This? This is just a very heavy lunch box.

So the Russian separatists are busily hiding and destroying all the evidence. If neutral parties show up and try to stop them doing that, they fire warning shots, and the neutral parties leave.

The OSCE was trying to gain access to one part of the large crash site but the commander of a rebel unit, known as Commander Glum, blocked them. After the warning shot, the OSCE convoy departed.

There is also confusion over the black boxes and other devices apparently salvaged from the plane. A rebel military commander initially said he was considering what to do with them, while another rebel leader, Aleksandr Borodai, contradicting his colleague, said the rebels had no black boxes or any other devices.

Black boxes? What black boxes? What’s a black box? We had a black box but it’s gone. We never had any black boxes. We have a bunch of black boxes and you can’t have them. We’re tired and emotional and don’t want to talk to you right now.

Other material on rebel social media sites was being deleted, including pictures showing the alleged capture of Buk missile vehicles by rebels from a Ukrainian air base last month.

Rebels said the boast on the social media site on Thursday that a plane had been shot down was not put up by them but by a sympathiser who mistakenly assumed it was a Ukrainian military plane that had been shot down. But in a separate posting a rebel leader also claimed that a plane had been brought down. “We warned you – do not fly in our sky,” he said. That too was removed.

A Nato intelligence specialist quoted by the military analysts Janes said the recordings “show that the Russian ‘helpers’ realise that they now have an international incident on their hands – and they probably also gave the order for separatists to erase all evidence – including those internet postings. It will be interesting to see if we ever find this Buk battery again or if someone now tries to dump it into a river.”

Buk battery? Oh no – this is just a toy we built for our children. No no this is a prop for an amateur war movie we’re making. God no, this old thing? It’s just something I picked up at the flea market last week.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military specialist at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said he regarded the tape recordings as genuine, as well as postings on social media pointing the finger at pro-Russia separatists or Russia itself.

But getting evidence would be very difficult. He said: “A decision has been made on the Russian side to hide their tracks. It will be hard to find the battery.” Satellites might have been able to catch something, but the trail from the missile would have been very short, Sutyagin said.

It sounds as if a cover-up may well be successful.


  1. Trebuchet says

    I saw a crawler on CNN this morning saying the black boxes are in Moscow. I’m not sure they’d show anything particularly useful anyhow. Physical examination of the wreckage, however, would.

    Putin has really screwed the pooch this time. Even if Ukrainian forces shot down the plane, he’s still responsible.

  2. resident_alien says

    I am generally very fearful and paranoid.
    So this whole thing feels very “Franz Ferdinand in Sarayevo” for me.
    Holy mother of F!

  3. Jean says

    I haven’t seen anyone mention that there is no logical reason why Ukraine would have fired a missile at an airplane. They are fighting the separatists who don’t use airplanes and I don’t think they would try to escalade things by shooting down a Russian airplane.

    That’s one more thing that leads to the same suspects.

  4. Randomfactor says

    Putin could go a long way towards resolving this with whatever they use in place of drone strikes, directed against the people he KNOWS are responsible for this.

  5. Al Dente says

    “A radar return from an airplane like this would look very similar to that from a cargo plane, as was initially claimed by the separatists. If radar was all they were using, that is a shame,” he said. “All airliners emit identification signals which identify the aircraft and provide other information like altitude and speed. They also operate on known communications frequencies. It doesn’t sound like the separatists were using any of this.

    “My guess is the system’s radar saw a return from a big ‘cargo’ plane flying at 30,000 ft or so and either automatically fired, or some aggressive, itchy operator fired, not wanting to miss an opportunity.”

    It’s quite likely that some battery commander was told “there’s a big plane, looks like a transport, flying over Ukraine.” Knowing that the Russians weren’t flying in that area, it was assumed it had to be Ukrainian (“Foreign airliners? Why would they fly around here?”) and so was shot down with the shiny toy the separatists wanted to use.

  6. says

    On the ground: radar guided missiles in the hands of trigger happy thugs. In the sky, several hundred people, on the way to wherever. Among them critical contributors to the HIV research effort.


    Wish I believed in a hell to send these asses to.

  7. Blanche Quizno says

    “the commander of a rebel unit, known as Commander Glum, blocked them.”

    …and he wasn’t happy about it, either! No sirree! Downright down in the mouth, he was!

  8. Blanche Quizno says

    What responsible airline company would route a passenger plane over a war zone in the first place??

  9. Ariel says

    From the comments:

    Putin could go a long way towards resolving this

    I’m afraid that’s exactly what he does, although not necessarily to your liking. Russia has definitely something to gain from this tragedy and the Russians are playing their cards well. The cover-up maneuvers (the topic of this post) is one element. At the same time there is this huge propaganda operation, carried out by the Russian media (and directed mainly to Russian citizens), presenting Ukraine as the culprit. In addition we have this:

    Obama called for a cease-fire in the conflict between the separatists and Ukrainian forces. At a Kremlin meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged that “all sides in the conflict should halt their fighting and enter into peaceful talks,” according to an official website.

    (source: huffingtonpost)

    Well, did Putin suddenly become a peace lover? Or is he – suddenly and out of the blue – worrying now about western public opinion, sanctions maybe? I doubt it. I suspect rather that the Russians will try to play out the western reaction, with all the (American, French, German) appeals for a ceasefire, to their advantage.

    So here is the pessimistic scenario. The initial observation is that the Ukrainian army has been victorious. The rebels didn’t seem well prepared for the Ukrainian offensive and they were losing the ground. What can Putin do to protect his allies (apart from engaging in a full scale war)? Here is a possible solution: he can press for a ceasefire, using now the western voices and the tragedy of the Malaysian airplane as a leverage (while messing up the investigation and putting the whole blame on the Ukrainians, of course). If his attempts are successful, he can present himself as a supporter of peace and dialogue … and use the precious time to supply and to arm the rebels, who in the meantime will be able to consolidate their positions. In effect they will become a tougher nut to crack, with even more bloody carnage to follow in the near future.

    I don’t know what to hope for. I’m afraid that the tragedy will be used by Russia in a really ugly political dance. I’m afraid the Russians will be able to manipulate the West to their advantage, with all the victims becoming mere pawns in this game. I’m afraid also that nothing can be done about it.

    But maybe – you know, maybe I’m just being russophobic.

  10. Dave Ricks says

    Blanche, I asked myself your question at 8 too, and I found Malaysia Airlines has a link to their ongoing public statements, where they quoted Malaysia’s Minister of Transport from a press briefing earlier today:


    On the matter of MH17’s flight path, I would like to refer to recent reported comments by officials from Eurocontrol, the body which approves European flight paths under ICAO rules. 

    According to the Wall Street Journal, the officials stated that some 400 commercial flights, including 150 international flights crossed eastern Ukraine daily before the crash. Officials from Eurocontrol also stated that in the two days before the incident, 75 different airlines flew the same route as MH17.

    MH17’s flight path was a busy major airway, like a highway in the sky. It followed a route which was set out by the international aviation authorities, approved by Eurocontrol, and used by hundreds of other aircraft. It flew at an altitude set, and deemed safe, by the local air traffic control. And it never strayed into restricted airspace.

    The flight and its operators followed the rules. But on the ground, the rules of war were broken. In an unacceptable act of aggression, it appears that MH17 was shot down; its passengers and crew killed by a missile.

    That doesn’t bring anyone back, but at least I can understand.

  11. quixote says

    Ariel @9, interesting analysis. That sounds like Putin, and nothing else I’ve heard does. (I keep telling people, he was the head of the KGB, fergawdsake. For years and years and years. When it comes to ruthless manipulation of people or situations, everybody else on the world stage is an amateur. Except maybe for a few of the Chinese, who, you’ll notice, he’s not engaging.)

    I was initially reserving judgment as to who actually did what. And, no, Obama making pronouncements counts for nothing. He’s very much an interested party. But that reaction from the various rebel commanders does sound like some hot dog thought he was shooting down a troop transport and now they’re all flailing while Putin is using the situation as best he can.

    Blanche: re why would they fly there. It’s a more direct route and saves on fuel costs. Some airlines (KLM?) have been routing around the whole area. Also, the planes are supposed to be above 32,000 feet. Initially, MH17 was said to be at 33,000 but now I keep seeing 30,000. Still no reason for an even marginally competent gunner to mistake a 777 for a Tupolev or something, but there it is. Relying on the competence of gunners, rebel or Ukrainian, seems a rather iffy basis for safety.

  12. Blanche Quizno says

    @10 Dave Ricks – thanks for the clarification.

    Did anyone else notice that odd little story where one of the Ukranian rebels reported that the plane was carrying corpses, some of them in an obvious state of decomposition?

  13. Al Dente says

    Blanche Quizno @12

    Did anyone else notice that odd little story where one of the Ukranian rebels reported that the plane was carrying corpses, some of them in an obvious state of decomposition?

    The Daily Mail has that story. Considering the bodies have been lying in a field for a couple of days and the rebels aren’t letting anyone near the crash site, it’s not surprising the bodies are decomposing.

  14. Blanche Quizno says

    @13 Al Dente, except that the story I was referring to was from the day AFTER the plane was shot down. The plane was shot down 7/17; this story is dated 7/18, and states that the bodies appeared to be already several days dead:

    I’m having a little trouble figuring out the relevant time zones, but this is the earliest mention of the crash:

    8:36 AM – 17 Jul 2014

    The story above is timestamped July 18, 2014 2:22 PM

    The timeline source I looked at did not include this report.

    The temperature has been hovering between about 60 and 85 F. That’s not long enough/hot enough to reach the stage the rebel was reporting, IMHO.

    I have no idea what to make of that – was the person making the report familiar with dead bodies in various stages of decomposition? I’m not, and I wouldn’t be able to make an informed judgment about how long a body had been dead. I’m simply noting that it’s odd.

  15. RJW says

    @ 10 Dave Ricks,

    Yes, the route had ICAO approval, however the question is, why did that organisation regard 33,000ft as safe?
    There were reports of Ukrainian aircraft being shot down at high altitudes prior to the destruction of the Malaysian Airlines flight.
    The Russians downed a US U2 flying at a much higher altitude in 1960, so 33,000ft has been within range of SAMs for 50 years. So, the ICAO has some explaining to do, the claim that many aircraft had previously followed the route unscathed is a rather flimsy defence.

  16. says


    I think FL320 and above was regarded as safe because weaponry of this type is usually only in the hands of trained governmental armies, with operators who know the difference between a civilian and a military plane and who respect international laws enough not to bring down the former.

    The kind of weapons usually in the hands of insurgents don’t have a range that’s any like this.

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