Response to Russian Federation on Crash of MH17 in Ukraine

As delivered by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
July 24, 2014

I just wanted to respond to a couple of points raised by our distinguished Russian colleague.

First, he said, “We will not engage in our own accusations or assessments.” So far, the state-controlled media organs of the Russian Federation have not only engaged in one assessment, they have engaged in a series of assessments — each one more preposterous than the last — in a desperate effort to cover up the truth.

First the story was that the Ukrainians had shot down the plane, because they had confused it for President Putin’s plane. When that was deemed implausible, there was the story put out by Russian media that the passengers were all dead when the plane took off. (What kind of sick minds are behind this Russian propaganda, I have no idea.)

And then there was the story that this was in fact not Malaysian flight 17, this was Malaysian flight 370, the one that disappeared several months ago – a story that disgustingly played with the tormented fears of families from that plane.  It was said that that the flight had actually gone to Diego Garcia, and had been waiting there, the blood was drained out of the bodies of the people on the plane, and then they were refilled and took off from Amsterdam with a live pilot who parachuted out.

Then there was the suggestion that it was shot down by a Ukrainian SU-25, a ground attack airplane whose Russian manufacturer says on its website that it can only go up to 5000 meters’ altitude. Having realized the folly of this latest accusation, which came from Russian government sources, someone in Russia altered the SU-25’s Wikipedia page to double its maximum altitude.

If this weren’t about the death of nearly 300 people, it would be tragic comedy; instead, it is just cynical, sick manipulation.

Second, I will not sit here and listen to the self-righteous and sanctimonious statements by the Russian Federation that somehow they are uniquely committed to an international investigation. Their proxies, the Russian-supported fighters, were literally walking over the remains of the crash. When the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission showed up on the scene, they found a drunken horde. It took four days for President Putin to come out and make a statement about an international investigation. He then spent the afternoon touring sites for the World Cup, in callous disregard for the people who had died. The Russian Federation says it is against tampering with the crash site — so are the rest of us, but it is not our proxies who are responsible for the tampering.

Finally, as a point of fact, which the Chairmanship will be able to corroborate (as will many of our colleagues, including the Ambassador of the European Union, the Ambassador of the Netherlands, the Ambassador of Canada, and our distinguished Russian colleague’s own boss, the Russian Ambassador), that on Friday morning, when I spoke with the Russian Ambassador, I said we should have a declaration that includes a call for ICAO to be involved — an international investigation. So the assertion that somehow the Americans are getting in the way of an international investigation, blocking ICAO, is ridiculous — it was, in fact, we who suggested including ICAO in the OSCE Declaration—it was our idea.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.