Letter to the Editor of The Washington Post by Mr. Dmitry Polyanskiy, First Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN
Dear Mr. Baron,
I have to address you with regard to the article entitled “A dispatch from the fight against Russian disinformation – and a place where truth is winning” by Mr. Philip Bump, published in “The Washington Post” on 25 July 2018, which mentions me personally in the context of a very sensible topic for us – investigation of 2014 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash in Ukraine.
I would like to stress that I am writing this letter in my personal capacity and I am not directly involved in relevant investigative efforts on our side. But even the information that is available in open sources which could be traced by any researcher allows me to make the conclusions that I make.
I would not conceal that I was very much disappointed by this publication which clearly does not meet the standards of an unbiased journalist report. Its main message is to illustrate alleged “Russian efforts to undercut findings” of “independent investigators” and “propaganda efforts of Russian government” in general. Needless to say that the article proceeds from the assumption that Russia was behind the downing of MH17 and all our efforts are aimed just at covering up the culprits.
I completely disagree with such a narrative and want to clarify several key points in this regard.
Since the very beginning Russia was and continues to be genuinely interested in discovering the truth about this tragic event. We supported all the efforts to conduct full and transparent investigation, we exercised our influence on Donbass rebels who, despite very difficult combat situation caused by the Ukrainian authorities’ obsession to punish their own citizens by military force for their desire to preserve their language and culture, provided unhindered and full access to the crash site. All those who wanted to visit it had the opportunity to do so. Every material evidence was also gathered and transported to the Netherlands for the needs of investigation.
We from our side provided a lot of information and material to the investigation team, in particular primary radar data. Upon its request Russia disclosed classified information on Buk missiles 9M38 and 9M38M1. Our producer of this ammunition “Almaz-Antey” also modeled the incident and widely shared technical data and the conclusions of this simulation. The Dutch side is also aware of a lot of witness accounts of people living in this area. We expressed and continue to express our readiness to join the group of investigators.
Nevertheless, the Dutch investigators since the very beginning showed particular distrust to our findings and contribution. Russian experts were excluded from their work. Much of the data that we provided was ignored and disregarded in the reports. The trend was very clear – to ignore everything that exposed Ukrainian responsibility for the downing of MH17 and to encourage every claim, be it undocumented or even absurd, that Russia or “Russian-backed rebels” were behind it. It is enough to indicate that the investigators do not press the US to provide satellite data from the day and the site of the crush (Americans publicly confirmed that they possess such data, but it is “classified”) and accept the refusal of Ukraine to provide primary radar data under laughable pretext. Refusal of Ukrainian authorities to close the airspace over the Eastern part of the country at the day of the crash despite ongoing military operation of Ukrainian forces there which is hard to explain by any logic is also disregarded.
In the absence of any trustworthy proofs that “Russians did it” the Dutch investigators started to rely more and more on social media and on the findings of investigator groups like Bellingcat which is in the center of the article. To us the whole idea to use social media accounts as a proof in any investigation is extremely bizarre and doubtful. In our days it is not a problem any more to fake any video or photo with easily available software. We also have a lot of reasons not to trust particularly Bellingcat which was repeatedly caught red-handed by Internet users by voicing anti-Russian or anti-Syrian allegations based on fakes. And these fakes are largely exposed in the Web. Internet users have a lot of questions about Bellingcat financing, important American and Western funds that traditionally support anti-Russian campaigns are said to be the main sponsors of these “investigators”, which casts obvious doubt on their impartiality.
Besides, there are a lot of other Internet social-media investigators on the Web who claim things opposite to the “findings” of Bellingcat that clearly indicate that Ukraine is behind the downing of MH17. Why are they ignored while Bellingcat accounts are praised and unquestioned?
I personally tried to engage with Bellingcat through my Twitter account @dpol_un. But the moment I doubted their impartiality and illustrated (upon their request) that they produce fakes I faced a vicious verbal attack from them, including their founder Elliot Higgins who, as was claimed in the article “earned international attention for his exhaustive – and accurate – analysis...”. First of all, they said that I do not exist and called me “Kremlin bot” – a usual tactics for those who disrespect the opinion of the others on the Web.
I have to say that this “journalist hero” of yours disappointed me most of all sending personal insults through Twitter. I enclose some of the snapshots for your reference. After the bellingcats, their trolls and bots continued to insult me, I had to blacklist some of them, including Higgins. Of course, no apologies followed up to today which is very illustrative of quality of their “work”.
How can “responsible investigators” behave like this? There are hundreds of Internet users who already exposed their lies and all the bellingcats do is attack and bully these users. They just do not have other arguments besides insults and pathetic lies. I believe that the fact that you praise their efforts and close the eyes on all the numerous substantiated claims that they produce fakes is not becoming to the reputation of your distinguished paper. Nor it gives any credit to the Dutch investigators.
But let’s put aside the bellingcats, let their conscience judge them, they obviously do not deserve so much attention. What worries me most of all is that after four years of the MH17 tragic accident we are still very far from establishing the truth. Unfortunately, the recent push of the Joint Investigation Team to hold Russia responsible on the basis of bellingcats’ findings, inconclusive and missing data from Ukraine and US and with total disregard of our data and documents is another step in this totally wrong direction.
And the attempts to exploit the feelings of the relatives of the victims, mobilize them in support of these unsubstantiated claims are absolutely immoral.
My country remains ready to join international investigative efforts to find the truth about MH17 crash. We are also consistently supporting the efforts to find those responsible of this crime and bring them to justice. Russia must be part of the investigation team and not its object – nobody has cancelled the presumption
of innocence principle. What we do not accept are ultimatums and fakes.
Given the fact that my name was quoted in the abovementioned article in a very dubious context I respectfully ask you to publish my letter in your newspaper. I will also make it open and publish it on the website of our Permanent Mission.
First Deputy Permanent Representative