The global spotlight has fallen on Russia once again as the country fields blame for the Malaysian passenger plane that was shot down over Ukraine and the 298 people killed as a result, according to Associated Press.
Russia’s response to the disaster has left world leaders wanting, but in addition to the secrecy cast around the crash site, the Russian press has been reporting vastly different stories than its Western counterparts. Below are five Russian news stories that have raised eyebrows, and how closely they correspond to Western news sources.
1. The plane was full of corpses when it left Amsterdam
The Russian news site Vesti ran a story arguing that nobody was killed in the crash because everyone on the plane had been dead the whole time, blaming the Ukrainian government for the elaborate hoax. The site quotes militia commander Igor Shooters as saying that when found, the bodies had all been dead for several days, and that the plane had a suspicious amount of medical cargo on board. The site also commented on the “amazing” state of the passports found on board, which the author described as looking brand new.
The large amount of medical cargo was not the result of a staged accident but was due to the approximately 100 HIV/AIDS doctors and specialists who were on board and headed to a conference in Malaysia, according to RawStory.
“Where Girkin believes the Ukrainian government obtained nearly 300 corpses is unclear,” wrote RawStory author David Ferguson. “Let alone how officials managed to dress the bodies and provide them with passports and travel information.”
2. The actual target of the attack was President Putin
An anonymous source told Russia Today that the attack on the civilian aircraft might have been meant for Putin’s private jet.
“The contours of the aircrafts are similar, linear dimensions are also very similar, as for the coloring, at a quite remote distance they are almost identical," the source said.
Putin’s plane often takes a route similar to the path of the Malaysian flight, the site said, and would have been a prime target for Ukrainian rebels.
There may be some credence to this theory, according to International Business Times. Writer Vasudevan Sridharan stated that “Putin's plane was in a similar flight path coinciding with the crash as he was returning from the Brics summit in Brazil.”
However it ultimately seems unlikely, Sridharan concluded. Since the turmoil in Ukraine began, Putin has avoided flying over the country. Russia Today agreed, writing that “the president does not fly over the conflict-gripped neighboring country (of Ukraine).”
3. The downed flight is actually MH370, the Malaysian flight that disappeared over the Indian Ocean
MH370 was hijacked by Americans, who flew it to the military base “Diego Garcia,” according to Russian news blog News2. Months later, the Americans loaded the plane with corpses, forged the necessary documents, and staged the crash, using the plane that was supposed to have disappeared into the ocean. “In the necessary spot, (the plane) was blown up, without even using a surface-to-air missile. Instead the plane was packed with a bomb, just like the CIA did on 9/11,” the New Republic quoted the Russian site as saying.
No other major players seem to be giving this theory any credence, based on a report from the Financial Times stating that Malaysia and Australia, two of the countries most affected by both disasters, are actively pursuing both events.
"Search efforts for MH370 continue unaffected by recent developments," read an email from the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Center. "Finding Malaysian Flight MH370 is a high priority for the Australian government, as well as Malaysia, China and other countries involved in the search efforts."
4. It was a Ukrainian-owned missile that shot down the plane
The primary reason that so much blame is falling on Russia and Putin is because the world has reached the general consensus that, even if it was fired by Ukrainians, the missile that destroyed the plane was owned and provided by Russia. Recently, Russian defense officials promoted a video showing a Ukrainian anti-aircraft system in the streets of Ukraine at the right time and place to have attacked the plane, according to Vox.
However, this video was soon discredited, primarily by ordinary Internet users, Vox continued. Those who studied the video found several discrepancies, including a billboard that didn’t match the Russian military’s description, the existence of trolley lines where none exist in the actual cited city in Ukraine, and others.
5. The flight deviated from its set path and flew lower than it was supposed to just before the crash.
The pilot of the Malaysian flight dropped his altitude based on an order from ground control, according to the Russian Life News, making it a closer target for the ground-to-air missiles. The plane was also flying mysteriously off course. “Until July 17, pilots conducted every plane over eastern Ukraine much further south,” Life News reported.
This story can be confirmed, according to CBS News. Despite the plane having flown that exact route 14 times in two weeks, Thursday saw a different path. “The Boeing 777 went farther north than typical,” according to CBS. “It's unclear why.”
While not all of the Russian news stories are exaggerated — and other countries have had their share of conspiracy theories as well, including accusing Russia of trying to start World War III and blaming the Illuminati — their stories are inaccurate enough to be worrying, according to the New Republic’s Julia Ioffe.
These widely circulating stories aren’t “an innocent you-say-tomato moment; this is a very problematic development,” wrote Ioffe. “The propaganda apparatus, much like the rebels in eastern Ukraine, has rolled on and on, fed by inertia and paranoia, reproducing and magnifying itself with each newscast.”
If Russian citizens continue receiving vastly different news than their Western counterparts, Ioffe continued, there is potential for disastrous misunderstandings in the near future. As Russia continues to refuse responsibility for the event, tensions will rise.
“Obviously, the state over whose territory it happened bears responsibility for this terrible tragedy,” Putin said, as reported by Russia Today. “This tragedy would not have happened if there was peace on this land, if military action in the southeast of Ukraine had not been resumed.”
According to an NBC report, Russians approve of Putin at record high numbers (83 percent) even as Russia’s global image is slipping.
Bethan Owen is a writer for the Deseret News Moneywise and Opinion sections. Twitter: BethanO2