Still No Smoking Gun That Proves Ukrainian Rebels Shot Down MH17

Forensic evidence doesn’t support the case against the Syrian rebels. (Photo: Edwin Tee / Flickr)

Forensic evidence doesn’t support the case against the Syrian rebels. (Photo: Edwin Tee / Flickr)

At Consortium News, Robert Parry writes that “since the Ukrainian air disaster, there have been notable gaps between the more measured approach taken by U.S. intelligence analysts” and the approach taken by “U.S. politicians and media personalities who quickly rushed to … judgment blaming the rebels and Russia.”

It seems that

… some U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that the rebels and Russia were likely not at fault and that it appears Ukrainian government forces were to blame, according to a source briefed on these findings.

This judgment … is based largely on the absence of U.S. government evidence that Russia supplied the rebels with a Buk anti-aircraft missile system that would be needed to hit a civilian jetliner flying at 33,000 feet, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Furthermore

Despite U.S. spy satellites positioned over eastern Ukraine, U.S. intelligence agencies have released no images of a Buk system being transferred by Russians to rebel control, shipped into Ukraine, deployed into firing position and then being taken back to Russia. … the absence of any photos of a rebel-controlled Buk missile battery has been the dog not barking.

Then

… the chief remaining suspect would be the Ukrainian government, which does possess Buk anti-aircraft missiles and reportedly had two fighter jets in the vicinity of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 at the time of the shoot-down. … the working hypothesis of the U.S. intelligence analysts is that a Ukrainian military Buk battery and the jetfighters may have been operating in collusion as they hunted what they thought was a Russian airliner, possibly even the plane carrying President Vladimir Putin on a return trip from South America, the source said.

Wait: the Ukraine would actually be bold enough to shoot down not only a Russian passenger plane but Putin himself? Wouldn’t that escalate hostilities to the point of self-destruction? Not to mention that Western sympathy would revert to Russia. But, notes Parry, hyperbole or not

Some prominent Ukrainian politicians, such as ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, have expressed the desire to kill Putin.

“It’s about time we grab our guns and kill, go kill those damn Russians together with their leader,” Tymoshenko said in an intercepted phone call in March, according to a leak published in the Russian press and implicitly confirmed by Tymoshenko.

However:

The source added that the U.S. intelligence analysis does not implicate top Ukrainian officials, such as President Petro Poroshenko or Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, suggesting that the attack may have been the work of more extremist factions, possibly even one of the Ukrainian oligarchs who have taken an aggressive approach toward prosecuting the war against the ethnic Russian rebels in the east.

But how would an oligarch obtain the use of jet fighters and a Buk battery? “Nevertheless,” Parry writes, “even as the mystery of who shot down Flight 17 deepened, the U.S. conventional wisdom blaming Putin and the rebels hardened.”

Meanwhile, rebels have — rightly — been condemned for blocking access to the crash site. But

… as for who’s been responsible for destroying evidence of the Flight 17 shoot-down, an assault by the Ukrainian military on the area where the plane crashed not only delayed access by international investigators but appears to have touched off a fire that consumed plane debris that could have helped identify the reasons for the disaster.

On Saturday, the last paragraph of a New York Times story by Andrew E. Kramer reported that “the fighting ignited a fire in a wheat field that burned over fuselage fragments, including one that was potentially relevant to the crash investigation because it had what appeared to be shrapnel holes.” The shrapnel holes have been cited by independent analysts as possible evidence of an attack by Ukrainian jetfighters.

Regarding those holes, on July 29, CBC reported that “Michael Bociurkiw, a Ukrainian-Canadian monitor with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) … and one other colleague were the first international monitors to reach the wreckage after the jet was shot down over a rebel-held region of eastern Ukraine July 17.”

In a televised interview, Bociurkiw said that pieces of the fuselage were “pockmarked. It almost looks like machine gun fire.” One of those pieces was filmed.

But would Western officials reverse course? Parry again:

The embarrassment to high-level U.S. officials and prominent mainstream U.S. news outlets would be so extreme that it is hard to believe that the reality would ever be acknowledged. Indeed, there surely will be intense pressure on airline investigators and intelligence analysts to endorse the Putin-is-to-blame narrative.

In fact, to Parry, the case echoes Syria and the sarin gas attack of a year ago.

… last year, some of the same players, including Secretary Kerry and the New York Times, jumped to conclusions blaming the Syrian government for an Aug. 21 sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of people in a Damascus suburb.

On Aug. 30, Kerry gave a bellicose speech filled with “we knows” but providing no verifiable evidence. … Only later did much of Kerry’s case fall apart as new evidence pointed to an alternative explanation, that extremist Syrian rebels released the sarin as a provocation to push Obama across his “red line” and into committing the U.S. military to the Syrian civil war on the side of the rebels.

But

… neither U.S. officialdom nor the mainstream U.S. press has acknowledged the dangerous “group think” that almost got the United States into another unnecessary war in the Middle East.

  • jeffbguarino

    Michael Bociurkiw is a new hire to the OSCE and is a journalist with no expertise analysing holes in the wreckage. He admits so in the interview.

    This is irresponsible journalism by CBC. There are entry and exit holes that he tries to explain with faulty physics. Missile shrapnel also spays out in a pattern and it has entry holes and ricochets against the plane structure and creates exit holds also. That is physics.