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What The Russian Papers Are Saying About Flight MH17

A file photo of a newsstand near a Moscow metro station
A file photo of a newsstand near a Moscow metro station

MOSCOW -- Despite mounting evidence that Moscow-backed rebels are responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Russia's print media paint a very different picture.

Some claim it was shot down by the Ukrainian military, which mistook the passenger jet for a military aircraft. Some suggest the culprit was a terrorist attack on board.

Komsomolskaya Pravda: It's Unlikely The Separatists Shot Down Flight MH17

The daily "Komsomolskaya pravda" ran a commentary titled “Who fired the Buk?” by military commentator Viktor Baranets. The piece argues that it is unlikely that pro-Moscow separatists shot down Flight MH17. The more likely scenario, Baranets argues, is that the passenger jetliner was downed by the Ukrainian military, which mistook it for a Russian military aircraft.

Claiming that only a Buk surface-to-air missile system could have hit a plane flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters, Baranets points out that Ukraine has 75 Buk systems in its arsenal. There is also an antiaircraft defense station 40 kilometers from Donetsk.

“If we consider that Ukrainian propaganda constantly fueled fears of an imminent Russian ‘invasion’ over land and by air, then we cannot rule out that the Ukrainian antiaircraft defense may have shot down the Malaysian Boeing by mistake, mistaking the blip on the radar screen for a Russian plane,” Baranets writes.

Baranets says that in June the rebels captured a Ukrainian Buk installation but that it was in poor condition and also was incomplete.

Finally, Baranets argues that the rebels don't have the specialists to work such advanced technology.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Mistaken For A Russian Military Plane

An editorial in the daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta" titled “The Downed ‘Boeing’: Just The Facts” calls the downing of Flight MH17 the “prelude to the start of a new Cold War."

The editorial claims that Flight MH17 could have been shot down either by a Buk system or by Sukhoi fighter jets, which it claims had flown alongside the passenger plane. It also says that it is even too early to rule out a terrorist attack.

It rules out a surface-to-air missile launched from Russia, which would have been out of range.

The editorial notes that Kyiv had Buk systems stationed in eastern Ukraine to counter a Russian invasion -- and notes Kyiv's allegations that Russian planes had been entering Ukraine's airspace.

“We therefore can’t rule out that the Malaysian Boeing was mistaken for a Russian air-force plane,” the "Nezavisimaya gazeta" editorial claims.

The editorial also notes what it calls several “contradictory facts” connected to allegations the plane was shot down by separatist rebels using a Buk system.

When separatists claimed to have seized a Buk system from the Ukraine military, for example, Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Vitaliy Yarema said this had not happened.

The editorial also casts doubt on the official Ukrainian allegations that the Buk system used by the rebels was brought into the country from Russia. The separatists, it argues, would have struggled to operate such an advanced system.

Moskovsky Komsomolets: Ukraine's Airspace, Ukraine's Responsibility

The mass circulation daily "Moskovsky komsomolets" writes, citing an airline security expert, that even if it is proven that the rebels are responsible for the downing of the Flight MH17, Ukraine would still bear “legal responsibility” for allowing civil aircraft to fly over an area of military activity.

“If [a country] is unable to guarantee the security of flights on its territory, then it should close its airspace regardless of [altitude] restrictions," the aviation expert was quoted as saying.

"As we know, the Ukrainian authorities restricted flights according to [altitude] -- as a result, the plane flew higher but still crashed."

Argumenty I Fakty: Fidel Castro Says The Ukrainians Did It

A popular story on the website of the weekly tabloid "Argumenty I Fakty" quotes retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro's claim that the Ukrainian authorities were responsible for downing Flight MH17.

In another article on its website, "Argumenty I Fakty" concludes that while Flight MH17 could only have been shot down with a Buk missile system, a strike from Russian territory (something nobody is claiming) would have been impossible due to the distance.

The article also cites Vladimir Karnozov, identified as an "aviation security expert," as repeating the claim prevalent in Russian media narrative that the rebels would have lacked the training to operate the sophisticated Buk system.

Karnozov adds that until an investigation is complete, a terrorist attack on board Flight MH17 cannot be ruled out.