Written by Finian Cunningham; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org
The Dutch-led probe into the 2014 Malaysian airliner disaster has the hallmarks of a psychological operation to frame-up Russia and to justify further sanctions and aggression from the NATO powers.
The so-called Joint Investigation Team (JIT) released an update last Thursday on its ongoing probe into the MH17 air disaster over Eastern Ukraine, in which all 298 people onboard were killed. The JIT’s latest release moves the accusation of culpability closer to Russia, with the team claiming that an anti-aircraft Buk missile, which allegedly shot down the plane, was brought into Ukraine by Russia’s 53rd Brigade based in Kursk, southwest Russia.
Then on Friday, the day after the high-profile JIT presentation, a news report compiled by US-based McClatchy News and UK-based self-styled online investigative website Bellingcat was published claiming to have identified a senior Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer as being involved in the transport of the missile system.
The Russian GRU officer is named as Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov. The report includes a photograph of the named man, who is said to have at least one residential address in Moscow and who used the call sign “Orion”. Tellingly, the McClatchy report claims that news of identifying the Russian military officer was not known by the JIT when it made its presentation the day before. But McClatchy reported that the Dutch-led investigators now want to arraign “Orion”.
Over the weekend, the Dutch, Australian and British governments upped the ante by formally accusing Russia, and demanding that Moscow pay financial compensation to families of the crash victims. Most of those onboard the doomed MH17 were Dutch, Malaysian and Australian nationals.
What we are seeing here is a choreographed sequence trying to give the public impression that developments in the probe are taking a natural course based on “evidence” imputing blame to Russia. The same technique of media psychological operation can be seen in the Skripal poisoning affair in which Moscow is blamed for trying to assassinate a former spy in England. Allegations, purported evidence, and then sanctions (expulsion of Russian diplomats) all follow a choreographed sequence.
On the MH17 incident, Russia has vehemently denied any involvement in the passenger plane’s downing. Moscow says its own investigation into the incident points to the Kiev regime’s armed forces as being responsible, possibly using their stock of Soviet-era Buk anti-aircraft missiles. Significantly, Russia’s investigative results have been spurned by the JIT, while Moscow’s offers of contributing to the probe have been rebuffed. As in the Skripal affair, where the British authorities have also refused Russia’s offers of joint investigation, or Russia’s ability to independently verify the supposedly incriminating data.
In a dramatic twist, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that the missile casing displayed by the Dutch investigators bore features dating the weapon to 1986 when Ukraine was a Soviet Republic. The Russian military said that all such Buk models were replaced by its forces in 2011. Therefore, the alleged offensive weapon presented by the JIT last week could not have come from Russian forces. Besides, Moscow denies that any of its brigades crossed into Ukrainian territory.
The JIT, which includes investigators from Holland, Belgium, Australia, Malaysia and – invidiously – Ukrainian secret services, openly acknowledged in its presentation last week that it is cooperating with the Britain-based Bellingcat website. The latter is cited for its analysis of videos purporting to show the transport of a Russian military Buk convoy through Eastern Ukraine at around the time of the airliner being shot down. Those videos have already been exposed as fabrications.
Now it seems rather strange that the JIT was reported by McClatchy as not knowing of Bellingcat’s next “scoop” published the following day in which it claims to identify a Russian military officer, named as Oleg Ivannikov or Orion, for being involved in coordinating the transport of the Buk convoy, which the JIT says came from the 53rd Brigade in Russia’s Kursk.
The JIT and Bellingcat have collaborated in a previous update to its MH17 probe, in 2016, when the dubious videos were presented as purportedly showing the Buk convoy traversing Eastern Ukraine back to Russia. Bellingcat was cited again in the JIT’s update last Thursday.
That raises the question of why the information claiming to identify the Russian military officer was not available to JIT, even though the latter has worked closely with Bellingcat before? It was the next day when the McClatchy-Bellingcat news report came out, seemingly separate to the JIT presentation.
The sequence suggests a concerted effort to “build” a public perception that “clues” into the cause of the air crash and the incrimination of Russia are being assembled in an independent manner. When, in reality, the sequence is actually a deliberately orchestrated media campaign, to more effectively smear Russia.
Bellingcat’s media activities indicate that it is not the supposed “independent online investigative website” it claims to be. During the Syrian war, it has helped to peddle claims that videos sourced from the White Helmets are “authentic” when in fact there is strong evidence that the White Helmets have been fabricating videos of atrocities on behalf of NATO-sponsored terrorists in order to smear the Syrian government and its Russian ally.
For the Dutch-led JIT to associate with Bellingcat as a source of “evidence” is a matter of grave concern as to the probe’s professional credibility.
Moreover, what is also fatally damaging to the MH17 probe is that the Ukrainian secret services (SBU) under the control of the Western-backed Kiev regime, which came to power in the NATO-backed February 2014 coup d’état, is the source for much of the so-called evidence implicating Russia or the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine for shooting down the MH17 airliner.
The dubious videos cited by the JIT and Bellingcat were sourced from the SBU. Those videos were purportedly posted on social media at the time of the plane crash by anonymous members of the public. The Russian government has dismissed those videos as fake.
The latest claims by McClatchy and Bellingcat of identifying a Russian military officer are based on allegations that mobile phone intercepts are attributable to the man named as Orion. Bellingcat appears to have expended a lot of effort trawling through digital phone books to identify the individual. The report also relies on embellishment of Orion’s alleged secret military career in Ukraine and South Ossetia by way of lending a sense of credibility and sinister innuendo.
However, the bottomline is that McClatchy and Bellingcat both admit that they are relying on the Ukrainian secret services for their phone intercepts, as they had previously for the videos of the alleged Russian Buk convoy.
The SBU and its Kiev masters have an obvious axe to grind against Moscow. Their partisan position, not to say potential liability for the air crash, thus makes the JIT and subsequent Western media reporting highly suspect.
Such close involvement of a Western media outlet (McClatchy) with a fake news engine (Bellingcat) and Ukrainian state intelligence is indicative of coordinated public psychological operation to smear Russia.
The prompt responses from Western governments calling for criminal proceedings against Moscow are further indication that the whole effort is an orchestrated campaign to frame-up Russia.