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Sputnik’s MH17 Reporting Spins Out of Control

July 24, 2015

By Eliot Higgins

In the long months between the shooting down of Flight MH17 in Ukraine and the publication the Dutch Safety Board report and completion of the criminal investigation various conspiracy theories have been put forward to explain why the reports are taking so long, and how the reports will be inevitable cover ups. Recently Fred Westerbeke, the chief investigator with the Dutch National Prosecutors’ Office investigating the downing of Flight MH17, had to reiterate that the disclosure agreement signed by participants in the investigation, which required all participants to agree on what was published, was only for the duration of the investigation, and was not a way for Ukraine or other countries involved to cover up the true culprit in the crime, as some conspiracy theories had suggested.

This week Sputnik news has published multiple articles on what has been presented as another attempt to cover up the results of the MH17 Dutch Safety Board investigation. Their July 19th article “Ground for Manipulation? MH17 Crash Investigation Results to be Classified” begins with this ominous passage:

The results of the official international investigation into the MH17 Malaysia Airlines plane crash will be classified, the Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister for European Integration, Olena Zerkal, said at a briefing on Tuesday.

This is based on statements made by Olena Zerkal about the August 10th meeting where the Dutch Safety Board report will be discussed at a closed door meeting:

The Netherlands will present a report on an investigation into the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) crash in eastern Ukraine at an August 10 closed session of an international task force investigating the crash but will not publish it for the time being, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal said.

“The task force is supposed to meet on August 10 in keeping with Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation. They [the Netherlands] will present this report at the working meeting,” Zerkal told Interfax on Tuesday.

The report will only be discussed at this meeting and will not be published because the meeting will be held behind closed doors, she said.

This is not unexpected, as it’s part of the process of the publication of the report, first beginning with the draft report beinghanded to representatives of Australia, Malaysia, Ukraine, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands on June 2nd, who were invited to make comment on the report. The expected release date of the report after all the correct publication procedures are followed is October 2015, and nothing in Olena Zerkal’s statement suggests otherwise.

Dutch Safety Board spokeswoman Sara Vernooij confirmed the October release date in response to a question about Olena Zerkal’s statement:

Reports which say that a final report on the Malaysian Boeing crash in Ukraine will be published on August 10, 2015, are not true, Dutch Safety Board spokeswoman Sara Vernooij has said.

“No, we are still working,” she told Interfax, replying to the relevant question.

“We are going to publish the report in October,” Vernooij added.

Undeterred by such statements, Sputnik continued to push the claim Ukraine was blocking publication of the Dutch Safety Board report, first with their interview with Consortium News’ Robert Parry, in an interview titled “Kiev Acts to Classify MH17 Probe Report Points to Continuing US Cover-Up“. It stated Parry had told Sputnik:

Ukraine’s decision to classify the new report on the MH17 airliner crash a year ago strongly suggests that it exonerates Russia and embarrasses Ukraine and the United States.

Thus reiterating the claim Ukraine was responsible for classifying the Dutch Safety Board report. Sputnik followed this with a further report, “Classifying Results of MH17 Crash Probe Unacceptable for Victims – Lawyer“, which states:

Earlier in the week, the Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister for European Integration Olena Zerkal claimed that the results of the official MH17 international investigation would not be available publicly.

And then quotes John Beer, a lawyer for some of the families of MH17 victims, as saying:

I think it would be unacceptable if our clients would not be informed about the full results of the investigation.

This is followed by another Sputnik article, “Results of MH17 Crash Investigation Must Be Disclosed – Russia’s EU Envoy“, which again opens with:

Earlier this week, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister for European Integration Olena Zerkal claimed that the results of the official MH17 international investigation would not be made publicly available.

Most of the rest of the article is dedicated to other matters not directly related to MH17, and the opening paragraphs seem only to exist to reiterate the claims made in earlier reports, with even Russia’s permanent representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov stating “I don’t think this statement reflects the real situation”, probably unaware of how it had been taken out of context by Sputnik in its reporting. It seems Sputnik couldn’t resist using the quote repeatedly to prop up the conspiracy theory that Ukraine is blocking the publication of the Dutch Safety Board, despite the clear statement from Dutch Safety Board spokeswoman Sara Vernooij that the report would be published in October.


Eliot Higgins

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog. Eliot focuses on the weapons used in the conflict in Syria, and open source investigation tools and techniques.

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  1. luc

    Are you seriously asking the world to trust the CIA when half there own population do not ? my million Iraq civilian lives number is for the 12 years of war Iraq has had as a direct result of Australia,america,England’s illegal war they started in 2003 these governments told everyone the wars over troops are coming home BUT not all troops left and there has been a permanent deployment there and talk of war crimes tribunal or court yes i think the leaders of Australia,america,England should all face a trial )) and in Ukraine yes i think both sides Russian and kiev should face war crimes trail too. both sides have shelled civilians but like most other war crimes that have happened in our world nobody gets made accountable as for all the Ukraine lives lost over last 16 months its a real tragedy )) in my ideal world i would like to see all the politicians,leaders,kings,queens who all start these wars fight them ….As for MH17 one of the things that really bothers me is the so called fair and independent investigation has UKRAINE who are one of the suspects in the crime as part of this investigation how the international community allow that to happen is crazy,,,for example in america a white policeman shoots dead an unarmed african American,,,now theres an investigation into this shooting ,do police let the suspect be part of the investigation ?? the answer is NO WAY because the public an media would be WTF is going on here )) the dutch,Australia governments expect the international community to believe that there investigation will not be corrupted by allowing Ukraine to be part of it and WHY ARE WESTERN MEDIA OR ANY MEDIA NOT ASKING THEM THAT QUESTION ?? and the fact that you call a different opinion like mine propaganda shows you are not interested in any other view of events and you call yourself a journalist,,its a shame in our world we do not have media that look at events from both sides

    • boggled

      luc, the number of deaths is less then 500k.
      Many of those are attributed to homicide bombings where the perp blows himself up in the process.
      It also includes the Iraq’s own government fighting alongside Americans to squash various terrorists groups inside Iraq from coming to attack.
      It also include about 40 percent non violent deaths, that would have happened anyways inside of Saddam’s Iraq from various things like heart attacks, poor drinking water, bad hospitals, poor electricity infrastructure.
      In fact America and Coalition forces have spent a lot of there own hard earned money rebuilding Iraq to improve hospitals, water quality and electricity supply in the country.
      Iraqis had a high mortality rate in Iraq during Saddam’s rule, and that was not from the Iran Iraq war alone.
      You would probably say ISIL would not have formed and been active if the Coalition forces did not bring the war to Saddam.
      To that I say BS, and that is not the USA’s fault, it is the internal problem of Islamic infighting.
      The amount of deaths that were caused DIRECTLY to military forces of the coalition attacking terrorists hiding out in schools and other things where civilians are present makes civilian deaths a higher number then what they should be.
      But it is nowhere near a million.
      And the number of civilians that had no involvement in terrorism or shielding terrorists is less then 10k.
      And believe me, to me that number is still to high.
      And yes, more investigation should be done into various forces fighting there.
      But you make it out to be like those there had nothing to do with terrorism and all deaths in Iraq are a result of Western forces.
      They put the violent deaths during Saddam’s reign numbers of millions.
      3 decades and 1.5 to 2 million dead.
      That does not include regular deaths from Heart attacks, or infant mortality.
      And only 500k of that is attributable to the Iran Iraq war.
      Did you know Iraq’s own ministry of health did a complete study?
      And during those years put the violent deaths inside Iraq around 87k for that time?
      Now, I wonder how many of those were terrorists killed and how many were civilians?
      I ask you, seriously, Do you think you can add up all deaths in Iraq in that time and can attribute them ALL to Western involvement?

      The reason Ukraine is involved with the investigation is they had a plane destroyed in their country.
      The reason Russian is not involved in the investigation is it was not its plane, it did not lose any citizens on the plane, and it was not in its territory.
      So yes, Ukraine is involved in the investigation, but being a suspect, they are not completely involved in it.
      Even if the USA had provided a full satellite video tracking the BUK and it firing, Ukraine would have access, but not total involvement.

      You state – in america a white policeman shoots dead an unarmed african American,,,now theres an investigation into this shooting ,do police let the suspect be part of the investigation ?
      Nope, that suspect would not be.
      However, the attorney for the defender would have access to much of the investigation so he can prepare his defense both at the Grand Jury trial and after.
      He would not know day to day event of the investigation, but he would have access to aspects of it before the court case once an arrest was made.
      However the POLICE themselves would be involved and knowledgeable to the investigation by IA, but not the exact investigation.
      If there was reason the Federal government or State Government felt there was something fishy going n in IA, they would step in.

      The global investigators feels there is nothing nothing wrong with Ukraine playing a supporting role and having access to information that no one else will until the reports are let out in the name of their fighting a war and you do not want operatives names and families losing their lives in Eastern Ukraine for making various reports to the investigating bodies.

      UA has full rights to be involved in parts of the investigation and for its national security of its citizens it has rights to parts of the investigation.
      Believe me, if they had a wiff of evidence of UA being involved, they would be asked to remove themselves from the investigation completely and told to begin their defense in the courts., and that would be made public knowledge.
      And UA would be denied international aid that it has been getting.
      Why would the West fund a country going bankrupt, if they had just a smidgen of evidence that Ukraine intentionally murdered hundreds of civilians.
      Do you know the political fallout from that?
      Do you honestly think with everyone involved they could cover it up and no word of it get out?
      The investigating bodies have more integrity then you, terrorists, and Kremlin sponsored media do, and have been accepted by all, including Russia to do there job.

      Fare thee well

      • Mad Dog

        You took the words right out of my mouth Boggled. That 1 million number is just unbelievable for various reasons. The US lost less than 600, 000 dead in WWII, a full blown war in two different theatres against three enemies for a while. Full intensive combat did not produce 1 million deaths, but so many people wish to believe that many died as a result of US action. Gimme a break! Allied forces were probably even more concerned about collateral damage than ever before and they had the means to reduce those numbers. Even Fallujah was given time for women and children to evacuate, and even after that the place was hit where the bad guys put up resistance. The city still stands and was not obliterated like in some places in Europe during WWII. As you mentioned, Saddam was responsible for far more deaths, especially amongst the Kurdish and Shiite populations, and not just from the nefarious torture regimes that were all over the country. Sorry, but those unfounded statements make me want to puke. Saddam was a thug of the most horrible type and his minions just wanted to have their perks back so they could run rampant over the country again…no patriotism involved.

        • boggled

          It is a shame, there is immoral ‘conspiracy theorists’ peddling this junk then the ‘I want to believe the West is Evil’ crowd buys into it without looking deeper and doing their own fact checking and get called out on it.
          It may have even been started and perpetuated by Hamas and other like minded terrorists ‘journalists’.
          They are trying to get funds, increase support base of the gullible, and form their own little groups to fight the ‘unbelievers’.
          It really is a sick game, don’t get me wrong I am for freedom of the press’ but when you do spread despicable lies like this, I think some repercussions should happen.
          The hard thing is these groups are using Democracy to fight democracy and want the USA and others to evolve to a more totalitarian nations so they can say, look we proved it.
          Human nature is to try to take care of people that are in dire straits, but honestly, I think all nations that peddle this garbage should be isolated and trade embargoes issued, it is a continuing global war on this idiotic stuff.
          That should be a main way to fight this war.
          Not saying military doesn’t have an effect, but it seems like we continually are squashing cockroaches instead of getting to route case which is the ideology and those that peddle the lies.

          Fare thee well

  2. TTB

    I think someone somewhere has managed to convince themselves that something bigge than an in-camera meeting is happening on August 10th. My newsfeed is full of stories from RT, Sputnik, consortium etc about publication, Ukraines supposed veto etc … and apparently the misfortunate pilots body and the autopsy on same is the key piece of evidence now being ‘witheld’ so the world will never be told he was killed by machine gun fire from an Su25 …yes the Su25 story is back on the hob -like the Battle of Britain wasn’t 75 years ago.


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