Accusations tech not interesting anymore

Investigation on the catastrophe of flight MH17 still drags on, almost 4 years after the event happened


LAST week, Russia was supposed to receive a blow from Netherlands, where investigation of the catastrophe of flight MH17 is still dragging on, almost four years after the event happened.

“The missile that hit the liner has come from the 53rd anti-aircraft defence brigade, stationed near Kursk which is not far from Ukrainian borders. We have hard facts to prove it”: That was the gist of the news conference of the Dutch investigators.

You can imagine my feelings: My country has secretly sent a missile platform across the border, which has destroyed, even if by mistake, a Malaysian plane? And it has been hiding it for almost four years? So, I watched intently the Russian and global reaction to these recent revelations. The reaction was lukewarm. The mentioned announcement came in on the eve of the prestigious St Petersburg Economic Forum in the north of Russia. Surely you’d expect a ruined forum after such news, with foreign guests making solemn statements, not to mention the media frenzy.

But what we saw was Russia’s President Vladimir Putin flanked by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron; Japanese colleague President Shinzo Abe; Chinese Vice-Chairman Wang Qishan; and the rest of dignitaries discussing animatedly the sorry state of global affairs. “You know we, the EU (European Union), are dependent on the US for our security”, remarked Macron. “Well, that security we can provide to you”, immediately responded by Putin.

The forum has also brought Russia contracts totalling almost US$40 billion (RM159.36 billion), with other future economic ideas discussed.

“Was it really a Russian missile that did it?” a journalists asked Putin at one of the numerous press conferences there. “Of course it wasn’t,” he responded mildly, adding that there are many other versions of the tragedy, but nobody pays any attention to them. “Nobody” meant the Netherlands commission, of course. And that was that.

I especially tried to gauge the public’s opinion on that matter, participating in a couple of debates. My impression is: All these regular accusations against Russia are not interesting to most people anymore, in Russia itself and — with some exceptions — outside of it. People are simply tired of these rumours that inevitably may blow up afterwards.

But wait, the Dutch investigators said they had “hard facts”. One of these proved to be not so hard, and rather stale. There were amateur videos allegedly made by numerous Russians and Ukrainians of a huge missile platform creeping across the border, and then going back sans an incriminating missile.

The problem is, it has already been known for quite a while that these videos have been fished out from the Internet by a private British investigation group. That’s hardly professional and may hardly pass for evidence.

Besides, there are certain flowers in bloom that were visible in these videos. But the tree blooming is highly seasonal in our parts of the world. These particular flowers should not appear in the middle of July.

And, finally, there was the main prize — a charred engine of a BUK missile on the desk at a press conference in Netherlands. It was proudly bearing a unique serial number, 9D1318869032. Surely, that was the hardest possible evidence you could imagine.

Congratulations, said the Russian Ministry of Defence, with a tired sigh. “You’ve just proven that the Malaysian liner had been shot down by Ukrainians. That number says the missile has been produced in 1986, with life duration of 25 years at best.”

There was not a single 1986 missile of that kind in the Russian army long before the obligatory 2011. To note, scrapping a missile is a precise procedure with a long paper trail and many witnesses.

While that wasn’t so with the Ukrainian army, which still keeps these old BUKs from the Soviet era, expiration date be damned. The investigators will say that was a wrong missile on the desk, next time?

Nobody in Moscow was expecting the Netherlands commission would blush at that. After all, Moscow has provided the commission with original radar readings (that cannot be erased or altered) of the Russian part of the air zone in question, but the investigators did not accept it. While Ukraine has declared that all its radars have been mysteriously switched off exactly on the day of the catastrophe.

It’s only technology, I said about such cases in a Moscow TV show. You accuse, and you do not produce facts, and then you accuse again to raise the news media waves. But technologies get obsolete very fast nowadays, look at all these smartphones you use, you are told to get a new generation model on the day you purchase your current one.

So, they’ll have to upgrade their accusations technology soon, if they want people to be interested in such cases again.

Dmitry Kosyrev is an author of 8 novels and a book of short stories as well as a columnist for 2 Moscow publications. Orientalist by education (Moscow University), he has a special love for Malaysia.