Кussia’s Kremlin-controlled RT has heavily spun* previously unreleased footage of the MH17 crash site that is consistent with indications that the Malaysian airliner was mistakenly shot down by Russian-backed rebels who thought they had destroyed a Ukrainian military jet.
The 17-minute video was taken on the mobile phones of separatists themselves in the hours or minutes after the tragedy, and while News Corp Australia described it as exclusive, some excerpts appear to match film shared by at least one mainstream news outlet in early coverage of the incident.
But it adds footage in which separatist fighters who are sifting through the wreckage of the MH17 realize it is a civilian airliner rather than a Ukrainian military jet.
Selectively left out of RT’s description of the new video are comments by the pro-Moscow separatists that suggest they were sent to the crash site to locate what they believed would be a Ukrainian Air Force pilot.
Also edited from the RT story is any mention of the moment of surprise and confusion when the separatists discovered the plane was a Malaysia Airlines civilian passenger plane.
The separatist side initially boasted of having shot down a Ukrainian military jet but then adopted what is now the official Moscow line — that a Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi fighter jet brought down the MH17.
Part of RT’s headline, Was There A 2nd Plane?, appears aimed at bolstering that Russian claim.
Its sole support for the claim that a Ukrainian jet was involved is the voice of a separatist leader announcing that he has been told by headquarters that the MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi and that the separatists had shot down the Ukrainian military jet.
No wreckage of a Ukrainian military jet was discovered in the area.
There has been no corroboration of the suggestion by the Russian Defense Ministry in the days after the crash that a second plane was flying in the area “on the same path” as MH17.
Perhaps the most telling thing about RT’s selective editing is the way it dropped any reference to a Russian Buk surface-to-air missile from a statement by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop reacting to the release of the video.
Bishop said: “It is certainly consistent with the intelligence advice that we received 12 months ago, that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile.”
But RT quoted Bishop as saying, “It is certainly consistent with all that we were told, the advice that we received two months ago, that flight MH17 had been shot down by a… missile.”
RT also did not mention the images in the newly released video showing separatist fighters ransacking the luggage and personal belongings of passengers on Flight MH17 after they discovered it was a civilian plane.
But RT did quote Bishop remarking that the video was “sickening to watch.”
RT also neglected to include Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s remarks on July 17 about the new video.
Abbott told Australia’s ABC-TV that the images demonstrate that the downing was an atrocity and the separatists were “deliberately shooting out of the sky what they knew was a large aircraft.”
Abbott also said he had no doubt that the aircraft was shot down with a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile because “rebels don’t get hold of this kind of weaponry by accident. I mean, this was obviously very sophisticated weaponry.”
A Dutch-led international investigation is expected to release its official findings about the MH17 disaster in early October and released a secret draft investigative report on June 2 to representatives involved in the probe — including Russian.
That text reportedly echoes Western intelligence in concluding that pro-Russian separatists fired a Russian-supplied surface-to-air Buk missile, blowing MH17 out of the sky.
Despite the Kremlin’s insistence that Ukrainian forces were responsible for shooting down MH17, the Kremlin has said it will not support the creation of a United Nations tribunal to put on trial the suspects named in the Dutch-led investigation.
* CORRECTION: We have amended this story from a previous version to clarify that RT was embedding the footage as presented by News Corp Australia.