I write in response to your recent article in The New York Review of Books, Flight MH17: Will Russia Get Away With It? Thank you for engaging on this topic. I have just a few nagging questions off the back of what you have written. It would be good if you engage with some of these in your next piece for the benefit of your readers:
1. You have painted the Ukraine conflict as entirely the fault of Russia. Can you explain to your readers why you neglected to inform them of the well-documented part played by US and EU officials in instigating a coup d’etat against the elected government of Ukraine in February this year?
2. You then turn your attention to the MH17 crash. You begin by mentioning that the investigation is not due to be completed next summer, and then complain that Western leaders have not properly confronted Russia over their part. Do you believe that there is any point in an investigation, since you have, in your mind, already established guilt?
3. Can you tell your readers how you have managed to reach your conclusions ahead of the investigators of the crash who appear to have come to no conclusions as yet?
4. You mention the “growing number of unofficial investigations” that have reached the conclusion that Russia was responsible. Do you think Western leaders should rely on these unofficial reports, which may well be biased and lacking all the evidence, or do you think it best to wait for the official investigation to run its course?
5. You claim that a BUK missile system was supplied by the Russian government, but that “neither the Kremlin nor the rebels anticipated that the target on July 17 would prove to be a civilian plane.” You go on to say that this may have been because the “BUK in question may have lacked the automatic disengagement system.” However, you then acknowledge, quite rightly, that “the BUK system is complicated and requires at least a year of training to operate, which suggests that the Russian military not only handed over the BUK to the separatists but helped them with the missile launch.” So am I correct in thinking that you are asking us to believe that the BUK is so complex that the separatists needed Russian military experts to help them operate it, but that those same military experts were so inept that they didn’t realise that the system lacked a feature that would allow it to tell the difference between a military or civilian aircraft?
6. You claimed that “international investigators have until now been unable to inspect the twenty-square-kilometer crash site because of continuing fighting between rebels and Ukrainian government troops.” Would it have been worth pointing out to your readers that the reason for this is because that the Ukrainian government troops were constantly shelling the area?
7. You mentioned the flight and cockpit recorder data from the plane. Can you inform your readers why this was taken to RAF Farnborough in Britain to be analysed, but the full recordings have never been released?
8. You mentioned air control records. Could you inform your readers why Kiev confiscated the Air Traffic Control recordings, why these have never been released, and why the Western governments and media have done nothing to insist that they be released? Perhaps you could take up the case?
9. You state that most experts have concluded that a Russian-made BUK missile, which functions by exploding near the target and showering it with shrapnel, had been fired at the plane. Can you explain why the preliminary report from the Dutch Safety Board did not mention a BUK missile in their report, but instead used the highly ambiguous term “a large number of high-energy objects.” Surely had they had the hard evidence of a BUK missile bringing down the plane, as you claim exists, they would have said so, wouldn’t they?.
10. You mention apparent sightings of a BUK missile system being transported from Russia, but offer only rehashed evidence that has appeared on social media and been thoroughly discredited. But let’s give you the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that a BUK missile system did manage to make it to rebel-held territory and let’s say the expert Russian military, neglecting to check the safety mechanism on the system, did aid the rebels in bringing down the “wrong plane”. The big question here is, “Why were there no eyewitnesses.” You have obviously done a fair amount of research into BUK missiles, and so you will no doubt be aware that they tend to make rather a lot of noise, and also leave rather a long trail of smoke in the air. In this case, given the trajectory involved, the column of smoke would have been approximately 15 kilometres and would have stayed in the air for at least 10 minutes. That’s a pretty long smoke trail, wouldn’t you say? You would think that someone, or even hundreds of people, would have seen a trail that long, and that maybe someone would have caught it on camera. But so far no eye witnesses, and no pictures. Can you explain to your readers why this might be?
11. On the other hand, there have been eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen military aircraft in the vicinity, for example in this BBC film which was subsequently taken down from the internet (I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on why that might have been). Do you have any comments on whether the official investigators ought to try and interview some of these people?
12. According to your report, the Russian government has embarked on an “intense propaganda campaign pointing the finger at Kiev and its Western allies”. Whether their campaign has been intense is questionable, but let’s give you the benefit of the doubt. Since you have levelled the accusations you have at the Russian government prior to the completion of the investigation, and after the preliminary report failed to even hint at the conclusion you have reached, could you comment on what constitutes propaganda? Is it propaganda when the Russian government makes unsubstantiated claims (which by the way they haven’t as they have never explicitly blamed anyone in particular for the tragedy), but straight journalism when those in the West, such as yourself, do the same?
13. You mention the alternative theory put forward by the Russian military, that a “Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet…fired a missile into the plane.” Firstly, let me correct you. In their presentation, the Russian military categorically did not claim that an SU-25 fired a missile into the plane. All they did was to present radar evidence that at least one military plane — possibly an SU-25 — was seen to be in the vicinity. Without apportioning blame, they simply asked the question, “What was it doing there?”
14. After this presentation, the Western media and governments went noticeably quiet. However, at no point did they rebut the claims made in the Russian military presentation, and at no time did they ask Kiev for an explanation. Instead they simply ignored it. Would you have any explanations as to why those governments, who have called for a proper investigation, have failed to investigate and respond to the claims?
15. You mention “Russia’s military incursions in Ukraine, — and its increasingly provocative and bellicose actions elsewhere in the world.” I notice that you have used the word incursion rather than invasion. Was this a deliberate choice of word, since the word invasion has been used perhaps one too many times by various outlets, or was it merely a slip of the keyboard?
16. Whilst castigating Russia’s for its apparent military incursions in its next door neighbour and “elsewhere in the world” (where exactly are you thinking of?), do you think it might have been timely to remind your readers of the military incursions carried out by the US government in multiple sovereign nations around the world over the last two decades? Or do you think condemnation should only be reserved for other countries behaving in this way?
17. You mention “President Putin’s aggressive policies abroad.” Can you cite any evidence whatsoever of Mr Putin having any designs on Ukraine or Crimea before February 22nd this year, which was the day when a violent coup, supported by the US and EU, and perpetrated with the help of the far-right, ousted the democratically elected government of Ukraine?
18. Furthermore, do you think that had you mentioned the role of the US, EU and Ukrainian far-right in ousting the elected President of Ukraine, your readers might have begun to get a rather different picture of where the responsibility for all this actually lays?
19. You cite Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk approvingly. Would it have been wise at this point to inform your readers that Mr Yatsenyuk was handpicked by the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, several weeks prior to the downfall of Viktor Yanukovych? Furthermore, do you think this information might have given them a completely different perspective on how this whole crisis came about?
20. In citing Mr Yatsenyuk approvingly, I assume that you see him as a sensible politician, worthy of listening to. Would it have been worth pointing out that this same Mr Yatsenyuk, in the midst of running a country on the brink of economic disaster, has commissioned the building of a wall between Ukraine and Russia? Had you done so, do you think it would have given your readers a more or less favourable opinion of Mr Yatsenyuk’s sanity?
Well that’s it from me Amy. I look forward to hearing your reply.