Germans Clear Russia in MH-17 Case

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A Malaysia Airways’ Boeing 777 like the one that crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. (Photo credit: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland)

Exclusive: For months, Western governments and media have accused Russia of supplying the anti-aircraft missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 killing 298 people. But now German intelligence has reportedly determined the missile came from a Ukrainian military base, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews

The West’s case blaming Russia for the shoot-down of a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine last July appears to be crumbling as the German foreign intelligence agency has concluded that the anti-aircraft missile battery involved came from a Ukrainian military base, according to a report by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel.

The Obama administration and other Western governments have pointed the finger of blame at Russia for supposedly supplying a sophisticated BUK missile system to ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine who then allegedly used the weapon on July 17 to shoot down what they thought was a Ukrainian military plane but turned out to be Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing all 298 people onboard.

The Russians denied providing the rebels with the weapon and the rebels denied shooting down the plane. But the tragedy gave the U.S. State Department the emotional leverage to get the European Union to impose tougher economic sanctions on Russia, touching off a trade war that has edged Europe toward a new recession.

But now the narrative has shifted. The German intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND, asserted that while it believes rebels were responsible for shooting down the plane, they supposedly did so with an anti-aircraft battery captured from a Ukrainian military base, according to Der Spiegel.

The BND also concluded that photos supplied by the Ukrainian government about the MH-17 tragedy “have been manipulated,” Der Spiegel reported. And, the BND disputed Russian government claims that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been flying close to MH-17 just before it crashed, the magazine said.

None of the BND’s evidence to support its conclusions has been made public — and I was subsequently told by a European official that the evidence was not as conclusive as the magazine article depicted.

Der Spiegel said the information given to members of a parliamentary committee on Oct. 8 included satellite images and other photography. What’s less clear, however, is how the BND could determine the precise command-and-control of the anti-aircraft missile system amid the chaotic military situation that existed in eastern Ukraine last July.

At the time, the Ukrainian army and allied militias were mounting an offensive against ethnic Russian rebels who were resisting a U.S.-backed coup regime that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February, touching off what quickly became a nasty civil war.

Spearheading Kiev’s summer offensive were pro-government militias, some of which were filled with neo-Nazi extremists and financed by Ukrainian billionaire oligarchs including Ihor Kolomoisky, who had been appointed governor of the southeastern Dnipropetrovsk Region. The ethnic Russian rebels also were a disorganized lot with poor command and control.

Rushing to Anti-Russian Judgment

Yet, the Obama administration was quick to pin the blame for the MH-17 crash on Russia and the rebels. Just three days after the crash, Secretary of State John Kerry went on all five Sunday talk shows fingering Russia and the rebels and citing evidence provided by the Ukrainian government through social media.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” David Gregory asked, “Are you bottom-lining here that Russia provided the weapon?”

Kerry: “There’s a story today confirming that, but we have not within the Administration made a determination. But it’s pretty clear when – there’s a build-up of extraordinary circumstantial evidence. I’m a former prosecutor. I’ve tried cases on circumstantial evidence; it’s powerful here.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Kerry’s Latest Reckless Rush to Judgment.”]

But some U.S. intelligence analysts offered conflicting assessments. After Kerry’s TV round-robin, the Los Angeles Times reported on a U.S. intelligence briefing given to several mainstream U.S. news outlets. The story said, “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [anti-aircraft missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mystery of a Ukrainian ‘Defector,’”]

A source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that some analysts had concluded that the rebels and Russia were likely not at fault and that it appeared Ukrainian government forces were to blame, although possibly a unit operating outside the direct command of Ukraine’s top officials.

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Russia holds Baltic drills alongside NATO Saber Strike war games

NATO’s decision to conduct dual war games next to Russian borders in the Baltic has not been left unaddressed by Russia’s Defense Ministry, which prepared a surprise training of first strike forces — marines, paratroopers and long-range bombers – right in the backyard of the NATO military maneuvers –
READ MORE http://on.rt.com/x0qllw

NYT-State Dept ‘Russians In Ukraine’ Photo A Hoax

Unverified & exposed: NYT-State Dept ‘Russians in Ukraine’ image proof collapses

RT

Pictures presented by Washington and Kiev as evidence of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, and published on Monday by the New York Times, were unverified and in fact contradicted the claims they were to support.

The US State department acknowledged the error and the New York Times back-tracked on its Monday story, which claimed “photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration … suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces”.

The proof was this particular picture with an inscription “Group photograph taken in Russia”.

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Image from instagram.com @maximdondyuk

Freelance photographer Maxim Dondyuk took the photo.

“It was taken in Slavyansk [Ukraine],” he told NYT over the phone. “Nobody asked my permission to use it.”

The picture was amongst others Kiev gave the OSCE mission to Ukraine to ‘prove’ Russian involvement in the massive unrest gripping the Donetsk region.

The State Department repeated the claims, citing ‘confirmation’ of Moscow involvement.

“We see in the photos that have been again in international media, on Twitter, publicly available is that there are individuals who visibly appear to be tied to Russia. We’ve said that publicly a countless number of times,” Jen Psaki, State Dept spokeswoman said.

The New York Times eventually published a climbdown Wednesday – ‘Scrutiny Over Photos Said to Tie Russia Units to Ukraine’, where it admitted failing to properly verify the Kiev photo dossier.

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Screenshot from nytimes.com

The NYT also cited the State Dept’s Psaki admitting “the assertion that the photograph in the American briefing materials had been taken in Russia was incorrect”. She explained the picture was only part of a draft packet that wasn’t used by Kerry at the talks.

Psaki then claimed to have other evidence connecting “the Russians and the armed militants” in eastern Ukraine but would not provide details.

LAVROV: ” Americans are not ready to admit they cannot run the show”

As the standoff in the eastern Ukraine deteriorates into violence it’s up to world powers to step in and calm things down. Despite tough talk from Washington, the US, EU, Russia and Ukraine have managed to reach a framework to peace in Geneva. But will it be enough to avert a civil war? Sophie asks the Russian Foreign minister himself — Sergey Lavrov is on Sophie&Co today.

Russia not afraid of NATO expansion

© Photo: RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he does not fear the enlargement of NATO. “We have no fear – I do not have and no one else should have this either. Yet we have to bear the realities in mind,” Putin said in a Q&A session on Thursday. He called for taking a sober view of the situation concerning the further enlargement of the alliance. “We will choke them all. What are you afraid of?” Putin said while answering a question to the expansion of NATO.

President Putin’s annual broadcast Q&A session: LIVE UPDATES

NATO’s Rasmussen pledged on Wednesday to step up patrols and boost its military presence along the alliance’s eastern border in Europe, citing Russia’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. “We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land,” Rasmussen said in Brussels.

This move has come as another sign that the alliance was tightening its grip on Eastern Europe where it is already running air-policing and surveillance missions over Poland, Romania and the Baltic trio.

NATO member states earlier released separate announcements saying they were suspending military cooperation with Russia after Crimean residents voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in a referendum, which the West considers illegitimate and Russia says is in line with the UN charter and the international law.

According to Russian experts, the suspension of military cooperation with NATO will do no harm to Russian interests or security.

Russia has vociferously opposed any further eastward expansion by NATO, particularly by former Soviet republics on its borders. Vladimir Putin said last week Moscow was open to further cooperation with NATO, but remained opposed to the organization’s presence in historic Russian territories.

Presidential race in Ukraine proceeding in absolutely unacceptable forms; if this continues, we will be unable to recognize elections – Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that the current election campaign in Ukraine has unacceptable forms, and if it continues to take place in such forms, the Russian authorities will not be able to recognize the legitimacy of Ukraine’s upcoming presidential polls. “The presidential race is proceeding in absolutely unacceptable forms. If it continues like this, we certainly will be unable to recognize the events that will follow May 25 [the Ukrainian presidential elections] as legitimate,” Putin said during his annual Q&A session on Thursday.

Compromise needs to be reached by Ukrainian political forces, not Russia, US – Putin

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