Overheard phone calls.
The Kyiv Post is not a wholly disinterested journal, so...caveat lector
, and all that. But the newspaper claims that Ukraine's security service (SBU) "overheard" a phone call
between rebels indicating separatist responsibility for the downing of Malaysian airliner 17.
There are actually two relevant conversations. The first one (allegedly) features one Igor Bezler, identified as "a Russian military intelligence officer and leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic." He is (allegedly) speaking to a Russian intelligence officer named Vasili Geranin.
That call takes place half an hour after the crash. Bezler says: "We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo."
And that is pretty much it, as far as incriminating statements go. I don't know what "Group Minera" means, although it seems likely that this term refers to a unit of fighters.
A second intercepted phone conversation features two separatist militants known only by their nommes de guerre
, "Major" and "Greek."
“Major”: These are Chernukhin folks who shot down the plane. From the Chernukhin check point. Those cossacks who are based in Chernukhino.
“Greek”: Yes, Major.
"Major": The plane fell apart in the air. In the area of Petropavlovskaya mine. The first “200” (code word for dead person). We have found the first “200”. A Civilian.
“Greek”: Well, what do you have there?
“Major”: In short, it was 100 percent a passenger (civilian) aircraft.
Chernukhino is a largely Muslim city in Ukraine. I shudder to think of what Pam Geller will make of that
We've seen a lot of deceptive reporting in and about Ukraine, so I would urge caution here. It seems a little odd to me that two Russian intelligence officers would speak of this matter on an insecure phone line. (More on this below.)
But even if we take these conversations at face value, the intercepted conversations indicate that the decision to shoot down the jet was made by a small group operating in the field; afterwards, the Russians and the separatists scrambled to figure out what occurred.
Also, we don't know how "Major" (whoever he is) concluded that "Chernukhin folk" shot down the plane. Surmise? Did someone report to him?
Many commentators on television and elsewhere have presumed that the separatists could have obtained surface-to-air missiles only from the Russians. As we saw yesterday, one separatist group claimed in its Twitter feed to have "liberated" a Buk missile system from Ukrainian stores. They even posted a picture of the Buk system -- which, as far as we know, may be the very weapon which shot down the airliner.
The Twitter statements which discuss the Buk theft were later deleted. I consider that deletion to be quite telling.
Ukraine authorities are denying that that the separatists obtained one of their Buk systems. Then why did that Twitter feed read the way it did?
A pro-Russian blog called Vineyard of the Saker
-- no, I don't know what a "Saker" is -- has a few words to say about all this. Once again, please keep in mind that we are not dealing with a disinterested party.
Though most Novorussian air defense systems are man-portable, the Resistance forces did get their hands on some 9K37 Buk missile systems which are quite capable of hitting a civilian airliner at normal cruising speed and altitude.
For whatever it's worth, and without wanting to give anybody false hopes, I personally think that it is extremely unlikely that the Russians did it because they have a fully integrated, multi layered, advance air defense systems staffed only by specialists. In contrast, the Ukies have an old, decrepit, non-integrated air defense "system" staffed by underpaid, demoralized and poorly trained conscripts. And since the Kremlin likes to maintain the illusion that it does not control the Novorussians, even if there is proof that the latter are responsible for this catastrophe, this will not directly implicate Russia (which would have been the worst option).
Russia Today has backtracked
on its previous claim that Vladimir Putin flew over the area at roughly the same time. The original theory held that the shootdown was an attempt to kill Putin.
Certain Alex Jonesians are claiming that the passengers aboard the jet were non-existent individuals. I think that we may safely toss that assertion into the round file.
And yet the AJ battalions have also produced a couple of genuinely interesting arguments.
Someone connected to Prison Planet (I don't know who) has argued in a YouTube video
that the intercepted conversations referenced above -- the ones involving Major, Greek, and those two Russian officers -- were faked. Y'see, those intercepted calls first showed up in a previous
YouTube video, which you can see here
. Moreover, it is claimed that this earlier video was created a day before the shootdown
Is this possible? Is it likely?
Frankly, I cannot believe that schemers on this level would make such a foolish mistake. It is easier to presume that some sort of software glitch occurred.
Seems to me that if someone concocted evidence against the Russians before the event, the evidence would have been more damning. Seriously, what do we have? The intercepted conversation has two Russian military officers struggling to understand what may have been done by a ragtag group of rebels in the field. This is not the sort of thing likely to ignite a third World War.
But the Prison Planet video goes on to make what I consider a more interesting argument: The Ukrainian government, days earlier, released another
intercepted phone conversation between two Russian officers discussing a previous incident. After that intercepted call was publicized, why would the Russians continue to speak freely on an insecure line?
The video also claims that previous Malaysian Airlines flights making this trip had taken routes which placed the jets well south of the conflict zone. This claim deserves investigation.
And then there's the case of "Carlos."
Someone claiming to be a Spanish air traffic controller working in Kiev has stated, in his Twitter feed
, that the Ukrainian military -- not the separatists -- shot down MH17. "Carlos" also says that two Ukrainian fighter jets flew near the Malaysian airliner for several minutes before the shootdown. He then states, rather dramatically, that security guards were coming to round up all of the cell phones belonging to the air traffic controllers.
Carlos' Twitter account now seems to have disappeared
, although we do have a stream of images
connected with that account: Carlos @spainbuca. The images tell us that Carlos was something of a news junkie; they do not show any visual evidence that he was an air traffic controller working in Kiev. These images offer confirmation that the account did
once exist -- which (of course) is not the same thing as confirmation of the story itself.
(Perhaps someone who does not share my Twitter-phobia can explain what is going on here.)
Right now, the conspiracy theory I like best is the "CNN did it" scenario. Ask yourself: Cui bono?
Who benefits? Obviously, CNN gains the most. Every time an airliner goes down under mysterious circumstances, the struggling news network does really well.