The downing of flight MH17: What ordinary Russians think

Many Russians rely principally on television as their news source. Source: RIA Novosti

Many Russians rely principally on television as their news source. Source: RIA Novosti

RBTH asked Russians of various ages and backgrounds, living both in Russia and abroad, for their opinions on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 disaster, including who they thought was responsible for the crash and how the events are being reported in the media.

Mikhail, 80 – engineer, retired, Kuznetsk (Penza Region)

I’m very sorry for the innocent dead. My most heartfelt condolences to their families and friends. The perpetrators of this heinous provocation, whoever they are, should be severely punished. Not having accurate information about what happened, it's hard to say who is to blame. But those who gave the command to launch are guilty most of all. I suppose (but I’m not 100 percent sure) that it was the militia commanders. 

On the whole, the political figures are to blame in Ukraine (Yanukovych, Yatsenyuk, Turchynov, Poroshenko), in Russia and in the United States. It’s Ukraine’s fault because its politics led to a civil war. It’s Russia’s fault because it contributed to sending the Cossacks, Chechens and others to this war.

It’s the fault of the U.S. because it provokes divisions in other states. Remember Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Zbigniew Brzezinski openly argued that one of the goals of the U.S. was the collapse of the USSR - and then Russia. 

Yulia, 43 - accountant, St. Petersburg

It’s difficult for me to say, I don’t know the complete picture. I don’t watch TV, I don’t read the papers, I don’t really use the mass media – either Russian or any other. I first heard about it on the TV, when I was at my parents’ dacha, when the plane first disappeared from the radars.

My first thought was that the militias had shot it down (they are separatists, after all) through stupidity, by mistake, by virtue of their unprofessionalism. My father said that you need serious weaponry to shoot down a plane at that height.

But then Russia’s helping them out with arms, isn’t that the case?

They were my first, intuitive thoughts. After that I didn’t really follow the situation. I feel sorry for those who died... and it’s terrible to think that in peacetime you could set off on holiday, and instead this. 

Vadim, 28 - contract soldier, North Caucasus

A passenger plane flies at a height of 10 km [33,000 feet] - only the BUK has such a range, but the guys from the militias don’t have it! Plus, in their defense I can say that if they had such a facility, they’d shoot down enemy aircraft much more effectively. I see no reason for them to do this, everyone already wants to kill them. But the U.S. has a global debt, they need war! 

Vitaly, 28 – teacher, Wetzlar, Germany (originally from Moscow)

I suggest waiting for the official investigation. I’ve read and translated different articles by foreign and regional media: They show different versions of the crash, even including mystical theories. My worldview does not allow me to lash out at any side with criticism. 

Ilya, 27 - historian, Sevastopol

In the complex situation that is taking place at the moment in eastern Ukraine, discrediting the opposing side in the eyes of the global community is in the interests of both Kiev and the militias. So it’s impossible to say with 100 percent certainty that the militias are not involved, though it is unlikely they have the means to destroy a plane at the height at which the Boeing was flying. 

On the other hand, Kiev also has a motive for destroying a plane and the means to do so. It would have been of great benefit for Kiev to shoot down a plane and then accuse the militants of the south-east and Russia.

But is the leadership of Ukraine really cold-blooded enough to deliberately shoot down a passenger jet and then accuse the other side of this? I think everything’s possible, but this is unlikely. 

But as I see it, everything’s a lot more banal. It doesn’t matter whether the plane was shot down from the ground or from the air; it was probably a tragic mistake on the part of the Ukrainian Army that led to this tragedy. 

The worst of it is that all parties to the conflict and the global community are trying to speculate in favor of their own interests, accusing each other and Russia of their guilt.

Natalya, 25 – geodesist, Kaliningrad

The Boeing was shot down by those creepy guys for whom the only possible path to self-realization and success was the war, looting, and terrorism they are now engaged in on Ukrainian soil. These people only yesterday were nothing, and now they control military equipment, command forces and, given that they don’t do it for the idea, but solely for the sake of profit, they certainly might "confuse" a Dutch passenger Boeing with a Ukrainian cargo plane.

I have a feeling that neither Putin nor the European Union - no one is able to control what is happening. Accordingly, the guilty ones are those who make such a mess. Putin – because he provokes and fuels it, the U.S. and Europe – because they take no kind of action except issuing statements.

Igor, 31 - computer programmer, New York 

I think the fact that certain precautions did not take place to prevent the crash is unacceptable. And obviously everyone is responsible, especially the new Ukrainian government, which was hiding the severity of the military operation. I am sure government officials of the EU, the U.S. and Russia knew what was going on in Ukraine and could have prevented this tragedy by not allowing any air traffic in the region or possibly figuring out a compromise to avoid the war in the first place. Thus making them responsible as well. Now they are just passing the blame to one another. I guess that’s what modern politics is all about, unfortunately.

Also, as a Russian-born, when I see a newspaper saying "Russians fired the missile..." before the investigation is over [it] makes me very sad. Now it looks like we (the Russians) are being found guilty before the official investigation. We do not have this approach in courts so why is that ok in politics? I feel very sad, and afraid that people around will form a certain opinion about the Russian community here in New York because of the selected media coverage and will perceive us as warmongers.

Svetlana, 28 - bank clerk, St. Petersburg

My opinion is that the Ukrainian rebels shot it down. They wanted to shoot down a Ukrainian military plane and hit a civilian one. [My boyfriend] believes it was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers; as a person who’s served in the army he says that the rebels don’t have the equipment to shoot down a plane, it’s very difficult, you need radar equipment and training. It’s hard for me to argue with this and it’s not my field, but what use was it to the Ukrainians to shoot down a civilian plane on purpose? It’s complete nonsense.

Everybody’s already used to the fact that everybody lies. So everyone watches different versions and opinions and forms their own. I don’t believe anybody either because when you don’t know the truth it’s hard to judge what the truth is.

In the press there’s also an information war going on. It’s strange of course that this fighter jet was flying beside the passenger airplane, especially as fighter jets don’t fly at that altitude. Maybe the Ukrainian forces specially tried to make sure the militias hit a peaceful plane.

Basically it’s all weird and creepy and I only hope that they shot the plane down by accident after all, otherwise if they are already killing innocent people then it’s already the last step.

Sofia, 28 - scientific researcher, Marburg, Germany (originally from Moscow)

As I watch both German and Russian news, it's hard for me to say what I feel, I think the truth about this disaster is difficult to know. What’s happened, of course, is horrible, but I don't think it was planned and this airplane was the target; at least I want to believe this.

In Germany, I feel, they’re sure it’s the fault of Moscow and Putin, and that he’s able to give instructions to the militias to stop fighting... and I suffer for the dead people, it is terrible to imagine what they and their families had to go through.


Read more: ‘A new Bermuda Triangle’ – Russians react to the MH17 crash on social media>>>

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