Blaming Russia for MH17 Shoot-Down: A Bum Rap?

Veteran journalist and specialist on Russia, John Helmer, reports that the trial in the Netherlands of three Russians and one Ukrainian accused in the July 17, 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, killing 298, has called into serious question evidence of Russian involvement.

Sad to say, the evidence the U.S. earlier claimed to have on the shoot-down apparently fits snugly into the category of "nonexistent intelligence" – the adjective actually used in a bipartisan study by the Senate Intelligence Committee to describe prewar intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

There are serious problems as well with the attempts by Ukraine to provide their own "intelligence" as a substitute for the here-you-see-it-here-you-don’t evidence from the US (Yes, although a prime suspect in this case, Ukraine was allowed to be one of the investigating countries.)

Recall that three days after the shoot-down, then-Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC’s David Gregory:

We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.

And yet, Washington has consistently resisted appeals from several quarters to make that evidence public. This strongly suggests that Kerry’s claims were as bogus as his repeated assurances ten months earlier that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered a chemical attack outside Damascus in August 2013. (Turns out that was a false-flag attack mounted by Western-supported rebels.) False flag; Hmm.

Where’s the Beef?

In July 2014, the part of Ukraine, near the Russian border, over which MH17 was shot down was almost certainly saturated with all manner of highly sophisticated US technical collection means – including, but not limited to imagery. It seems a safe bet that Washington knows exactly what happened. Besides, releasing this kind of data can be done with minimal risk to sources and methods. So, where’s the beef?

The most likely reason to hide the results of such collection would be to avoid admitting that the results of the actual collection do not square with what Kerry claimed repeatedly, starting right after the shoot-down. It is important to recall that it was only after Kerry et al. blamed Russia for the shoot-down that the Europeans were finally strong-armed into imposing serious economic sanctions on Russia "in retaliation".

According to Helmer, Dutch intelligence has concluded that "the US has been lying about what the satellite records show and has reason to believe that they do not exist at all". US imagery has not been provided to the Dutch military intelligence agency MIVD, which has requested them, nor to the Dutch police and prosecutors who have been trying to prove premeditated murder in the shoot-down.

As is his custom, Helmer includes a wealth of highly relevant detail in yesterday’s report. Summing up, he writes that the Dutch trial judge has now revealed a "US Intelligence switch – from [citing] satellite images which don’t exist in Washington, to tapes and videos fabricated in Kiev".

It remains to be seen whether the Dutch court will behave in as U.S.-vassal-like a manner as British courts are behaving in the case of Julian Assange. But now we know that Dutch intelligence, at least, has decried the absence of the evidence Kerry claimed to have just three days after MH17 was shot down.


Award-winning investigative journalist Robert Parry followed this case closely until his untimely death in January 2018. Five years ago, in The Ever-Curiouser MH17 Case, Parry wrote: "The shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine has served as a potent propaganda club against Russia, but the US government is hiding key evidence that could solve the mystery." That article is among several written by Parry, based largely on his own painstaking detective work, to provide serious analysis and important context for this curious but highly significant case.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Author: Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. In the Sixties he served as an infantry/intelligence officer and then became a CIA analyst for the next 27 years. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).