Russian media began peddling diverse versions of what brought down the Ukrainian Boeing 737 passenger jet within hours of its tragic crash near Tehran. A leading narrative is that the US shot the plane down in order to start a war in the Middle East. The Iranian side meanwhile was claiming that the plane had malfunctioned.
Here is a roundup of the main themes about the crash featured in leading pro-Kremlin publications.
The Kremlin would not be the Kremlin if it did not blame the United States for all the world’s troubles. Russia’s Federal News Agency RIA announced that an American drone fired missile responding to Iran’s shelling of two US military bases in Iraq had brought the Ukrainian jet down. RIA lists the events that transpired on the day of the crash – Iran’s missile attack on American bases in Iraq and the US Federal Aviation Administration issuing flight restrictions prohibiting U.S. civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Russian media also brought up another air tragedy that occurred in July 1988, when a U.S. Navy missile cruiser accidentally shot down Iran Air civilian flight that had been misidentified as a fighter jet, according to the United States. And for good measure RIA cited an unnamed Iranian military source who claims that the US had planned to destroy an Iranian government plane carrying those responsible for the attacks on US military bases.
The monarchist orthodox site Tsargrad continues to blame the US for downing the Ukrainian jet by citing a Russian Duma MP, former prosecutor of Crimea Natalia Poklonska, who said that crashes like this do not happen by accident and wars and conflicts are intended to produce a global hegemon .
Komsomolskaya Pravda puts forward three possible causes of the crash: a technical malfunction aboard the plane, terrorism or a missile.
“In the East they can hold a grudge for a very long time, all the while nurturing plans for revenge. But to assume that Tehran would suddenly bury its own citizens is also farfetched, but does not exclude the interests of third forces that could take advantage of the explosive situation in the region to add oil to the already burning fire in the Middle East” writes Komsomolskaya Pravda.
The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 also surfaced in Russian coverage of the Ukrainian jet crash. Shot down in July 2014 by a Russian anti-aircraft Buk missile over eastern Ukraine under the control of Russian backed separatists, the crash of MH17 is still blamed on Ukraine in Russia, a fake narrative that StopFake has debunked countless times. Tsargrad in particular tries to draw parallels between the two air tragedies, citing social networks as the source; the publication declares the Ukrainian jet crash “karma for MH17”. Another Tsargrad article yet again points the finger of blame at the America. “The US is launching a war in the region and staging a situation where the opposing side is shooting down a civilian plane” the publication writes.
Citing unnamed Iranian sources some Russian media speculate that the Ukrainian airliner could have been shot down by a missile launched by an American drone. “The credibility of this version is borne out by the MQ-1 Predator UAV drone found in the vicinity of Tehran, a drone that is only used by the US military” writes Iarex.ua.
After several Western news outlets wrote about the possibility of a Russian connection to the crash, pro-Kremlin sites began refuting them and Tsargrad wrote that the possibility of a terrorist act was ruled out. Meanwhile Leonid Volkov, a representative of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny announced that a rocket attack had brought down the Ukrainian airliner. “Tehran is Putin’s disciple in everything” Volkov said.
Tsargrad was clearly the most prolific producer of fakes about the crash of the Ukrainian jet. One of their fake stories even declared that the plane crashed because it was actually very old. Ukrainian Airlines, because of company greed, decided to exploit the plain to the fullest, the publication claimed.
In fact the crashed airliner is quite new, just a bit over three years old. Its maiden flight took place on June 21, 2016, Ukrainian airlines had purchased the craft directly from the Boeing plant in Seattle. This particular plane was a favorite among Air Ukraine International pilots because of its modern state-of-the –art equipment. The plane was a symbol of the company’s capacity to recover from the severe crisis brought on by the war in eastern Ukraine.
According to Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council secretary Oleksiy Danylov, a group of Ukrainian investigators from 12 ministries are already in Tehran investigating the crash. The group includes investigators who took part in the international investigation of the MH17 crash.
Various versions of the crash are currently being investigated and considered:
- Contact with a missile, possibly a Russian Tor missile. Reports about fragments of this Russian missile being found near the crash site have appeared on the Internet.
- Collision with a drone or some other flying object
- Engine failure due to technical problems
- An explosion inside the aircraft as a result of a terrorist act.