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Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Plagiarizes LiveJournal Posts in MH17 Response

April 22, 2016

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

On Thursday, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) responded to Bellingcat’s follow-up response requesting specific examples of faked evidence. The MFA sent its first reply last week, which can be read in full here. In its second response, with the original document in Russian here and in English here, the MFA did provide the specific examples of fakery requested by Bellingcat; however, these examples were plagiarized from two LiveJournal blog posts from the user “albert-lex.” The first of these blog posts, “Belling the Cat,” is from October 2015, and the second, “Anti-Russian experts on NATO’s Hook,” is from March 2016.

The structure of the letter itself is reminiscent of these two blog posts, as the central claims made by the MFA are also in the blog post, including the use of the same pictures. There are numerous examples of minor and major plagiarism, but this post will outline four of the most blatant examples. The plagiarisms will be detailed in their original Russian with an English translation and explanation of the offenses.


MFA Letter:

…на первой фотографии имеется запасное колесо, на других оно отсутствует (получается, что запасное колесо то есть, то нет, то снова есть).

…the first photo shows a spare tire while the others don’t (apparently the spare tire just disappears and then pops up again).


На первом фото, например, имеется запасное колесо, а на других оно уже отсутствует. (…) Так что, получается, что «запаска» то есть, то нет, то снова есть…

The first photo, for example, shows a spare tire while the others don’t. (…) Apparently, the spare tire just disappears and then pops up again…

  • Here, the MFA clearly lifted the phrasing and evidence from the Albert-Lex blog. The MFA response author slightly changed the text, such as swapping the shortened “photo” for the official “photograph,” and removing the words “например” (for example) and “уже” (already). The parenthetical remark at the end of the sentence is a direct copy-paste from the Albert-Lex post, with the colloquial “запаска” (spare) changed to a more official “запасное колесо” (spare tire) .

MFA Letter:

В качестве доказательств – десятки фотографий из социальных сетей, на которых изображены какие-то солдаты с размытыми лицами, боевая техника с плохо читаемыми бортовыми номерами, к тому же непонятно где находящаяся.

The proof presented is dozens of photos taken from social networks showing some soldiers with blurry faces and military vehicles with poorly visible side numbers in unknown locations.


В качестве доказательств – десятки фотографий из социальных сетей, на которых изображены какие-то солдаты с размытыми лицами, боевой техники с плохо читаемыми бортовыми номерами, к тому же непонятно где находящейся.

  • The plagiarism could not be more obvious here. The only difference between the two texts is that the MFA letter used an en dash (double-hyphen turned into a longer dash in MS Word), while the Albet-Lex post only used a single hyphen.


MFA Letter:

Но даже здесь фальсификация – ведь перед нами ракета «Куб», которая, кстати, снята с вооружения и в российской армии не используется.

But even this is a falsification: what we see is a Kub missile which, by the way, has been retired and is not used by the Russian army…


Заодно британские «сыщики-любители» мимоходом перепутали ракету «Бук» с ракетой «Куб», которая, кстати, тоже давно снята с вооружения.

At the same time the British “amateur sleuths” casually mixed up a “Buk” rocket with a “Kub” rocket, which, by the way, was long ago retired as well.

  • The plagiarism here is still evident, but a bit less obvious than the previous examples. The phrase itself is fairly generic (removed from service), but the “which, by the way” interjection is a clear sign that the Albert-Lex post was the source for the MFA’s claim.


Lastly is the title used in the MFA letter regarding Bellingcat’s report analyzing the satellite images from the Russian Ministry of Defense related to MH17. The Russian title of the report is, and has always been, “Analysis of the Satellite Images Published by the Russian Ministry of Defense” («Анализ спутниковых изображений, опубликованных Министерством Обороны России»). In his analysis, Albert-Lex presented the title of the report as “Analysis of Satellite Images Published by the Russian Ministry of Defense in the International Press-Conference of 21 July 2014” («Анализ спутниковых изображений, опубликованных Минобороны России на международной пресс-конференции 21 июля 2014 г»). Bellingcat has never used this title, and a Google result for the phrase only returns a few examples–all shares of the Albert-Lex post.

In the MFA letter, they refer to the Bellingcat report as “Analysis of Satellite Images Published by the Russian Ministry of Defense in the International Press-Conference of 21 July 2014” («Анализ спутниковых изображений, опубликованных Минобороны России на международной пресс-конференции 21 июля 2014 г»). Unless the author of the MFA response somehow came up with an original phrasing that has only been used by Albert-Lex, s/he must have copy-pasted the title from the Albert-Lex LiveJournal post.

Through its response, it seems as if the Russian MFA has adopted the positions on evidence surrounding the downing of MH17 from the LiveJournal blog of “albert-lex.”

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  1. Marcel

    While it does not look too much professional to copy/paste the content of the Albert-Lex blogpost, this blogger is not just a blogger. His blog had photos which could only be made by people with access to the DSB report. The photos showing numbers of the holes have not been published anywhere else.

    • Sam

      Yep, a Russian government livejournal account or really bad Russian PR.

      Wouldn’t that be like the US government creating a press release from some random MySpace account?

      The Russians don’t even care about credibility.

  2. захар мариев

    “Данные из соцсетей, а также различные публикации из Интернета, используемые Вами, ни при каких условиях не могут рассматриваться как реальные доказательства”!

    • John Zenwirt

      захар мариев: ” Data from social networks, as well as various publications on the Internet, used by you, under any circumstances can not be regarded as real evidence.”

      Social media of all kinds, has been used in various ( libel,etc.) legal cases for years, so obviously social media may be used in judicial instances…And therefore be regarded in law as evidence.

      The Russian has never told us why, what he says, should be so…

      • stranger

        It is too easy to create a fake or mirror accounts and fill it with forged images, I believe nowdays it is not a big deal to forge a video as well. So not only pictures and videos should be considered but also their proved origins.

        • Russian

          Agreed. I suggest that we discard with any evidence, since, after all, it’s only as good as our senses, and we all know how fallible these are. If, you practice what you preach, then if, god forbid, you ever need to defend your innocence in a (for your sake, not Russian) court of law, just remember that you cannot use CC TV footage of you actually being in another part of town as well as the selfie you posted from there on facebook at the time of the crime, as evidence because it’s so easy to create a fake and forge a video as well…
          Guilty as charged (gavel strikes).

          • stranger

            Don’t play with words. I’m just saying it is as much important to understand the origin of each pictorial evidence from the Internet.

        • Sam

          Who needs images and video when you can invent the news without them.

          Like the false story of Ukrainians crucifying a young boy in front of his mother.

          No pictures, no video, just Russian lies.

          And Russians wonder why nobody believes them.

          • stranger

            Do you want me to send the link where Ukrainian pro-Maydan nationalists beaten people who came from Crimea to Kyev to Maydan calling them titushki and burned down they busses, or how the crowd went mad in Odessa and burned other people alive?

          • stranger

            In Odessa 38 people who hid in the building were burned alive when the crowd threw Molotov cocktails into the windows. That is the most known and the hardest tragedy.

          • Sam

            How many of those 38 “hid” in the building?

            How many were employed there or doing business there?

            How many were “protestors”?

            How many of the 38 were Russian citizens VS Ukrainian? Or having both citizenship?

            Still doesn’t change the fact this happened after Russia invaded Crimea.

            This would have not happened if Russia had not invaded Ukraine.

            Stranger, you keep talking effects without discussing the causes.

            Those 38 would be alive today if Russia never invaded Ukraine.

            It’s a sad loss of life as a result of Russia.

          • stranger

            Boggled, at this video you could see well prepared and equipped although not numerous small group of provokators. They clashed (whoever started first) with the procession of pro Maydan soccer fans(!) imagine what fans who came to Odessa from different regions of Ukraine may have looked like.
            But then the excited crowd came back to Kulikovo Pole where the camp of peaceful ANTI-Maydan activists was. The frightened people barricaded inside the Profsouz building. Then the crowd started throwing Molotov cocktails into the windows and put the building into the fire. There was one guy who fired into the building. Young nice looking but definitely stupid girls prepared the bottles with Molotov cocktails for them – there are such videos.
            Some people who managed to escape from the burning building were beaten sometimes to death by the crowd. But some people from the crowd helped when it was obvious that the situation is very critical, I don’t want to say all were the same.
            The clash with sport fans, probably an intentional provocation, ended up with the death of dozens of peaceful protesters.
            The right question is WHY Ukraine still has not investigated this incident, why those provokators have not been found, and who were they.
            Odessa is an obvious example that the internal civil conflict in Ukraine cannot be explained by Russian military aggression, as the official Ukraine is trying to present, just because it cannot admit and is actually helpless to resolve own internal problems, and because it wants to secure the support from the west.

          • stranger

            And the firefighters didn’t come for a very long time regardless of numerous calls. They answered – we know those are just tents burning, nothing serious. There are voice records of the calls to the firefighters. Police came only when everything was burned down and people already died.

          • stranger

            Although I have no idea who were those gang. Could be provokators, could be few anti-Maydan fighters, could be the local people trying to help police. They might have presumably prepared to meet potentially hazardous sports fans. The sports fans gathered from other areas of Ukraine for a soccer match and then planned a pro-Maydan procession in historically more inclined to Russia region. This gang looks a little bit too aggressive for innocent motives, but there were witnesses they were covered by police if not acting together. I assume unless they were provokators it would be suicidal to intentionally attack the procession of sports fans. Need to read more about that. Anyway as the result the crowd went mad, police was absolutely helpless and avoided to interfere and innocent people died.
            Did you see how many soldiers, national guards with dogs and military machines gathered this year in Odessa on the anniversary of this tragedy to prevent that from happening again? Where were they that time?

          • stranger

            Boggled, at your video from 0:25, the blue shirts, ties and service caps at the right (our side)- police was coming together with them in the first rows(!) There are many other videos proving those guys sometimes with the red bands at the sleeves were covered by police.
            What was that – provocations organized by police itself??
            Local volunteers to help strengthen police when it was known non-local sports fans would go with a parade while police was too weak??
            How would you explain the gang worked together with the police?

      • Russian

        I might be mistaken, but my initial impression of Zahar’s response was one of the irony of the Russian MFA saying that while lifting their response from an internet publication.

        But on second thought, I’m probably wrong, because why would he post it in Russian here, since most people with enough mental capacity to grasp who is lying here usually tend to have at least basic command of English.

        • з.м.

          I thought it was funny that in one letter, the MFA, first wrote about the inadmissibility of the use of materials from social networks as evidence (the quote), and immediately after that, dumb copy-paste parts of the publication kremlyad’s blogger as disclosure of “bellingcat’s cheating”.

          • John Zenwirt

            One notes Stranger’s attitude to the uses of social media; how easily it is “faked”, or “manipulated” by USA”; which is the exact equivalent of;

            “… first wrote about the inadmissibility of the use of materials from social networks…”

            That’s the MFA of course….

            The opinions are the exact same…is someone getting “cues” from the “authorities”….?

  3. Mad Dog

    Gee stranger, that is exactly the problem with the evidence the MoF and MOD present. Far too easy to detect that a lot of what they post is falsified. Pretty amateurish as well.

    • Sam

      Mad Dog,

      I got to wonder about the MoF and MOD, and also that ambassador in London.

      Add Lavrov too.

      If these are the best of the Russian propaganda machine, well, they aren’t very good.

      The only people that believe them are Russians.

      I remember reading a western Russian analyst say that he felt sorry for Lavrov. He respected Lavrov in the past.

      He said Lavrov used to be a good statesman, but now even Lavrov knows everything he says are lies.


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