Russian state news agency RIA Novosti is quoting a "source in a Ukrainian law-enforcement agency" as saying that the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 might have been caused by an emergency situation during the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ exercise. RIA Novosti published the quotes on 25 July.
The source said that on 17 July, the day of the MH17 crash, the commander of Ukraine’s 156th anti-aircraft missile regiment "was ordered to hold an exercise of vehicle crews on shielding a ground force in Donetsk’s suburbs: to deploy battalions, to practice the tracking of targets and to perform the whole algorithm of tracking and conditionally destroying the targets" using the Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems.
They went on to say that battery commanders received the unlocking keys to run missile launches, but the real launch of a 9M38M1 missile was not planned.
"Two Su-25 aircraft from the Kulbakino air base of the 229th tactical aviation brigade in Mykolayiv were sent to Dnipropetrovsk to participate in the exercise. They were tasked to conduct air reconnaissance and designate intercept targets in the area of the antiterrorist operation (ATO) force concentration, west from Donetsk," the source said.
"After one of the aircraft had entered the Buk anti-aircraft missile system detection zone, a combat crew of the battery deployed near the settlement of Zaroshchenske started tracking it.
"Apparently by a tragic mistake, some time later the flight routes of the Malaysian Boeing and a Su-25 aircraft crossed, despite the difference in flight levels.
"On a screen, they have converged into a single large spot. This was fatal for the civilian aircraft. When targets come to the same target bearing, a tracking system automatically switches to tracking a larger target," they said.
The source did not explain why the missile was launched, saying that the issue is being addressed by the Security Service of Ukraine officers who "got the battery commander and the crew".
"Since the 2001 tragedy with a Russian Tu-154 over the Black Sea, all the practical exercises with Buks have been banned [in Ukraine]. So the servicemen are only skilled in maintaining and driving the systems," the source said.
Source: RIA Novosti news agency, Moscow, in Russian 0500 gmt 25 Jul 14
Russian TV news: Russia "shelled"; Ukraine "war crimes"; MH17 Ukraine "theory"
Main themes on Russian primetime TV news on Channel One, Rossiya 1 and NTV on 25 July
Familiar themes recurred on 25 July as Russian TV, in its flagship, primetime news bulletins, continued to attack Ukraine on several fronts at once.
A brace of reports on the Russian official state television channel Rossiya 1 sported the full array of propaganda terms that first made their appearance in Russian state TV reporting on Ukraine following the overthrow of its Russia-backed former president, Viktor Yanukovych, and have remained in use, variously intensively, ever since, even though this, it appears, has become less frequent.
The phrases "punitive" forces, "occupiers" and "genocide" were used in one report in relation to the anti-insurgency actions of Ukraine’s security forces in the southeast.
Another report added "Nazi" and "torture" to the list.
Neither piece represented a dominant theme in the narrative.
(Overall, yet again, Ukraine accounted for the lion’s share of reports on each of the three main television channels. On Rossiya 1, the first 30-minute block of its 68-minute "Vesti" news was entirely about Ukraine, as was the final 15-minute section, with a Ukraine reference or two in-between. On state-controlled Russian Channel One TV, 40 minutes of its 50-minute "Vremya" news, from start and thus almost to finish, concerned Ukraine, with a sprinkling of further references towards the end. And on Gazprom-owned Russian NTV, it was the first 30 minutes of its 50-minute "Segodnya" news)
Main themes: Russia "shelled"; "war crimes"
What was described as the shelling of Russian territory from Ukraine (NTV) or by Ukraine (Rossiya 1) was the top story on those two television channels. Channel One led with news that the Russian military have "proof", as it put it, that the Ukrainian army has used "banned" weapons against civilians in the country’s southeast. Nor was that story far away from the top either on Rossiya 1 or NTV.
"All that is banned – phosphorus, flechettes, Grad rockets – in the arsenal of Kiev’s security forces ["siloviki"] as they shell residential districts," the first of the day’s main headlines proclaimed on Channel One, with reference to what it said was the use of phosphorus bombs, cluster munitions filled with needle-like flechette shrapnel and Grad multiple-launch rocket systems by the Ukrainian army against civilians.
Both Channel One and Rossiya 1 claimed "proof" that that was the case.
"The consequences of such weapons’ use are well known in Vietnam, Iraq and Yugoslavia – terrible injuries, toxicosis and slow painful death. This kind of ammunition has been strictly prohibited the world over for decades. Meanwhile, representatives from one of the most respected human rights organizations in the world, Human Rights Watch, have evidence to show that the Ukrainian troops have fired Grad rockets against civilians," Channel One presenter Anna Pavlova told her viewers.
Her Rossiya 1 counterpart, Tatyana Remezova, added that it amounted to a "war crime" under a Geneva convention.
The theme of "war crimes" in Ukraine proved to be a recurrent one on Rossiya 1 on the night. It is apparently a new priority for Russia’s own Investigations Committee, as was attested to by its head Aleksandr Bastrykin in his televised comments at a conference.
Other points: civilians’ plight; "new" MH17 theory; BBC withdraws report
In other points:
– Channel One stood out with editorial comment on a report that told the story of the Donbass region’s – Ukraine’s southeast – "struggle for survival" as vital supplies ran out or, as the TV put it, "have all but been cut off". "This is a direct and clear threat to thousands of people in the east of Ukraine," Pavlova of "Vremya" declared, somewhat menacingly. This line of inquiry was not expressly continued, however, although the phrase "punitive operation by the Kiev government" was worked into this report, too;
– Rossiya 1’s line on the "shelling" of Russian territory was that both a team of investigators from the Russian Federation Investigations Committee and a TV crew from Rossiya 1 were the target of the Ukrainian military as they lobbed mortar rounds across the border but were too ill-trained to hit their target;
– Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 may have been shot down by Ukrainian air defence forces, on exercise, by mistake, all three main channels declared, based on what a "source" quoted by another Russian state medium, RIA Novosti news agency, had apparently said. There were dedicated reports on this subject across the board. Furthermore, according to Russian aviation agency Rosaviatsiya and as reported by the three main television channels, Ukraine still has questions to answer, 28 of them, in the MH17 investigation. Some of the questions were voiced by Rosaviatsiya head Aleksandr Neradko;
– Both Rossiya 1 and Channel One were inquisitive about the removal of an MH17 report from its website by the BBC’s Russian Service. Channel One in particular described the incident as an example of the BBC’s "double editorial standards". The BBC’s report, which Channel One said was filed by an "inconvenient" reporter, "in effect repudiated the joint US-Ukrainian theory" for the crash. The same piece on Channel One also picked holes in the front page of the British tabloid Daily Mirror, headlined "Vladimir Putin’s daughter flees £2million Dutch penthouse flat as fury grows over jet tragedy". First, everyone knows she lives in Russia, the report simply said. "Second, the photo shows, next to Putin, not his daughter but a former Rosmolodezhi [youth agency] lawyer," it added (both assertions are questionable);
– Rossiya 1 stood out with two especially vituperative features. In one, Ukraine’s Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh, now according to Rossiya 1 on the Interpol wanted list at Russia’s request, was described as a "terror" suspect. Right Sector stood accused in the report of brutality and "torture". Yarosh himself, meanwhile, is "by his own admission" a "Nazi" sympathizer. Meanwhile, Rossiya 1’s second feature, which decried the "shelling" of cities such as Donetsk, Luhansk and Horlivka, talked about "punitive" forces and "occupiers" pitted against the "DNR", or "people’s republic of Donetsk". Its "people’s governor" Pavel Gubarev (Pavlo Hubaryev) talked about "genocide". "Poroshenko, you are a murderer," a man was heard to say in conclusion;
– Also across the board, Russian TV maintained that there was no proof for the US accusations that Russian artillery had pounded Ukrainian positions.
Source: as listed in Russian 1900 gmt 25 Jul 14
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