Russian media forge more papers to blame Ukraine of downing MH17, make bad grammar mistakes

Major Russian MH17 conspiracies in one image. Photo: Twitter  


In a botched propaganda stunt, Russian media once again presented forged documents on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in the war-torn Donbas in 2014. This time, the Russian outlets published fake “top secret” 2014 reports by the SBU (the Security Service of Ukraine). The documents, written in Ukrainian with bad spelling mistakes, mention the Ukrainian Air Force as responsible for shooting down the Malaysian Boeing.  

More fake documents

On 22 May, the Russian online newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno (“Top Secret”) published its analysis of allegedly top secret documents of Ukraine’s Special Service. The authors didn’t disclose the origin of the documents, the analysis doesn’t include any verification of the format, contents, facts. The newspaper calls the published papers “documents of the Security Service of Ukraine on the conduct of a special operation to destroy the evidence of mass murder in the sky over the Donbas on July 17, 2014.”

Read also: Russia fakes MH17 crash site satellite images, says SBU

The translated version of the story was published in several languages and, finally, the Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik posted an article “Could Ukraine Have Destroyed Evidence of Its Responsibility for MH17 Crash?” based on the Sovershenno Sekretno story and on comments by a “Russian political analyst” – Russian propaganda outlets love using “experts” to make anything sound more plausible. The article supports the conspiracy theory of Sovershenno Sekretno but just mentions the documents not showing them. Sputnik alleges that the documents “prove that Ukrainian security services hid and destroyed evidence of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in 2014.”

On 6 June, the official Twitter account of the Russian Embassy to Canada has published one of “photocopies” and promoted the English version of the article by Sovershenno Sekretno with a comment, “Leaked #Ukraine Security Service documents indicate that Kiev tried to destroy evidence of the #MH17”:

The Twitter user @GlasnostGone noticed that in their tweet the embassy tagged two foreign Russian propagandists who work in the Donbas:

The latest Disinformation Review newsletter reveals signs of a state-sponsored active measure in the whole process of planting this story:

This “scoop” was first presented in a small pro-Kremlin paper, then, after being translated into English, travelled to hundreds of websites prone to conspiracy theories, pro-Kremlin narratives and anti-establishment stories. In the course of 3 days, the article was translated into 24 languages before it landed on the main pro-Kremlin outlet Sputnik, presented as a question rather than a statement.

“They look like documents, why are they fake?”

There is no need for a deep analysis of the document formats because there is one major problem with all documents faked by the Russian special services. They can use real stamps, signatures, headers, and footers of the documents, but they cannot properly speak Ukrainian. Their grammar mistakes usually look funny for Ukrainian natives, because they often translate the texts word-by-word from Russian and cannot select a proper synonym or replace a Russian grammar construction with its Ukrainian match.

Moreover, the authors of such documents sometimes mention Russian realia forgetting that they are faking Ukrainian documents.

Here are the documents published by Sovershenno Sekretno:

And this is what’s wrong with them, let’s take a look at just several mistakes in the first document:

Original “Ukrainian” text Translation What’s wrong
Document #1
зламання державного устрою України breakening of Ukraine’s state government There is no such word as зламання in Ukrainian
співробітничають are co-operating There is a word співробітник “colleague” in Ukrainian, literally “co-worker,” but there is no verb derivating from this word in Ukrainian, unlike Russian
проводе бесіди…, на яких вказує, що являється… he conducts talks on which points out that he is 1. There is no such grammar form as проводе in Ukrainian, it must be проводить.
2. Вказувати means first of all “point with a finger or something,” зазначає must be here.
3. The word являтися “appear, emerge” cannot be used in the meaning ‘to be’ in Ukrainian, it is a typical Russian usage
його можливу причетність до національних спецслужб his possible affiliation with national special services The authors forgot that national services are Ukrainian in this document, they mean foreign ones.
використатись be used There is no such word in Ukrainian, we use “бути використана” in such context, but it is a direct calque from the Russian word ‘использоваться’

Other three documents are just the same. In the second paper, the word дані “data” is spelled with double Н, just like in Russian. The third document mentions “the neighboring state (DNR),” probably the Russian authors forgot that what they call DNR is just an occupied part of Ukraine. The fourth document is written with better grammar, however the word “будь-який” (“any”) is misspelled as two words in its text.

Russian conspiracies on MH17 downing

This is not a new conspiracy theory. Back in 2014, the Russian propaganda machine blamed a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet in downing the flight MH17. However, Russia produced as many conspiracy/propaganda theories as it could to hide the involvement of the Russian army in the conflict in Ukraine.

Neither is this the first time that faked evidence is involved. Days after the crash of MH17, Russia’s Ministry of Defense planted two theories that would later be regurgitated many times over: that it was either a Ukrainian plane or a Ukrainian Buk that shot down MH17. For this, it on 21 July 2014, it produced faked satellite images of a Buk that bellingcat proved were taken at least one month before the launch, and on 21 July 2014, fake radar data purporting to show a a Su-25 warplane 3-5 km from the civilian airliner. The Joint Investigation Team report later on showed that this was impossible and that the distance between the closest aircraft and MH17 was approximately 30 km.

These two versions created by an official Russian Ministry are both rapid fire conspiracy theories, quick and dirty disinformation stories created to slow down analysis in the early stages of a news story.

More conspiracies were sure to follow. Here is our infographic of 2015 showing major Russian MH17 narratives:
mh17-theories downing MH17 russian propaganda narratives

There are even weirder MH17 conspiracy theories:

  • Israeli F-15E assisted a Ukrainian SU-22 to target the passenger plane
  • The Illuminati shot down MH17 in order to kill AIDS researchers
  • MH17 never existed. No plane ever crashed
  • The West framed Russia and its separatists for MH17 by repainting and planting the debris of a previously crashed plane in the fields
  • A Chinese crew shot down MH17 with an anti-air missile

Reality vs. conspiracies

In 2016, International prosecutors said that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed over eastern Ukraine in 2014 by a Buk missile that had come from Russia. The missile had been taken from Russia to occupied territory of Ukraine

The missile had been taken from Russia to occupied territory of Ukraine on the morning of 17 July, when the plane was shot down, and the launcher was taken back to Russia the next day, chief Dutch police investigator Wilbert Paulissen told.


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