Earlier this week, Fred Westerbeke, the chief Dutch investigator looking into the downing of MH17 in eastern Ukraine, offered a glimpse of the current state of their examination. (Lengthier German-language look here.) Interviewed in Der Spiegel, Westerbeke shared that, “Going by the intelligence available, it is my opinion that a shooting down by a surface to air missile remains the most likely scenario. But we are not closing our eyes to the possibility that things might have happened differently.”
While not as determined or damning as the recent reports from German intelligence accusing Russian-backed separatists, Westerbeke remains steady in his belief that those supplied and supported by the Kremlin are most likely responsible for the airliners’ crash. The investigator, however, refrains from levying an accusation due to a lack of evidence, which he says remains necessary before final judgment. He’s holding off until he’s certain. He’s waiting for the facts to be verified on his team’s end. He’s remaining the professional he needs to be.
Of course, that’s not how Russian state media termed the interview. Per the narrative stemming from Dmitry Kiselyov’s perch – and per Moscow’s “findings” – MH17 was likely shot down by a fighter in the airliner's vicinity. (With an American satellite, according to a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, “coinciden[tally]” above MH17 at the time of the crash.) Ignoring the fact that Moscow’s produced no evidence of such sort, and that the likely Sukhoi in question would have needed extra-dimensional qualities to down the airliner, Russia’s state-centric print media interpreted Westerbeke’s findings a bit differently. And – you guessed it! – the fact that Westerbeke found the surface-to-air theory the most compelling was far from being found.
RT – that last-best-refuge for the blinkered and the conspiratorial – found a means of framing that added to the Kremlin’s narrative. Instead of sharing the fact that Westerbeke once more noted that a surface-to-air missile seemed the most likely reason for MH17’s demise, the Kremlin-backed media organ found another meaning to his words:
For reasons that should be obvious, RT decided to wait until the fifth paragraph to share the fact that Westerbeke saw a SAM as the most likely reason MH17 crashed. (Wouldn’t want to place that information in the fourth graf and ruin the narrative.) Is this wrong? Nope – technically, linguistically, we remain in fine territory. Is it misplacing the story’s news value entirely? Woof.
RIA, to its credit, at least couched its headline in somewhat less corroded terms:
Framing the interview to focus on the lack of evidence, RIA opted for a slightly more tasteful tact. But where the state-backed outlet managed to stand a bit less misleading, it also managed to bury the fact that Westerbeke – to hammer home the point – believes the pro-Russian separatists the most likely culprits in downing MH17.
Yes, he’s waiting for further evidence to roll in. Yes, he’s holding back on final ascertainment. But Westerbeke’s latest interview adds one more nail into a sovietskii coffin.
And the world – and Kremlin-backed media – spins madly on, same as it ever has.