It has been two weeks since Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, and the Russian media continue to paint a picture of the horrific crash almost completely at odds with that of their Western counterparts. Rejecting any theory that lays responsibility at the feet of eastern Ukrainian separatists and their Russian sponsors, Kremlin-controlled outlets have instead opted to push stories disputing any and all evidence pointing to such a conclusion, all the while portraying Kiev and Washington as working nefariously together to damage Russia’s international standing.
True, some of the more farcical conspiracy theories — MH 17 was actually the vanished MH 370, the plane was full of corpses before it was shot down, it was all the work of the CIA — are no longer reported with the same gravitas and frequency as they were in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Some reports have even been deleted from state-controlled sites. Nevertheless, most of coverage devoted to MH 17 continues to center on what is portrayed as an American–Ukrainian disinformation campaign, one intent on blaming Russia at all costs.
In the version of the report aired on television, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko is shown speaking only English in a CNN interview. This has long been a tactic employed by the Russian media to paint pro-Western or opposition leaders as American stooges or puppets. To the extent that they are ever covered by the state-controlled outlets, prominent oppositionists such as Garry Kasparov have been for the most part shown speaking English as well. In turn, Kremlin-controlled channels are careful to never show President Putin or former president Dmitri Medvedev in such a “compromising” situation.
Coverage such as Channel 1’s is par for the course. Another report published Tuesday by the Kremlin-controlled outlet Russia Today (RT) cited the “expert” commentary of former Soviet minister of civil aviation Oleg Smirnov, who contends that the investigation is being hindered not by pro-Russian separatists but by Ukrainian forces. Even though it is the separatists who currently control the crash site, it is in fact Ukraine that is deliberately delaying the investigation and destroying evidence — because they already know who shot down the plane. (Hint: In Smirnov’s telling, it wasn’t the Russian-sponsored separatists.)
This is not to say that the Russian media portray all Americans in a negative light. On the contrary, RT, Channel 1, and other state-controlled outlets and news sites have approvingly quoted director Oliver Stone, who recently took to his Facebook page to promote two articles offering “alternative” theories of the crash, saying that they “probe deeper than [America’s] propagandizing fourth estate.”
No word yet on whether Putin will mandate Stone’s Untold History of the United States as required reading for high-school students.
— Nat Brown is an associate editor of National Review Online.