The death of almost 300 innocent men, women and children on a Malaysian airline flight has shocked the world. Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was travelling over the conflict-hit region when it disappeared from radar. Alan Woods analyses the hypocrytical response of the media and the politicians to these events
The death of almost 300 innocent men, women and children on a Malaysian airline flight has shocked the world. Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was travelling over the conflict-hit region when it disappeared from radar. A total of 283 passengers, including some 80 children, and 15 crew members were on board.
Shocked inhabitants of the Ukrainian village of Rassypnoye, where parts of the Malaysian airliner came down, saw “people falling from the sky”. One of them, Nikolai, told Reuters: “It was about 17:00. There was a very strong plane rumble, then there was a sort of explosion or flap, and then people started falling from the sky. People were appearing right from the clouds. Then the plane’s fuselage appeared and landed there, 50 metres away from here.”
Another Rassypnoye resident, Alla, recalled: “We heard some noise, it sounded like explosions. We thought we were being shelled. But when we ran out we saw a part of a plane falling over our house.”
These eyewitness accounts contain a very relevant comment: “We thought we were being shelled.” The people of this troubled region are only too accustomed to being shelled and bombed by the forces sent by the Kiev government to crush them. But that aspect of the story is being very carefully silenced in all the western media coverage of this affair.
The blame game
The blame game commenced immediately. Without waiting for an investigation or any hard information whatsoever, the propaganda machine rushed into action with indecent haste. Washington lost no time in pointing an accusing finger at Moscow. US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was “horrified” by the news. “There are no words adequate to express our condolences to the families of the nearly 300 victims”. Vice-President Joe Biden said he believed the incident was not an accident, and the plane was “blown out of the sky”. US intelligence authorities said a surface-to-air missile brought down the plane “but it was not yet clear who fired it”.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was not so circumspect. He told his Parliament: “This is a grim day for our country and it’s a grim day for our world.” He says MH17 was shot down, “it seems by Russia-backed rebels”.
The White House called on Russia to de-escalate the crisis and support a path to peace. There was no demand, however, for the Kiev government to halt its offensive or cease bombing rebel-held cities.
A few hours later American officials said that they suspected a Russian-made missile had shot down MH17. This “suspicion” was dictated from Kiev. An adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister had earlier alleged that the missile was fired by a Russian-made Buk launcher. No proof of this allegation was produced, but it was immediately accepted as good coin in Washington and immediately broadcast all over the world as an established fact.
All the “information” has come straight from Kiev. Yet the Ukrainians have not released any information that could cast light on what really happened. For instance, why have they not made public the conversations of Ukrainian air control and the pilot of the plane? The Americans say “we are confident no missile has been fired on the Ukrainian side.” Why are they so confident?
Since the Kiev government itself possesses Buk missiles it would be a very simple thing to take such pictures and present them to the world as “conclusive proof” of Poroshenko’s allegations. We still have vivid memories of Colin Powell’s supposed “conclusive proof” of the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. The validity of this “evidence” is approximately on the same level.
American foreign policy expert Damon Wilson told the BBC that Russia’s President Putin seems to be using his usual tactics in relation to the latest disaster – “taking something for which he has a great sense of culpability and blaming it on Ukraine”.
A “preliminary US intelligence analysis” has concluded that MH17 was probably hit by a missile fired by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, US broadcaster CNN reports, citing an “anonymous US defence official”. But how can there be any analysis before the wreckage of the aircraft has been seen? This kind of “analysis” is in the best case speculation and at worst, propaganda.
Finally when Obama decided to say something he was more cautious than others: “Too early to be able to guess what the intentions of those who might have launched the surface to air missile might have had. Investigations will be ongoing.” But in the next breath he adds that the plane was shot by a surface-to-air missile. “The shot was taken from territory that was controlled by the Russian separatists”. So it was really not too early at all!
On old records produced under the title His Master’s Voice, there used to be a red label with a picture of a dog listening to a gramophone recording. This is a perfect description of what used to be known as the “special relationship” between Great Britain and the USA. The Big Boss in Washington opens his mouth and the little puppy dog in London begins to bark. David Cameron has heard His Master’s Voice and obediently echoes it in the House of Commons. Doing his best to imitate Winston Churchill, he demanded tough sanctions, including restrictions on Russian banks and airlines and asset freezes on the “oligarchs and cronies” who support Mr Putin.
Mr Cameron warned that Britain may be forced to “fundamentally change our approach to Russia”. He said, “If he [President Putin] does not change his approach to Ukraine in this then Europe and the West must fundamentally change our approach to Russia. Those of us in Europe should not need to be reminded of the consequences of turning a blind eye when big countries bully smaller countries.”
One somehow doubts whether Mr. Cameron’s attempt to bully Russia will cause the Russian President to lose much sleep. The constant yapping of small dogs is always an irritation but rarely life-threatening. And one may also doubt whether the “oligarchs and cronies” in the City of London who support Mr. Cameron, but who derive immense profits from their dealings with the “oligarchs and cronies” who support Mr Putin, will agree to any serious sanctions against Russia. In the meanwhile, Angela Merkel pretends not to hear, while Francois Hollande puts his signature to a highly lucrative arms deal with Moscow. Not much sign of tough action there!
Even in all the twisted annals of lying propaganda, it would be difficult to find so blatant a case of prejudging the facts and presenting public opinion with a one-sided case based on absolutely nothing except empty speculation and hysteria. Constant references are made to alleged “analysis” by “experts”. No analysis whatsoever is possible unless qualified personnel have examined the wreckage, a process that can take weeks or even months. Yet the “experts” in Washington and London had already made up their mind before anyone had seen the wreckage, let alone analysed it. Putin is to blame! Punish Russia! Punish Russia!
At that time, if we exclude a mechanical failure, several explanations were possible. First it could have been a terrorist act on the plane itself. This possibility is increased by the fact of the loss of another Malaysian airplane over the Pacific recently, the fate of which remains unknown. The second possibility – the one that was immediately accepted by western media – was that it was shot down by a missile from a rebel-controlled area inside Ukraine. Thirdly, it could have been shot down by a missile fired from inside Russia or even by a Russian warplane. Lastly, it could have been shot down by the Ukrainian army. All of these possibilities have to be investigated, and the truth can only be established when expert flight accident investigators have had direct access to the wreckage of the plane and its flight recorders (the black boxes).
The complete absence of any hard evidence has been compensated by some highly creative inventions and very confident assertions, all of which originate from the Kiev government and its spokespersons. They say a missile was fired “from a separatist-controlled area in southeastern Ukraine”. Southeastern Ukraine is a very large area indeed, some of it controlled by the rebels, some of it under government control, some of it being in between both sides. Where was the missile fired from? If they really have proof (as they claim) that such a missile was really fired from rebel-held territory, they ought to be able to use electronic information to detect the exact place from where it was fired. In the past we have been fed detailed satellite pictures allegedly showing Russian troops moving closer to or away from the border. But no, there is no hard information, only vague statements and wild accusations, the purpose of which is not to inform but to pour petrol on the flames.
The claim that the plane was hit by a missile fired by a Buk launcher – a Russian-made, medium-range surface-to-air missile system – was first made by Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the Kiev government, hardly therefore an independent source. The only evidence for this claim and that the missile was fired by “pro-Russian separatists” is a brief and blurred video that appeared mysteriously hours after the crash and which purports to show a convoy of pro-Russian militants transporting the Buk surface-to-air system back into Russia. This was released by Herashchenko on Facebook.
According to the BBC Monitoring service, these pictures were circulated by a pro-Kiev journalist Dmytro Tymchuk, who is described as “an authoritative military reporter in Ukraine” (when in reality he runs a propaganda outlet and has been caught many times making false predictions and spreading false information). But these pictures pose more questions than they answer. Where did Mr. Tymchuk get these pictures from so quickly and conveniently? Who took them, when and where? One supposes that if they are genuine they must have been taken in the middle of a war zone in a rebel-held area. But absolutely no information about this is forthcoming.
Someone has pointed out that there is a billboard visible on the video (apparently for car sales) of a company in Krasnoarmeysk – a town that has been under the control of Kiev’s forces for the past two months. Whether this is true or false we do not know. But it seems very strange that all the statements from Washington are based on similar dubious “evidence” and hearsay.
The CIA has in its hands very sophisticated technology for spying and intelligence gathering. The area under consideration is of great interest to US imperialism. The firing of a Russian Buk missile requires the use of radar. Was it beyond the capacity of the CIA to detect this? This seems unlikely. Yet the best they can offer are some fuzzy images of doubtful origin that have been published on social media!
The rebels, it is claimed, captured an SA-11 air defence system from the Ukrainian army. This is something the Ukrainian army strenuously denies, a denial which was repeated by the State Prosecutor after the downing of the MH17 flight. It is said that one of the rebel leaders, Igor Strelkov… tweeted that he had brought down an Antonov 26 Russian transport plane, and that that tweet was subsequently deleted. Even if this were true, it is still only circumstantial evidence. A Russian cryptologist has analysed one of the tapes alleged to “prove” Russian involvement in downing the plane, and has proved it to be a fake, consisting in fragments of different conversations at different times that somebody has joined together to produce the desired effect.
Taking their cue from Kiev, the foreign “experts” enthusiastically join in the chorus. In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Royal United Services Institute Fellow Shashank Joshi argues that “this is about as bad as it could get for Moscow”. He says that after months of sponsoring a covert war on Ukraine’s borders, “it looks increasingly plausible – though far from certain – that one of their proxies might be responsible for the biggest act of terror in modern European history (even the Madrid train bombing of 2004 killed fewer people, with 191 fatalities)”.
We note the language, where “looks” (that is seems) increasingly plausible” (that is, I can believe it), is qualified by “far from certain”. But in the very next sentence, this complete lack of certainty becomes transformed into absolute certainty. Not only that, but we are now absolutely certain that Moscow (or at any rate one of its proxies) “might be responsible for the biggest act of terror in modern European history (even the Madrid train bombing of 2004 killed fewer people, with 191 fatalities)”.
Here political cynicism is combined with grammatical illiteracy and logical absurdity. The Madrid bombing was a deliberate act of terror, calculated to kill the maximum number of civilian victims. But nobody – not even Mr. Shashank Joshi – has ventured to suggest that if it was indeed a missile fired by the rebels (something, let us not forget, that is far from certain) it could only have been an accident, since the rebels had absolutely nothing to gain from it, and everything to lose.
“We cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel… This [the attack on the plane] follows a pattern of actions by Russia-backed separatists” – US envoy to the UN Samantha Power claims.
“We cannot rule out”; the attack “follows a pattern of actions by Russia-backed separatists” etc, etc. The vagueness of the language exposes the complete lack of any concrete evidence and a desire to make general assertions and unsubstantiated claims that nevertheless tend to point the finger of blame in a particular direction.
“Tampering with the evidence”
In any case, it ought to be possible to decide the issue scientifically. According to the experts flight crash investigators should be able to determine what caused the crash from traces left on the debris. If that is the case, then it should be an easy matter to discover who fired the fatal shot. But just in case the evidence does not confirm the “conclusive proof” of the Kiev government, Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council has already accused pro-Russian militants of hampering investigations into the causes of the crash.
Both the rebels and Putin have called for “a thorough and objective investigation of the air crash”. This does not suggest they have anything to hide. Putin has also called for complete access to the crash site, but has also called for an end to hostilities and said that the blame for this tragedy must be placed at the door of the Kiev government. Many people are wondering why the investigation has not yet begun in earnest. Having loudly demanded an international, inquiry to establish the facts, the West immediately started a media campaign alleging that the rebels were refusing access to the crash site, that they were tampering with the evidence and removing bodies, which, they said, had “disappeared”. This is a lie from start to finish.
The authorities in the rebel-controlled area have stated from day one that they will allow access to investigators and are fully in favour of an independent investigation. What they have asked for is the establishing of a humanitarian corridor and a ceasefire to facilitate the investigation. A reasonable request, one might think, but one that has been bluntly refused by the Kiev government, which is hell-bent on stepping up its ferocious offensive against the people of the East.
Emergency service workers have been combing through debris at the crash site from day one. Despite an extreme lack of resources, the people of the region have made every effort to help the recovery of bodies. AP reports that among the many volunteer rescue workers searching the crash site are policemen “and even off-duty coal miners”. Miners all over the world are always quick to help in such emergencies. They are only too used to mine disasters of their own and therefore understand the suffering of others. There are pictures of Ukrainian coal miners wading through a field of sunflowers as they search for bodies from the crashed Malaysia passenger plane near the village of Rozsypne.
Thanks to the tireless work of these rescue workers the flight recorders have been recovered from the crash site. They have now been handed over to the Malaysian authorities. Yet in its hatred of the rebels, the Kiev government has accused the rebels of trying to destroy evidence of “international crimes” at the crash site. The government said the rebels led by Russia were preventing international representatives and its own experts from starting their investigation. These are also lies. It is the Kiev government that has done absolutely nothing to help in the rescue and recovery operation. On the contrary, it has actively sabotaged it by refusing a ceasefire and intensifying its offensive in the area of the crash site.
Alexander Borodai, the leader of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, said he would allow the bodies of those killed in the crash to be taken to the nearby city of Kharkiv, which is controlled by the Kiev government, because “we do not have enough refrigerators to store the bodies”. Today’s report by the BBC says that almost all the bodies have now been recovered and have been sent to Kharkiv, as promised. And why anybody would want to make bodies “disappear” is anyone’s guess. As a matter of fact, the head of the team of Dutch forensic experts said he was “very impressed” with the work done at the crash site and that considering the circumstances those dealing with it had done “a hell of a job”
Interviews with local people show that they are genuinely shocked and moved to tears by the terrible fate of the victims. But it is not in the interest of the Kiev government and its western backers to show this human face. On the contrary, they are anxious to portray the people of the south-east Ukraine as inhuman monsters, bloodthirsty terrorists , “bastards” to quote the delicate language of the Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk: in short, people that only deserve to be bombed and slaughtered like cattle – which is what he has been doing for some time with every encouragement from Washington and its allies.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe sent a team of international monitors to the crash site and it confirmed they had been given safe access on Friday (that is to say, immediately). The organisation said that the “separatists” were also co-operating with Ukrainian authorities in the course of the rescue operation. Despite this, the western media published reports about the crash site being patrolled by “half-drunk” militiamen. To make this news even more interesting, they reported that the guards had fired on members of the OSCE who had gone to the site to investigate.
There are two problems with this story. In the first place, the members of the OSCE are not flight investigators. Their mission is to mediate a ceasefire between the Kiev government and the rebels – which Kiev has sabotaged. Secondly, they have said they have not been fired on by anyone. No matter! The report about rebels shooting at the OSCE has already gone round the world several times, and nobody has given any publicity to the denials. One must never let the facts spoil a good story.
The reports on western media in practice contradict the lie that the rebels have denied access to the crash site. We see BBC journalists strolling through the crash scene without any problem; filming, commenting and even picking up bits of wreckage (could this be considered “tampering with the evidence?).
There are many international inspectors in Kiev. So why has the international investigation been so delayed? The reason they have not gone to the site is that they are not allowed to by the Kiev government. The latter is not in the least interested in an international investigation but very interested in intensifying the military campaign against Donetsk. Since the men in Kiev believe they are winning, they do not want to agree to a ceasefire, which they think can only provide a breathing space to the rebels. Meanwhile the tragic fate of 300 people furnishes ideal material for Kiev’s propaganda machine.
The Kiev government “probes” – and provokes
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said: “Shooting down a civilian aircraft is an act of international terrorism, targeted against the entire world. This is a wake-up call for the whole world. We expect an adequate response from the international community. We offer our heartfelt compassion to the relatives of those passengers and crew who will not see their loved ones again. For weeks we have shed tears over our own dead. We have tears left for the innocent victims of this crime. Today Ukraine mourns with you.”
The reaction of the Ukrainian media to the disaster is near unanimous on one point made forcefully by various newspapers including the popular daily, Segodnya. It says that the crash has become a “a turning point” in the armed conflict between the Ukrainian government forces and the pro-Russian separatists and that the war is no longer a local conflict.
The Kiev government wishes to act as prosecutor, judge and jury in this matter. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) says it has launched a probe into the Malaysian airliner crash, which it terms “an act of terror”. But if it is already known to be “an act of terror”, and if the authors of this “act of terror” have been “conclusively proven” to be Vladimir Putin and the rebels, why should any “probe” be necessary?
The “probe” acted with lightning speed. Precisely two minutes after the above declaration, the Kiev government released what they claim to be intercepts of phone conversations between pro-Russian separatists and “what appear to be Russian military officers” saying that separatists shot down flight MH17. The remarkable swiftness of the Ukrainian secret services presents a surprising contrast with the astonishing ineptitude of Russian intelligence who, we are asked to believe, would discuss such matters over the phone with anybody. Here is yet another mystery to puzzle an inquiring brain.
Yatsenyuk has called the downing of MH17 an “international crime” and a “war against the world”. He has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. “All lines have been crossed,” he asserted, warning people to prepare for a full embargo on bilateral trade with Russia. “My forecast is as follows: We need to get ready for a practically full embargo on trade with Russia in the bilateral format,” Mr Yatsenyuk said, somewhat hopefully. (From an Interfax-Ukraine report.)
Everybody knows that Yatsenyuk is a stooge of US imperialism and his belligerence faithfully reflects the Washington line. But actually there is very little substance behind all this. In the words of Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” All this is calculated to generate an atmosphere of fear and hatred towards Russia and the insurgents and win international support for the bloody campaign being waged by the Kiev government against the people of south-east Ukraine.
The most disgusting example of Kiev’s hate campaign against the rebels was a photograph that appeared to show an armed militiaman standing at the scene of the crash and holding up a child’s doll. This photo was immediately posted on Internet and reproduced on the front pages of the world’s press as “proof” that the rebels are inhuman monsters prepared to mock the death of a child. The Dutch Prime Minister who is trying to gain cheap publicity for himself by attacking Russia, delivered a hysterical speech in which he denounced this as a disgusting scandal. But when the whole content of the video was shown it presented an entirely different image. The man, clearly moved by the pathetic remnant, held it up to the camera before crossing himself devoutly and bowing before the scene (See video below).
This is how the Kiev government is using a human tragedy to push western governments into providing it with more military support, or at least to tighten the sanctions against Russia. But there is a slight problem here. Obama, who is well aware that most Americans are weary of war and foreign adventures, does not wish to be dragged into military action in Ukraine. He does not want to intervene, but he would like the Europeans to adopt a more aggressive stance against Russia. So far, he has not succeeded.
The Americans are impatient with Merkel and the European Union for their timid response to the Ukrainian crisis. That was expressed by the leading Neo-Con Paul Wolfowitz in an interview on BBC Newsnight last Friday. He made a Freudian slip when he accused Putin of “pouring oil on the crisis”, before correcting himself, realising that far from pouring oil onto Europe and Ukraine, the man in the Kremlin might be tempted to turn off the tap altogether.
In any murder inquiry the first question that has to be asked is: Cui bono: who gains? It is obvious to everybody that Putin had nothing to gain by shooting down a civilian aircraft over East Ukraine. On the contrary, as the western press now gleefully point out, he had everything to lose. The same is true of the rebels who, in addition to being battered by the forces of the Kiev government, now find themselves pilloried as “murderers” and “terrorists” by the world press.
Did Russia stand to gain anything by shooting down a civilian airliner and killing 300 people? No, it did not. Did the rebels stand to gain? No, they stood to lose a great deal? So who did stand to gain? Rebel leader Alexander Borodai accused the Ukrainian government of attacking the airliner itself. “Apparently, it’s a passenger airliner indeed, truly shot down by the Ukrainian air force,” he told Russia’s state-run Rossiya 24 TV broadcaster. Is this claim as absurd as western media claim? It may or may not be true, but absurd it is not.
The men in Kiev are actually the only ones with a clear and evident motive for this crime. Did they have the opportunity? Yes, because while nobody can prove that the rebels possess the Buk missiles that are said to have downed the airliner, the Ukrainian army is known to have them. According to the BBC Monitoring service, Russia’s military detected an activated radar belonging to a Ukrainian battery of Buk surface-to-air missiles on Thursday. A report to this effect was delivered on Russian state television. If that is true, the finger of suspicion points not to the rebels but to the Ukrainian army itself.
The Ukrainians have complained repeatedly about alleged Russian violation of their air space. It is possible that they shot down the plane, thinking it was a Russian warplane. This, however, seems unlikely since there are electronic signals that automatically identify a civilian airplane. The alternative is that they shot the plane down deliberately. At first sight this might appear so monstrous that it is almost inconceivable. It is indeed monstrous, but it is not at all inconceivable.
The Russian defence ministry has produced images that seem to indicate the presence of Ukrainian fighter aircraft in the vicinity of the Malaysian airplane shortly before it plunged to earth. What were they doing there? Similarly it has evidence of the movement of Buk missiles by the Ukrainian army at the same time in the area close to where the plane came down. Moscow has challenged Kiev to produce details of what its anti-aircraft systems were doing at the time of the crash.
So far no reply has been forthcoming from Kiev, only indignant denials. But there are other contradictions that have not been explained. Before it crashed Flight MH17 was flying on a course that was different from the usual one. This change of course must have been decided in agreement with Ukrainian air control. Why has the conversation between air control and Flight MH17 not been made public?
But would the Kiev government and its forces be capable of such a dastardly deed? Not only would they be capable of such things but they have already done them. Since the rebels declared independence in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in April, more than 1,000 civilians and combatants are believed to have been killed in a ferocious offensive unleashed by the government in Kiev. Only last Tuesday, days before this tragedy, a warplane of the Kiev government bombed the rebel-held city of Snizhne, shattering a block of flats and killing 11 people. Ukrainian officials denied their planes were involved. Instead, they blamed Russia. This lie was so blatant that even pro-Kiev western journals like the Economist ridiculed it. This means that the Kiev regime has already bombed a civilian target and tried to blame it on Russia.
That time they did not succeed, so is it not possible they tried again, only this time playing for far higher stakes? It is at the very least, a possibility that cannot be excluded. What would be their motive? That is also clear. Although the Ukrainian forces are advancing, the war in the East is proceeding slowly and painfully. The rebels fight for every square metre of ground and the men in Kiev feel frustrated. They would like more help from the American and Europeans and are disappointed that they are not getting it. Yatsenyuk knows very well that he cannot confront Russia militarily. Therefore he and the clique in Kiev would like to drag others into their conflict. The downing of the Malaysian airplane provides them with a perfect opportunity to do just that.
The history of war knows many examples where incidents have been manufactured or provoked in order to create an atmosphere of war hysteria and justify acts of aggression: The blowing up of The Maine, Pearl Harbour, the Gulf of Tonkin… The downing of Flight MH17 may be just one more such case. Poroshenko and the Kiev government certainly lost no time in using this human tragedy to whip up anti-Russian feeling in the most hysterical and aggressive language: “The Russians are done for,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk crowed triumphantly. “This is an international crime which must be investigated by the international tribunal in The Hague.” Speaking at a meeting in Kiev, he also said that Ukraine should prepare for “full restrictions” on trade with Russia (that is, for war) and he demanded the heads of the “bastards who did this”. The question is: who those “bastards” are.
Did the rebels make a mistake?
Is it possible that the airplane was shot down in a mistaken attack by rebel forces? After months of being bombed and shelled by the pro-Kiev forces, it is possible that inexperienced men thought that the Malaysian plane was yet another Ukrainian warplane coming to bomb them and shot it down by mistake. That is one possibility, but it is by no means the only one.
Interfax quoted rebel representative Sergey Kavtaradze as blaming “the Ukrainian side” for the Malaysian plane crash. “We simply have no air defence systems of this kind,” he said. And the Ukrainian army asserted bluntly that the Malaysian airliner was downed by the Russians, not the Ukrainian rebels.
It is clear that in the bloody chaos of East Ukraine, nobody is in complete control of the situation. That is why it is absurd to demand that Putin must solve the problem. The assumption made in the West is that the rebels, lacking in experience in handling sophisticated missile systems, made a mistake, believing that the airliner was a Ukrainian warplane sent to bomb them. Since this is an everyday occurrence, this would be a reasonable supposition. The Buk system has a sophisticated radar device that permits it to distinguish between civilian aircraft and warplanes. But if the operating crew was unable to handle such a system, the plane would appear as little more than a dot in the sky. If the wrong interpretation of that dot were made, the result would be fatal.
Alexander Nekrasov, a former Kremlin adviser, points out: “The Buk system consists of four vehicles [and] two radars. You really have to be professional to control it. So the suspicion is that it might either be some renegade unit within the Ukrainian army, or a renegade unit among the so-called separatists.” Nekrasov says there is a perception in the West that Russia has control over all Ukrainian separatists. “It’s not as simple as that,” he says. “There are many groupings there that have their own agendas and supplies of arms.” Some of the Ukrainian troops have switched sides and are fighting on the side of the rebels.
Despite the western media’s talk of the “restraint” of the Kiev authorities, the Ukrainian forces have been aggressively targeting civilians in the east. Behind the dense propaganda smokescreen, the Kiev government continues its bloody offensive in east Ukraine. Electricity and water supplies have been knocked out in much of the rebel-held city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine and a major oil refinery is on fire, Russian and Ukrainian media have reported.
The rebels are resisting fiercely. It took the Ukrainian regular army several weeks to retake Sloviansk. The Ukrainian forces lost several planes and helicopters in that operation. The rebels’ centre of resistance moved to Donetsk and Luhansk. Now the Ukrainian army faces the prospect of further losses when it attempts to lay siege to these regional centres, where each district can be turned into a centre of armed resistance.
Despite appearances to the contrary, the Ukrainian army is no more effective a fighting force than it was when the conflict started. It is simply that the Kiev regime has imposed commanders who will not hesitate to use heavy armour, artillery and aircraft against civilian targets. The main shock troops of the Kiev regime is the so-called Ukrainian National Guard, units made up mainly of fascist and Nazi volunteers. These fascists are ideologically motivated and better paid than the army. They are the ones who are threatening the population of the East with fire and sword. That is what the propaganda in the media seeks to conceal from world public opinion.
On the other hand, the rebels know they cannot continue the fight without support from outside. Whether or not Donetsk can be taken without large-scale damage depends directly on the strength of the defending rebels. Their ammunition is running out, they constantly need new weapons. They need an inflow of volunteers from Russia. And the fighters also need training and somewhere to train.
The main demand of the Kiev government and its allies in Washington and London is that the Russians must close the border and cease supplying the rebels with military equipment. In other words, they want to deprive the rebels of the things they need to defend themselves, to render them defenceless and place them at the mercy of the National Guard, that is, the Ukrainian Nazis. That is the essential meaning of the hue and cry over Flight MH17.
Russia’s attitude will of course be crucial in this situation. Putin seems to have rejected the idea of direct military intervention – at least for now. Public opinion in Russia obliges him to keep up tacit support for the rebels with supplies of arms and volunteers. But the Kremlin is pursuing its own cynical interests in Ukraine. Putin intends to keep the rebels afloat by sending just sufficient arms to prevent them being defeated in order to weaken the Kiev government and force it to come to terms with Moscow. The West accuses Putin of encouraging the rebels, but in fact the very limited nature of his assistance is provoking discontent among the fighters who were looking to Russia to support their struggle against the fascist onslaught.
The Ukrainian army will probably try to use its numerical superiority to crush the rebels. Experts reckon that 30,000 regular troops are facing a maximum of 10,000 insurgents. Under these circumstances, the rebels’ logical response may be to create mobile groups of 200 to 300 fighters, equipped with mobile rocket launchers and anti-tank weapons and cut communications links to Donetsk, to block the deployment of Ukrainian troops freed up by the seizure of Sloviansk. They have already blown up three bridges on roads leading to Donetsk, and Ukrainian troops will face the risk of rebel ambushes on major roads.
It is not possible to say exactly what numbers and equipment the rebels have managed to concentrate in Donetsk. But fighting in a modern city is a nightmare for the Ukrainian army. Every street will be a battlefield, every house a focus of resistance. The rebels will fight to the death and the death toll will be considerable. Even if Donetsk falls, the Kiev government will be faced with a long-term guerrilla war, terrorist acts and the hatred of a conquered population that can only be kept down by repression.
In East Ukraine men, women and children are incessantly being killed, maimed and driven from their homes. Many have fled to Russia. At least 20 civilians were killed by shelling in the rebel-held city of Luhansk on Friday morning. The Red Cross in Luhansk reported that 44 civilians had been killed in a 48h period. The city administration called it “another black day”. Shells fired by the Ukrainian army fell on “practically every district” of the city of 427,000 people as the troops of the Kiev government edge ever closer to the city. Its inhabitants constantly live in fear of their lives. On this subject, however, the western media, of course, maintain a discreet silence.
An act of terrorism
Whoever was responsible for the downing of Flight MH17, it was clearly an act of terrorism and should be investigated, but we have no confidence that the Kiev regime will investigate anything. The Kiev government has done nothing to investigate the Odessa massacre of 2 May when people were burned alive in the Trade Union headquarters, and murdered as they tried to escape from the blazing building. At least 48 were killed in that vicious pogrom but according to the UN Human Rights Commission, the regime in Kiev is not co-operating with the investigation. Indeed Iulia Tymoshenko publicly thanked the perpetrators of that bloody crime.
The constant wailing and wringing of hands in Washington, London and Berlin is a disgusting spectacle of imperialist hypocrisy at its worst. Over 500 men, women and children have been killed in Gaza, but Obama and Co do not demand that the Israeli ruling class desist from its criminal aggression. There are no calls for sanctions against the criminal Israeli regime, only the usual hypocritical appeals for “restraint on both sides” – as if both sides were equal in this bloody conflict.
Even more disgusting are the crocodile tears of the Kiev government, which, in the last analysis, must bear responsibility for the bloodbath in East Ukraine and the consequent tragedy of Flight MH17. The Ukrainian ombudsman Valeriya Lutkovska moans: “It is hurtful to accept and it is even more difficult to understand the deaths of hundreds of innocent people including 80 children. Previously, these monsters from the so-called [separatist] Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics killed, maimed and used Ukrainian children as a live shield. Now, they have reached out with their bloodied hands towards children from all over the world.”
She might have also shed a few tears for the hundreds of civilian victims of the indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian areas in Donetsk and Luhansk. The Red Cross said that 40 people were killed in Luhansk in the last 48 hours. The argument of Kiev and its supporters that women and children are used as “human shields” is well-known from the Israeli propaganda against the Palestinians. What it actually means is that civilians who are inconsiderate enough to live in cities they wish to conquer may be killed and maimed by Ukrainian bombs and shells. But the less said about this, the better.
As for Moscow’s goal, that seems to be to maintain control over Ukraine through continuation of the chaos. It will weaken the Kiev government and convince it that nothing can be done except with the permission of the men in Moscow. And it will have the additional advantage of showing the Russian people that any attempt at a revolution, any attempt to get rid of the Putin regime, will only end in chaos and civil war. As for the unfortunate people of Donetsk, they will have the dubious honour of dying for the Russian Motherland that was not prepared to let them be part of it.
The people of the Ukraine have been cruelly deceived by those “friends” – both foreign and Ukrainian – who pretended to defend their interests. Many people in West Ukraine thought that the fall of Yanukovych would signify an improvement and that the EU would come to their aid. After only a few months they have begun to ask what has changed in Kiev, and they realise that nothing has changed, at least for the better. The same crooked politicians sit in the government. The same crooked oligarchs rule behind the scenes. The western “aid” comes with strings that spell austerity, large-scale privatisations and falling living standards. Prices are going up. The ordinary people, as usual, are the losers.
For the people of East Ukraine the situation is even worse. The gangsters in Kiev try to conceal the reality of oligarchic rule by banging the nationalist drum and stirring up hatred against Russia and the Russian-speaking people who they slander as terrorists, separatists, subhuman and animals. Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko lean for support on criminal and Nazi elements that they have unleashed against the East.
Some simple-minded people imagine that Russia is acting in the interests of the people of East Ukraine. In their confusion, they identify the Russia of Putin with the Russia of Lenin and Trotsky. That is a vain illusion! They overlook the fact that Russia today is a capitalist country ruled by a corrupt and rapacious oligarchy, just like Ukraine.
When a Russian worker says: “I wish to defend my Ukrainian brothers and sisters in the fight against fascism,” we can believe it. It is a healthy feeling of class solidarity. But when Vladimir Putin says the same thing, we do not believe a word of it. Putin and the Kremlin clique represent the interests of the Russian oligarchy. They have been playing a cynical game with the people of East Ukraine, raising their hopes only to betray them and place them at the mercy of the Kiev regime and its fascist mercenaries. It would be fatal to have any illusions on this score.
Workers of Ukraine! The root cause of your problems is not this or that government but the capitalist system itself. The capitalists have looted, robbed and deceived you. They have enriched themselves and reduced a potentially prosperous nation to beggary, ruin and humiliation. Now they have plunged it into a bloody civil war. This war does not serve the interests of the Ukrainian people.
On the road of nationalism and chauvinism there is nothing but ruin for all Ukrainians. The only solution is to unite the working class for the overthrow of the capitalist oligarchy: for a united, independent, socialist Ukraine. Do not trust those lying politicians who wrap themselves in the flag of nationalism but who are really the agents of the oligarchs! Do not trust in those foreign leaders – whether in Washington, Berlin or Moscow – who claim to be your friends but are only pursuing their own selfish interests! Trust only in yourselves, in the power of the working class and the cause of socialism! That is the only way forward.