MH17 being shot [down] was emailed to him by a man named George Bilt. Mr. Bilt, who is supposedly a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an aviation expert, revealed in the email that the Boeing was shot down by cannon fire and missiles from a plane.”
Andriyevskiy, after allegedly releasing the photo to the Russian networks, said: “We can assume that the photograph was taken by an American or British satellite and we have studied the photograph in detail and found nothing suggesting that it is fake.”
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