John Helmer: MH17 – The Lie to End All Truths, and New Evidence

Yves here Helmer concludes his series on the evidence in MH17 crash, and argues that it is inconsistent with a Buk missile having downed the plane.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama have on file three pieces of evidence showing both of them knew what had caused the crash of Malaysian Airlines MH17, and of the deaths of all 298 souls on board. They knew it little more than two hours after the crash had occurred in eastern Ukraine. They also knew each other knew it, because they discussed what had happened in a telephone call which took place before 19:45 Moscow time, 11:45 Washington time, on Thursday, July 17. MH17 was downed that day at 16:20 Ukraine time, 17:20 Moscow time, 09:20 Washington time.

The first piece of evidence is the agenda paper for the telephone call. This had been negotiated and formalized by the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Russian Embassy in Washington, the State Department and the White House before July 17. The second piece of evidence is the tape of the Putin-Obama conversation, as recorded by the Kremlin. The third piece of evidence is the tape of the Obama-Putin conversation, as recorded by the White House.

This evidence establishes that Putin believed, and Obama believed Putin would announce, not that a ground-to-air missile had brought MH17 down, but that other weapons had done so. The story that a Russian-made Buk missile had caused the disaster began after Obama had spoken to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at about 19:00 Kiev time, 20:00 Moscow time, 12 noon Washington time.
Take away that story, because Obama knew it to be false when he had spoken earlier to Putin, and what do you have? A war crime by two governments. How to prove innocence and guilt? The tapes at the Kremlin and the White House.

According to the Kremlin statement dated July 17, 2014 at 20:30 hours: “In line with a previous agreement, Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the United States Barack Obama. The parties had a detailed discussion of the crisis in Ukraine… The Russia leader informed the US President of the report received from air traffic controllers immediately prior to their conversation about the crash of a Malaysian airplane over the Ukrainian territory.”

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, was asked yesterday to clarify what the time stamp on the release meant. He was also asked to explain the phrase in the opening line, “a previous agreement.” He has responded, identifying 20:30 as the time when the release was posted; the telephone call of the presidents had already taken place. The agreement for the call, Peskov confirmed, including the agenda and the issues for discussion, had been negotiated through diplomatic channels of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and formalized in writing before July 17.

Until now, the precise timing and sequence of telephone calls which Obama made on the morning and afternoon of the fateful day have not been understood as evidence for the cause of the MH17 disaster. Precise timing is possible because of this record of Obama’s flight from Washington to Delaware, his time of landing at Delaware, and his time of takeoff from Delaware to New York. The White House press secretary Josh Earnest also made a public record at the time that Obama and Putin had completed their call at the White House, before 12:30 local time.

Two additional pieces of evidence on what Putin and Obama said have taken a year to surface. One comes from the Dutch police officer and state prosecutor leading the MH17 case investigation, Fred Westerbeke.



A year ago, on September 12, 2014, Westerbeke announced publicly that 25 pieces of metal had been recovered. This count hasn’t improved In the 14-month long investigation of the crash, of the aircraft debris, and of the remains of those killed. For Westerbeke’s statements to Dutch, British and German press, read this.

Westerbeke’s testimony is, he admits himself, ambiguous. He acknowledges that he doesn’t (didn’t) know, or isn’t (wasn’t) certain, what the origin of the metal had been.

The second piece of evidence, which reveals what Westerbeke meant by his disclosure, came weeks later from the Coroners Court of Victoria, an active participant in the multinational post-mortem investigation of the MH17 victims.



Three Australians – pathology professor David Ranson; deputy Victorian state coroner Iain West, and Victorian state coroner Ian Gray – released the evidence they had gathered and verified with the Dutch and the five-state Joint Investigation Team at the Hilversum military base, near Amsterdam. This evidence became public in November and December of last year. It was classified secret last week. For the detailed documentation which has been preserved of this evidence, click to read here. A Coroners Court spokesman refuses to say when the evidence was officially classified, or on whose order.

According to the Australian coronial evidence, there was almost no metal in the bodies or body parts of the MH17 victims. According to Westerbeke, just 25 particles had been found. Before the Australian coroners had seen the metal assay evidence, they ruled that “causes of death from explosive decompression – similar to the pressure wave from a bomb – included hypothermia, hypoxia, massive internal organ injury, embolism and heart attack. Exposure to very low temperatures, airflow buffeting and low oxygen at 30,000 feet would also result in death in seconds.” Detonation, lethal explosion, and breakup of aircraft had occurred, the Australians have reported — but with insufficient traces of shrapnel to confirm that a Buk missile warhead had been cause.

Coroner Gray is responsible for the blackout of evidence he and his subordinates had painstakingly made public last year, for the benefit and comfort, they said at the time, of the families of the victims. Ranson, the most talkative of the Australian official investigators, has been obliged this week, not only to keep silent on what he has already published, but to contradict what he has already said. The Australian Federal Police (AFP), Westerbeke’s counterparts in the joint international investigation process, are withholding all evidence papers compiled by the pathologists, and the evidence summary file they continue to discuss with the investigators.



The AFP was headed by Tony Negus (above, left) at the time of the MH17 crash. He was replaced by his deputy, Andrew Colvin (right), on October 1, 2014. The evidence release is irreversible, however. The Dutch and Australian records make the Buk story impossible as cause of death.

The Kremlin statement, following the presidents’ conversation of July 17, 2014, ends with this disclosure. “The Russia leader informed the US President of the report received from air traffic controllers immediately prior to their conversation about the crash of a Malaysian airplane over the Ukrainian territory.” The Kremlin summary expressly identifies “air traffic controllers” (ATC). It doesn’t say whether they were civilian or military. Since both were at work monitoring Ukrainian airspace, using different equipment in parallel, the identification is a pointer whose significance hasn’t been appreciated before; that is, until in retrospect the Dutch and Australian evidence is understood as ruling out a Buk ground-to-air missile attack on MH17.

Putin made his sources of evidence explicit to Obama. Why was the ATC reference made public? Answer: because Putin told Obama the lethal explosion which killed MH17 and everything in it originated from the air, not from the ground.

In retrospect today, the Dutch and Australian evidence corroborates what Obama heard from Putin that the ATC evidence (radio and radar) was showing an air-to-air attack against MH17. Obama, and his advisors listening in to the call or to the tape afterwards, had their own reasons to believe what the Kremlin announced curtly but publicly not long after. The Russian explanation for cause of crash and for cause of death was an aerial cause, not a terrestrial one. Obama and the US Government were bound to anticipate that after the telephone conversation more details of the Russian evidence would follow.

That was high noon for the White House. While Obama was on the presidential jet flying between Andrews airbase and New Castle airport, Delaware – a half-hour interval between 11:45 local time and 12:17 local time – he telephoned Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak. This is the White House version, released more than six hours after the event.

What the US, Ukrainian and Malaysian communication records show is that in his calls to Poroshenko and Najib, there was a discussion of how to respond to Putin’s claim of cause, liability, responsibility. Their media releases of what was said report “the United States has offered immediate assistance to support a prompt international investigation.”

The US media records also indicate that between 15:30 and 16:00 local time (23:30 and midnight in Moscow) Obama followed from a ground location in New York with conference calls, first with Secretary of State John Kerry, and then with “with senior members of his national security team”.

Kerry’s spokesman at the State Department briefed the press, starting at 13:27, while Obama was still in Delaware and before Obama spoke with Kerry from New York. “At this point,” according to Jen Psaki, “we do not have any confirmed information about casualties, the cause, or additional details.” Her briefing, lasting 58 minutes, can be followed here. The transcript records she concluded at 14:25.



A press question early in the State Department session reveals the Buk story as the official position of the Foreign Ministry in Kiev:

QUESTION: …the Ukrainians’ foreign ministry is saying that they have reason to believe this – not just a guess, but based on their assessment – that this was a Russian-made Buk missile that is in the hands of the Russian separatists. You also have kind of chatter on Twitter about some of the separatists saying that they did shoot down a plane. Has your team on the ground spoken to the Ukrainians? Have they told you that this is your assessment – that this is their assessment and you just want to get your own confirmation? I mean, where are you at this point?
MS. PSAKI: As I mentioned, we’re in touch with Ukrainian authorities on this incident.
QUESTION: So they’ve obviously shared this assessment with you?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I don’t have further readouts, but I think it’s a safe assumption that we’re discussing reports and, obviously, a range of comments that have been out there. We don’t have our own confirmation of details. I can’t predict for you if and when we will.

The first record of the Ukrainian Government’s claims for cause of death can be read here.

In Kuala Lumpur Najib’s public response to the Obama telephone call indicated no acceptance by the Malaysian government of an American or a Ukrainian analysis of cause of death.



We will find out what happened to the plane. If it was indeed shot down, we will press for the culprit to be brought to book. The Ukraine government believes the plane was shot down. However, at this stage, Malaysia has yet to identify the cause of the tragedy. If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice. Emergency operations centres have been established. In the last few hours, Malaysian officials have been in constant contact with their counterparts in Ukraine and elsewhere. Obama and I agreed that the investigation will not be hidden and the international teams have to be given access to the crash scene.

Najib was intent on not becoming a hostage himself to the Ukrainian conflict, and draw voter blame for the loss of the Malaysian lives and aircraft, as he and his ministers had suffered four months earlier, in March, after the loss of Malaysian Airlines MH370 in the Indian Ocean. For more on the domestic politics influencing Najib at the time, read this.

The deaths of the 43 Malaysians on board MH17 were also personal for the prime minister. His step-grandmother Puan Sri Siti Amirah, 83, was killed in seat 21A.

CT scans, X-rays, autopsy sections, and spectroscopic testing of metals, which have now been conducted in The Netherlands and verified in Australia, make the Buk story impossible. This evidence cannot go further to identify the sources of the fatal damage to aircraft and passengers. To do that requires a return to the evidence of the Putin-Obama tapes, and the reinterpretation of what was said then in light of what is known now.

Initially, Obama’s public statements after he had spoken to Putin did not suggest a cause for the downing of MH17. That came from other officials, led by Vice President Joe Biden.

During the conference calls which took place from New York in the afternoon of July 17, did they decide that if the evidence Putin gave Obama that morning were to be published and then believed, the responsibility for what had happened would be clear around the world – the Ukrainian Government had committed a war crime. That afternoon in New York, did the US Government decide it should defend and save the Ukrainian Government? Did Obama, Biden, Kerry, and the others decide that if holding their nose was what they had to do in the circumstances, pre-empting Putin’s evidence with evidence of their own was required. And quickly.

The official responsible for presenting the Buk story as the official US Government “assessment” was the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. Here she is doing it, at the emergency session of the UN Security Council called the next day, July 18:



The Buk story has now failed because of the Dutch and Australian evidence. All that is required to corroborate this is the tape recording of what Putin and Obama said to each other. It doesn’t matter whether the tape comes from the Kremlin, or from the White House. So long as they are the same.

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  1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    Vlad did it, move along citizen nothing to see here, empty your pockets before you go for we must all prepare to fight the Shiny New Boogieman, better duct tape your house and hide under the bed while you’re at it for he is planning to invade Europe on the 7th of Thermidor

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      A single tweet does not constitute “the rebels taking credit”.

      And you haven’t begun to address the evidence that Helmer has presented across three posts.

      1. Praedor

        Yves, I’m truly appreciative that you are putting this information out there. The “received wisdom” that the Russians did it (natch!) via the seperatists in East Ukraine is tiresome. And utterly predictable.

        Frankly I’m surprised that the Russians haven’t been blamed for the loss of MH370 over the Indian Ocean/SW Pacific. Yet.

  2. rkka

    One wonders why Ukrainian air traffic controllers directed the flight over an area of known combat operations between the Ukrainian Air Force and DLR air defenses. At the time, the Ukrainian Air Force had been conducting air to ground strikes, and the DLR air defenses had been firing back, shooting down numerous Ukrainian combat aircraft.

    Eliot Higgins at Bellingcat does not deal with that question.

    1. P walker

      I believe Ukraine ATC is subservient to Eurocontrol. The one question I’ve never seen answered is whether Malaysian Airlines set that flight plan over a war zone and was approved by Eurocontrol.

      That’s an important question because about a week later this same airline flew a passenger jet right over Syria.

      Could the unrest in Kuala Lumpur be a coloured revolution? One can never know these days…

  3. Ben

    Helmer’s key argument is that there were few metal fragments in the bodies of the victims, therefore they couldn’t have been killed by a Buk missile, and therefore there must have been some sort of coverup.

    What makes him think that it’s impossible for the plane to be shot down leaving few fragments in the bodies? The Buk has a proximity fuse so it could have exploded *near* the airliner, not right next to it. So perhaps most of the shrapnel hit a wing, or the tail, causing enough damage for the plane to become uncontrollable and break up due to aerodynamic forces, killing the passengers by decompression, hypoxia & buffeting as the coroners describe.

    Helmer doesn’t quote any experts on the possibility of that missile bringing down that plane without leaving shrapnel in the bodies. The coroners didn’t flag up the lack of shrapnel as a discrepancy- so to Helmer this is evidence that they’re involved in the conspiracy too, but isn’t the likelier explanation that lack of shrapnel in the bodies doesn’t necessarily prove it wasn’t a Buk shoot-down?

    And if it wasn’t a Buk, what was it? Helmer just suggests an explosion originating “in the air”. What would have happened that both Putin and Obama would want to cover up? Helmer doesn’t even suggest an alternative theory or theories; we can’t weigh up the Buk theory against some other explanation.

    This is classic conspiracy theory thinking: seize on a supposed anomaly in the official account based on non-expert understanding, without clearly stating your alternative explanation which better explains the anomaly (so nobody can point out the discrepancies with your theory).

    Please bear in mind I’m not a Buk expert either. There may be some reason why a Buk exploding nearby couldn’t damage the airliner enough to crash it without leaving shrapnel in the bodies, but Helmer doesn’t say, or quote any experts.

    1. craazyboy

      There was holes of some sort in recovered fuselage, up front near the pilots cabin. A BUK cannot explode close by and far away at the same time. I believe the war head is what they call “shaped charge”. It’s designed to blow packaged shrapnel in a wide cone to maximize hit probability.

      1. guest

        An ex-colonel of the anti-aircraft defense forces from the East-German Nationale Volksarmee, and who was well-versed in operating BUK systems, disputed the claim that MH17 had been downed by a ground-to-air missile.

        Here are two links (in German):

        an article summarizing his main points;

        an interview where he also discussed an alternative explanation.

        His main arguments:

        a) Based on the photos of the wreck, the impact of projectiles are concentrated on a limited part of the fuselage. However, BUK missiles are designed to explode and send a whole cloud of thousands of small projectiles in order to guarantee a hit against a fast-moving military aircraft, and to strike as large a surface of the airplane as possible to ensure its destruction.

        b) The photos show that that projectiles exited the fuselage. This is not consistent with the impact of BUK shrapnel.

        c) Based on a purported video of the last few seconds of the crashing MH17, the airplane only caught fire after explosion upon impact. However, BUK shrapnel exhibits such kinetic energy that it would light fire to fuel, flammable materials and even some metallic parts upon entering the fuselage. This is something he observed every time he practiced with live BUK systems during NVA/Warsaw Pact exercises. The video should have shown the hulk of the aircraft ablaze rushing towards the ground.

        All this was completely obliterated by the MSM. In truth, it was in German, so it did not help in the English-speaking world.

        1. craazyboy

          “In truth, it was in German, so it did not help in the English-speaking world.”

          We’ve got CIA folks that know German!

          NATO knows it too believe or not. They had to translate all the US military equipment manuals to German, so German NATO soldiers could operate the stuff.

          Which is my lead into the BUK system operating manuals. The system takes quite a bit of training, I’ve read. Some were skeptical that Separatists could even operate the system, especially one they just recently stole.

          But then along came another story – the Russians trucked in a BUK, but that implied Russian “advisors” were present to operate it.

          Things get much simpler when you know a BUK didn’t do it, because the fuselage would have to look like it flew into a high energy metal hailstorm.

          1. guest

            The system takes quite a bit of training, I’ve read.

            The aforementioned ex-colonel explains in the interview that it took the NVA one year of sustained training to have the required entire team capable of operating a BUK system, comprising several components (launch system, target acquisition, missile tracking, etc). Those anti-aircraft weapons are orders of magnitude more difficult to operate than manpads.

        2. RBHoughton

          That is very helpful Guest. Thanks for posting.

          There was also a Lufthansa pilot (retired?) who passsed the crash scene shortly after and commented on the damage he saw. I recall his evidence tended to suggest MH17 was not brought down by a SAM but more likely air-to-air fire.

          John Helmer has done a good job in assembling evidence from all the public sources. We all travel by air and we all want to ensure that the cause of this crash is known, responsibility fixed, and precautions established to avoid a recurrence.

    2. Gio Bruno

      Perhaps you’ve seen the size of a BUK missile warhead; or not. If you have followed Helmer’s thesis you would understand that thousands of pieces of shrapnel are embedded in a BUK warhead, and that this proximity explosion would have riddled the MH17 fuselage and likely the passengers seated on the port (explosion) side of the aircraft. The idea that no metalurgical examination of recovered plane parts points to a BUK missile attack is as disconcerting as the lack of shrapnel in recovered bodies (and body parts).

      The alternative explanation that you seek from Helmer has been made long ago (when the crash/attack occurred): a Ukrainian (Kiev directed) fighter jet is the likely culprit.

    3. Praedor

      I was an EWO in the USAF. That required I be an expert in anything that can shoot down an aircraft (my aircraft). All SAMs use proximity fusing and because this means MOST hits will actually be near-misses, they also are packed with rods (often) or other shaped metal shells around the warhead to ensure that a near-miss is as lethal as a direct hit. The warhead is wrapped in shaped metal, as I said, usually rods, so that they blast out in all directions around the detonation. They don’t use just a little bit of metal/shrapnel. They use a LOT because that is the primary kill mechanism. No way the plane was shot down without massive shrapnel damage if a SAM hit it, and no way the passengers escape shrapnel damage too, particularly those in close proximity to the primary location of damage to the aircraft.

  4. Julia Versau

    Am I dense, or what? I’d like one simple concluding statement about the cause of the crash and who the likely culprit is. Is this article suggesting Obama and Putin colluded? I glean that the Buk missile story is hokum. Seriously, sometimes I despair at why today’s stories never have an opening or concluding paragraph stating in plain freakin’ English what the upshot is.

      1. Chris Williams

        The air pilots blogs are full of this. Have been for ages, particularly when pics of the damage were inconsistent with a buk detonation.

        Ukraine Govt? I reckon a lot people know exactly what happened.

        It will all come out – the truth can’t be stopped

        1. rusti

          It will all come out – the truth can’t be stopped

          This is an awfully optimistic view. I’m still scratching my head about JFK, Olof Palme, the bin Laden killing and just about everything else where I’m offered multiple contradictory viewpoints by people who are absolutely certain that they know what happened.

          I wonder about how productive it is to obsess about the details of MH17 for myself as a layman, though I’m glad that the author had this forum to make his case at least and it was an interesting read.

          The involvement of the major actors in the Ukraine does not, in my view, hinge particularly on whether or not the plane was downed by a Buk missile, even if that was a spark that risked escalating the stakes in a manner similar to the USS Maine. It seems more meaningful and concrete to me to focus on actors like Natalie Jaresko and Hunter Biden.

          1. tegnost

            I was thinking that too, and this is why this is NC material, a fine grained reading that doesn’t have a neat and tidy ending, as to natalie and hunter, were it not for john helmer I would not know who you were talking about.

        2. steelhead23

          Qui bono? Who benefits? And what is the benefit? Why would anyone shoot down a civilian airliner – on purpose? This incident is much easier to understand as an accident – that the separatists, tired of being bombed mercilessly, made a “fog of war” mistake. The fog of war kind of loses its value as a fig leaf if the aircraft was shot down by another plane. ‘Accident’ becomes far less likely. Then it’s back to my initial query – who benefited from this incident. The only benefit possible is the global indignation toward those “trigger happy” separatists and the beneficiary would be the Ukrainian gov’t and its puppet master, the United States.

          1. craazyboy

            True, but we are living in the Age of False Flags – and the beneficiary of it is the Uki guv gaining (more) western support. Taking that a level deeper – given the fractious nature of the Uki Guv, and Ukraine in general, it may be a stunt pulled off by “loyalists” without prior top guv knowledge. Tho it would probably be discovered after the fact, and then the necessity of coverup is viewed as the lesser of all evils by top government.

            1. susan the other

              It is doubtful it was an accident because MH17 was encouraged to take a shortcut over Ukraine when no other flights would have considered such a thing. Now Helmer raises all sorts of questions like Why Malasia? And what the hell were Putin and Obama arranging a phone agenda for before the crash? What timeliness. That is some very unnerving cooperation. Then if it is a rogue player, Who? And Why? Leaving aside the hapless Poroshenko or the Uki Nazi lunatics, we have a large roster left to contemplate – but without any evidence. Was it George Soros trying to make his investment pay off? Was it MI6 trying to make Soros’ investment pay off? When we backed off the whole Uki revolution who went charging in with guns blazing and then got very quiet? Why did Netanyahu scurry off to Moscow yesterday? And etc, etc.

              1. craazyboy

                Uki air control is a biggie in my mind too – and they’ve buried all evidence there as well, as Helmer pointed out in the previous posts.

                I was thinking a scenario worth consideration is Uki Nazi lunatics, giving Poroshenko the benefit of the doubt he is not nuts too. But they couldn’t keep something secret like launching a real UKI Air Force fighter quiet after the fact – so Poroshenko would panic and cover it up.

                Netanyahu is now begging Putin not to support Assad – because this strengthens Hezbollah – Isreal’s scariest enemy.

                So that’s an issue happening in the other Russian Invasion Front.

              2. susan the other

                And also too. Just thinking @ this last week, Do the refugees know something we don’t? Like all-out war using nuclear weapons? I’m just searching for answers. Clearly NeoCapitalism failed to keep globalism going. And/or global warming is calling the shots (my favorite reason). We are, as George Bush said, “going in.” For several reasons. And we want Russia by our side (my take). Scary.

            1. Rhondda

              A purposeful casus belli for war with Russia is what I think, too. As to who actually initiated it (presuming it was not a mistake)…lots of suspicious actors. None of ’em Russian. Not even helpful to think in term of govts in my view. Factions are where the action is.

              I’ll remind, although it may just be coinkydink, Putin’s plane was reported to have passed through the area not half an hour before.

              1. Lambert Strether

                I don’t think that. The question was “cui bono.” I presented a possibility. Certainly the Ukrainian government was corrupt, crazy, and desperate enough — and in that, a very good match for some factions in our national security establishment *** cough **** Victoria Nuland *** cough *** — but that doesn’t add up to anything like proof (and there is also the fog of war, accident, and sheer incompetence to content with).

                1. Rhondda

                  Apologies for my sloppy phrasing. Didn’t mean to attribute my (inconclusive) thoughts to you. I always appreciate your perspicacity.

          2. zapster

            Back around the time this happened, I remember reading that Putin was in the air at about that time, and in a jet with similar markings. He evidently took an unexpected route to Moscow. Kiev may have thought it was his plane.

            There is a report of an airplane mechanic that defected and claims to have seen the plane leave with missiles and come back without them; and the pilot looking upset and saying “it was the wrong plane.” This is not being investigated by the west. Presumably Russia is, and is keeping quiet. Or maybe the guy is lying. But it’s something that should be looked into, in any case.

            1. craazyboy

              I read both those as well. I think the Putin flight is factual. I read somewhere the mechanic story was discredited. ‘Tis hard to tell what’s true with all the stories.

              The annoying part is we know there is hard evidence – sat pictures, radar, air traffic control conversations, the air traffic controller himself, expert opinion on what bullet holes look like, the mysterious workings of BUK missiles, the Uki Air Force has both SU-24 attack aircraft and also fighter planes, and now secret presidential discussions and classified coroner reports, and all this info can’t be accessed for the investigation, for some very weird reason.

          3. Je' Czaja

            The airliner was shot down by Ukraine pilots who panicked. It was an accident and not the first (sure hope it’s the last) The cover-up, blame Putin so we can sanction him thing is of course, no accident. And it’s unlikely to be the last cover-up. In fact cover-up seems to be the default position.

    1. Tinky

      Given that the “standard Ukraine narratives” are American narratives, it is an extremely important issue, and very much “NC material”.

      Yves should be applauded for providing space to serious and independent journalists such as Helmer.

      1. Barry Fay

        Hear, hear! I still hear people on NPR calling in and saying Putin shot down that plane and nobody takes notice! Yves should definitely be applauded! The whole incident was a textbook example of the propaganda abilities of America and its corporate owned media.

        1. Gio Bruno

          …stop listening to National Propaganda Radio. It’s become nothing more than heart-tugging stories, and bromides for the Homeland. They should all be ashamed of themselves. As I once said to an office colleague, “You’ll die here.”

        2. different clue

          NPR also peddles the “Assad diddit” story of the kitchen-sarin gas attack. Of course NPR also peddles the ” Social Security is going bankrupt and the greedy boomers need benefits cuts” story as well. NPR peddles a lot of things.

          It can be pleasant background ear-candy though, as long as you are alert to the bipartisan upper-class propaganda.

    2. Alex morfesis

      There is more to economic planning and analysis then a 200 day moving average…and a random sampling of restaurant and art gallery openings in 20 cities by Robert Shiller

    3. Pat

      The Ukrainian version is full of crap. American support for it is not based on goodwill towards the Ukrainian people, any more then their support for a coup of the Ukrainians previous President was. It is about positioning in a political situation that is as much based on retaining economic superiority as it is about remaining the dominant Super Power.
      Add to it that this propaganda issue is part and parcel of the justification for the significant amount of money the US government is sending (bribing) the Ukrainian government and its officials. That influx of capital alone is reason enough for Naked Capitalism to cover it, the significant strategic positioning of economic interests aside.

      1. Veri1138

        Pan Am 103, blamed on The Libyans with evidence to show it was The PFLP operating on behalf of The Iranians in response to Iran Air Flight 655 being shot down by USS Vincennes. People tend to forget the past.

    4. Watt4Bob

      The situation in Ukraine reveals the nexus between neo-liberal economic policy, and neocon foreign policy.

      How craven are the ‘leaders’ of the ‘western’ powers, controlled by the insane, psychopathic, financial interests centered in New York and the City of London?

      They are craven enough to engulf the world in war and ever deepening misery for personal profit.

      What this article attempts, to reveal is the depths of deprivation which our governments have sunk in their slavish support of the neo-liberal economic agenda as enforced by the strictures of neocon foreign policy.

      In short, capitalism laid bare, naked capitalism.

      What could possibly be more appropriate ‘material’ for this site

    5. NotTimothyGeithner

      Guns and butter.

      -Joe Biden’s son is player in planned fracking in the war zone.
      -Russian scares are being pushed before defense appropriation votes
      -Russian companies are competing on the world market. If an S-400 provides air defense, why do I need an F-35 (the promise not the reality) if I’m not interested in conquest.
      -gee, proposed Russian pipelines are being blocked while McCain and friends are promising to ship gas across the pond in under 2 years.

      “War is a racket.”

    6. Lambert Strether

      As an exercise in politics and power, most certainly.

      It’s also good to get this material on the record as Biden’s star ascends in the 2016 primary, since he keeps popping up at crucial moments.

    7. Yves Smith Post author

      First, if you read our About section, the most important mission of this site is to promote critical thinking.

      Second, we’ve treated Ukraine as peripheral (links material), generally speaking, save for the IMF funding. But the whole Cold War II effort has major economic implications, and the matter of MH17 “investigation” serves to illustrate how keen the US is to foment conflict. Look, even f the rebels did bring down the plane with a Buk, they didn’t intend to. There’s nothing to be gained and plenty to lose in taking down passenger planes. And how many innocent civilians does the US murder by drone, where American citizens are told, “Well, they don’t count” or “They were guilty too because they were obviously connected to people we are sure were bad guys”?

  5. rkka

    One wonders why the Ukrainian air traffic controllers directed the flight over an active conflict zone, where the Ukrainian Air Force had been conducting aerial strikes on the DLR, and the DLR air defense system had been shooting down Ukrainian combat aircraft during the course of active hostilities.

    1. LifelongLib

      IIRC there was a restricted zone at a lower altitude but not at the altitude the MH17 flight was at. Presumably nobody thought any of the (ground) combatants had weapons that could hit an aircraft flying that high.

      1. craazyboy

        Except one of the first bits of news the Uki guv released was that Separatists had recently stolen a BUK launcher. (or at least the missile launching part of the 4 vehicle system) This was back when we were first learning that the Uki guv is the official owner of BUKs in Ukraine – and they had to explain how Separatists got one.

        The theft was maybe a couple weeks before. So at a minimum, the government was remiss in getting the info out to air traffic control. Then there is still the suppressed communication and radar data. Plus the air controller himself seems off on holiday somewhere for over a year now, and unavailable for questioning.

        Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t let them get away with that.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Wasn’t Ukraine ground zero for the post Soviet arms bonanza? Half the households have a serious piece of late Soviet hardware.

          1. JoeK

            It seems another very curious fact related to the flight path has been forgotten–I haven’t seen it raised yet in any case: the flight was also directed to descend from 34-35k ft. to 31k or so, and finally did after the pilot or co-pilot objected, for obvious reasons.

            Putin’s plane, referring to an earlier comment, was IIRC in the vicinity at around the same time, and his plane sports a similar livery to Malaysian.

            That very day there was a series of posts/tweets by a Ukranian ATC. I read the page-long series of statements he made and they pointed more or less at the Uke military. He was then taken from the ATC center and…..has he been heard from since?

            All of the above (meaning ALL of the above, not just my little comment) really does at least throw a lot of doubt on the official story.

          2. Fajensen

            Exactly! Ukraine is like Sauron leaving the forges of Barad-dur intact to the orcs!

            A colleague of mine did business there in the 1990’s, he left because organized crime. The “business climate” suddenly got more dangerous than just the usual random shelling, drive-by shootings or drunk-driving in MBT’s. Plenty of undirected crazy in Ukraine.

  6. ltr

    A superb series of posts for which I am especially grateful. Really important investigative journalism and essential reading for us.

  7. timbers

    MH17 is Obama’s WMD in Iraq moment.

    Don’t know why but found this Helmer article much easier to read than the previous ones. If Putin or someone released those recordings of Obama/Putin it would probably show Obama (and Hillary) to the liars they are. On the other hand the corporate owned and U.S. media is so agenda driven they might deliberately ignore it and tell us to move along, Putin did it.

    On related topic, Putin giving more aid to Assad in Syria is looking like another smart game changing move as it appears it will limit the area Obama can bomb, specifically the areas that would most weaken Assad. And since Obama is funding/training/supportiing ISIS and Al-Qeada to further regime change in Syria by pretending to bomb ISIS when he really wants to bomb Assad, this could make all the waves if refugees, bombed civilians and infrastructure of nations that Obama is responsible for, wasted effort should this Putin move stymie Obama regime change and.

    Obama’s cold blooded bombing regime change calculations reminds of the ferris wheel scene in The Third Man, when Orson Welles asks Joseph Cotton how many of the little ant like specs moving below them he can live without to make some nice profit diluting antibiotics in post WWII Vienna black market.

  8. Watt4Bob

    Was it something I said?

    Immoderate, I think making war in support of financial interests is immoderate.

  9. david

    The forward cabin near the pilots have been shown with inside and outside tear marks / perforations with roughly round holes on web site photos on opposite sides of the skin of the plane – are these recovered pieces actually recovered from the crash site ?

    1. craazyboy

      I guess if someone found a 50mm cannon projectile lodged between the pilots eyeballs, the investigation would have gone quicker. But no. You wouldn’t find any at the crash site either, or even shell casings, because the event happened in the air many miles away and they would have eventually fallen to ground who knows where.

  10. craazyboy

    Well, if the Ministry of Truth classified lack of BUK metal evidence a week ago, the open investigation is proceeding swimmingly in my view. Besides, the Separatist’s Air Force may have fighter aircraft, for all we know – and Big Bro may soon disclose that fact to us as well.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Didn’t one of Obama’s public statements blame Putin for “creating conditions” for MH17 to crash? If the truth comes out, I expect to see a similar statement. Of course, the White House flunkies seem to be blaming Hillary and the Pentagon for urging aggressive stances.

  11. craazyboy

    It was a BUK missile, and everyone knows they are made in Russia, don’t they? It’s got Putin’s fingerprints all over it!

    Oops. That was unintended misdirection. The comment s/b below NTG comment.

  12. Steve in Flyover

    Boy, the Rooskies are pulling out all the stops to avoid taking the blame for this one. I’d have a little more sympathy, if they didn’t have a long anbfd bloody history of “accidentally” shooting airliners down. Too bad they didnthave these propaganda/media experts Iin place in 1981……… they could have blamed KAL 007 on the Japanese.

    Lack of BUK shrapnel does not mean that it wasnt shot down by a BUK. And besides, how long did they have control of the bodies before they were released?

    So by saying it wasnt a BUK, the only alternative is that it was caused by a heat seeking missile from a Ukranian SU 24………..which is an even bigger pile of BS.

    Funny……for months before this incident, the seperatists were claiming to have been zapping Ukranian Air Force airplanes with SAMs all over eastern Ukraine. Until someone effed up. Then, they all just happened to take the day off.

    No matter. The Russian got their version out there first. So, as anyone who has ever taken issue with Republican BS knows, it takes 5 times the bandwidth worth of facts to debunk the original BS.

    1. craazyboy

      Well, well. Were shall we start.

      The BUK. It has a proximity fuse which detonates some distance in front of it’s target, and then explodes like a big bomb with 8000 pieces of packaged shrapnel bursting out in a wide conical path.

      I think not finding any in at least the front of airplane passengers is very weird.

      The first step is in determining whether the attack came from the ground or the air.

      On to your “SAMs”. The Separatists have shoulder fired missiles, which can be effective against low altitude attack aircraft which are swopping down doing a bombing/strafing run. They can’t hit anything above 10,000 ft., and MH-17 was at around 30,000 ft.

      So, a ground attack is looking unlikely, then an air attack from something would become the focus of any impartial investigation.

      Actually, the Russians quickly put forth the SU-24 scenario – but that one seems tough to believe as well. I’m thinking what if a real fighter plane did it?

    2. cirsium

      Is it not the Canadians or OSCE who got their version out first including a picture of part of the aircraft fuselage damaged by machine gun bullets? See from 6.23 minutes into the interview with the OSCE representative in this clip

      The following post also links back to the interview

      1. Chris Williams

        thank you for that link. Yes, he clearly says the holes look like the plane was strafed by a fighter jet using its cannon. And, he qualifies and says he is not an expert.

        The ‘experts’ have looked at the physical evidence and I think their conclusions are at odds with Putin did it. He armed the separatists etc… Takes time to get the right narrative, particularly when so many aviation investigators want to tell the truth, but can’t

          1. JoeK

            People keep referring to .50 cal guns but those went out with the P-51s. Modern fighters use a 20mm cannon instead. 60% bigger caliber, many times the terminal ballistics. IIRC the holes shown in the fuselage in the article by the German pilot looked big enough to be from a 20mm cannon.

            Doesn’t the BUK blast out rod-shaped shrapnel? As long as it doesn’t use ball bearings (20mm ones plus-minus) those round exit holes are pointing elsewhere.

            1. craazyboy

              There are a few different versions, but the choices are cube or square. None use ball bearings. And there are 7800 pieces.

    3. Lambert Strether

      “How long did they control the bodies”?

      Huh? What are you saying? There were shrapnel wounds after all, but they magically got sewed up or healed? Or a new set of bodies was swapped in, but nobody noticed, including the Australian coroners?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Duh, the crafty KGB obviously took the bodies and replaced them with surgically altered corpses of the dead Russian soldiers!

    4. James McFadden

      Steve in Flyover says “The Rooskies … long anbfd bloody history of “accidentally” shooting airliners down … KAL 007”

      What long an bloody history is he referring to?
      First, the current Russians are not the Soviet Union – so the time line for the current regime is rather short. What bloody history since 1990?
      If you want to blame all current regimes on the history of previous leaders, you should take a closer look at the U.S. – the slaughter of 20+ million indigenous peoples to steal their land and the enslavement of a similar number of Africans to farm that land — now that is pretty bloody.
      If you want to talk more recent history, I think you should recall that KAL 007 was in prohibited Soviet airspace (and it was a previous regime) — it was clearly an unfortunate but understandable accident. On the other hand the U.S. shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in international airspace.

      To put all this in perspective, and whether to believe our neocon government, one should consider how many times we have been lied to in recent years. We can go back to big lies of Bush & Cheney and the Iraq war — but lets stick to recent history under Obama. How about a list – lies about the coup in Ukraine, lies about Gitmo, lies about torture, lies about the threat of IS, lies about NSA spying, lies about sarin gas attack, lies about Libya threat, lies about Yemen threat, lies about war criminals who started Iraq war, lies and cover ups about Wall Street fraud, lies about assassinations and drones, lies about Venezuela being a national security threat, lies about TPP, lies about doing something about climate change … that is just off the top of my head — I could go on and on.

      The U.S. has two major bureaucracies whose sole purpose is to lie to the american public – the CIA and NSA – and we have a corporate media entirely controlled by the 0.01% which parrots neocon nonsense.

      The U.S. and its allies control all the evidence – so why is it taking so long to get to the truth? Clearly this is a cover up big time.

      Thanks for sharing this story.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Smoke, ergo fire. For every other air crash in history we get the cockpit tapes and the air traffic controller tapes played ad nauseam on the nightly news within 12 hours. This one: silence. Buk missiles leave a huge smoke trail, not one of the dozens of witnesses on the ground saw one. If Obomba thought he had the goods here we would be hearing about it nonstop, again, media silence, no mentions in the propaganda speeches. Oboma had a dilemma on his hands, Putin on the line saying Ukrainian air force did it, and Nuland and Soros and Biden on the other lines saying we need to prop up the Nazi Ukrainian government. Again the spooks whispered in his ear, too clever by a long measure, that they could obfuscate with counterclaims and then bury it. No different from Obomba and McCain and Cameron siding with ISIS against Assad, do anything to turn Vlad into the Great New Enemy.

  13. Fun with IHL

    Highest compliments on this forensic-quality exposition. Any court in the world could try this crime, and 194 are obligated to do so if they find any suspects in their jurisdiction. What would they make of it?

    The Ukrainian command structure is implicated in intentional attacks against the civilian population, presuming that the hostilities are an armed conflict not of an international character. On the other hand, the US command structure is implicated in the inchoate Nuremberg crimes (criminalized in paragraphs 500 and 501 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10) of incitement, conspiracy and complicity. US war propaganda regarding MH-17 was incidental to US aggression in Ukraine: sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries. Joint responsibility for satisfaction up to and including prosecution, would be invoked differently depending on the extent to which the US is found to direct and control the successor state in Ukraine.

    So how to get to Obama and his Clandestine Service superiors? Go after Power. The Big Lie originates with her. Power’s diplomatic immunity does not hold for such serious crimes, and she wouldn’t hesitate to rat her bosses out in a pinch. FIDH can pull a Pinochet (That’s how they shooed Bush out of Switzerland in 2011.)

    Not saying we should string the scumbag up. The death penalty is an atavism. Brennan’s got it coming, but maybe we won’t even lock Obama up. Obama can retire in Jeddah at Idi Amin’s old place.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        It’s just old fashioned imperial rot and moving the Overton Window. Kissinger has been allowed to play an elder statesman, and anyone who isn’t as loathsome as he was revealed to be seems great. Kissinger in a vacuum seems not terrible, but we are judging him from the end of his career. R2P sounds nice, but it’s nothing more than an updated version of the white man’s burden. We even rescue and parade around the civilized victims. After Cheney, the bar was set low. Look at Team Blue, they are treating a Biden candidacy as a serious threat.

  14. Chauncey Gardiner

    If accurate, Helmer’s summary raises some very serious questions. Among them:

    Why the attempted cover-up?

    Was the act both intentional and committed with full knowledge of the nature of the target?

    If the Malaysian Air jet was a case of mistaken identity, who was the real intended target and why? If this tragic incident was attributable to an error, why did the mistake occur? Was it simply negligence, was it attributable to an intel failure, a communication failure, fighter pilot error, or did intentional diversion play a role?

    Did U.S. military or other U.S. officials have foreknowledge of or involvement in the decision to target a specific aircraft that led to the tragic loss of those 298 innocent souls on MH017, including many children?

    If Hellmer’s account is correct, how long are we going to extend credibility, mainstream media access, and official podiums to serial liars that enable them to represent their values and views as being the official USG position?

    A war crime?… certainly appears to fit the definition. But as much as it pains me to say it in light of the related loss of life and what is presently occurring elsewhere, perhaps Obama and Putin jointly deserve some credit for quietly neutering those who sought to use this tragic incident as a casus belli to engineer a broader conflict.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “Who was the real target?”

      There may not have been a real target, just fog of war. Short of a concerted plan to down the airliner, the direct fault lies with air traffic control.

      I could easily envision a scenario where a Kiev jet or BUK outfit from either side saw an unknown jet enter the war zone and assumed it was reinforcements from the other side. The combatants aren’t regulars with full functioning command and control.

      Obama quietly neutering? The guy has been foaming at the mouth.

      Neutering wouldn’t involve new bases and major military exercises in Eastern Europe. Perhaps, he has finally learned Hillary and her ilk are clowns, but let’s give credit where it’s due. Obama forced the issue with support for a coup, keeping neocons in the government, pushing in Syria, over stepping the no fly zone in Libya, making a public shift to our new enemy China, and so forth. The buck stops with the President when the criminals are appointees.

  15. VietnamVet

    The known known is that a Malaysian Airlines 777 flew over a combat zone in Ukraine. All on board were killed. Pictures from the scene show the cockpit area shredded by high energy objects from outside the aircraft. The flight data recorders stopped recording instantaneously. The final report was promised a year later but 14 months after the crash it has not been published.

    The forensic examination of the wreckage and passengers plus intelligence from satellites and signals at the time of the crash has to have identified the chain of events that led to the crash. That the final report has not been released to date indicates a conspiracy. The most likely reason is the agitprop to hide the truth about the ongoing American proxy wars in Syria and Ukraine that are intended to force a regime change in the Kremlin but are having all sorts of unintended consequences.

  16. blert

    A jumbo jet is not the expected target of any of these anti-air missiles, ground launched or air launched.

    The explosive detonation cone is dialed in for combat aircraft that are the top threat. F-15 or Mig-29 or some such.

    The radar // final homing is CERTAIN to pick up the massive radar returns eminating from the massive turbofans mounted to a B-777 jumbo jet. These beasts are LARGER than a standing man. ( The famous DaVinci illustration of a standing man within a circle and a square comes to mind.)

    In contrast the pilot’s cabin is practically stealthy. To the eletronic logic of the missile, a B-777 would look like two fighter jets flying in standard close combat formation. Yes, it’s that big.

    So the missile detonated right into the mouth of a single turbo fan. ( probably engine #2 — or the right wing )

    This caused prompt catastrophic failure of both engine and wing. The blast cone would have SURELY been initiated from below and largely aimed upwards into the turbofan.

    The damage to the cabin would’ve largely consisted of engine components. Most of the missile’s blast cone would’ve been too directional to reach over that far. Such warheads are specifically designed to throw the fragmentation FORWARD… as a cone of death.

    You can poke around on YouTube// Google an see countless test shot images of such blast patterns.

    What this all boils down to is that no matter who shot down the jumbo, as long as they used a missile, the blast damage will be totally misleading. The cabin will always be damaged more by the engine flying apart than any missile ever designed. The engines are that big, and they contain astounding rotational energy… far more energy than that found in the missile warhead.

    Containing this energy is such a challenge that it takes years to certify a jumbo jet engine. Engine after engine is destructively tested to see whether it can hold in the rotational energy upon bird impact — and other debris.

    There are endless tales from pilots — especially military pilots — about destroyed aircraft that had merely injested FOD. ( foreign object debris// damage )

    The SR-71 Blackbird was notorious for its vulnerability. Entire platoons would ‘police’ (clean up) the flight strip before a flight attempt, walking the whole distance, arm in arm. (!)

    The odds favor a military screw-up — the universal specialty of every military that’s ever existed.

    1. Fajensen

      I could go with that. There is plenty of nutters in Ukraine drunk-shooting at anything or nothing – even without a war.

      Except for the coverup. It smells like there is real panic involved.

      Did some Cold War CIA relic – or crazy Hillary- try to have Putin whacked?!

  17. No Man's Island Janitorial Service

    Lots of MILSPEC-standard CIA propaganda on this thread, which is a good index of the sensitivity of this US government crime. Note especially the last poster, who uses the standard CIA approach of focusing on technical minutia though all the most incriminating probative evidence comes from official conduct (as with 9/11).

    It’s not the war crime, it’s the cover-up – the plan and conspiracy for war, Nuremberg Count 1.

    1. craazyboy

      If you mean blert and his turbo-fan-seeking BUK missile theory, it’s incorrect too.

      Firstly, the disputed shrapnel vs bullet holes are in the near cabin section of the aircraft. So the cabin was not so stealthy, relative to turbofans, as he says.

      Secondly, the gas tanks are in the wings, and a hit in the engines would have caused the plane to immediately burst into flames. But there are confirmed sightings and maybe video(I can’t remember) of the final crash, and the plane was NOT on fire until it hit the ground.

      No reason to ignore forensics.

  18. hemeantwell

    A superb series of posts for which I am especially grateful. Really important investigative journalism and essential reading for us.

    Agreed. But I’m stumped for a reason why Putin hasn’t gone public. Would anyone care to speculate?

    1. Lambert Strether

      I’ll speculate. Putin doesn’t want a hot war for his Ukrainians any more than we want a hot war for ours. Not because he, or we, are averse to hot wars in principle. just that… Shall we say that we neither have a proxy we regard as adequate for the world stage. So, despite her best efforts, Victoria Nuland failed to set the Ukraine ablaze. Maybe that loveable goof, Joe Biden, will do better….

    2. Fajensen

      Putin is a very skilled and highly experienced operator. Ex KGB.

      Putin is not a man that will react on emotions, instead he will evaluate the options presented by the situation and take the one with the highest returns in relation to the risks involved.

      So, seen from Putins side, Running off to the media would be “wasting a shot”, he may always do that if whatever Obama promised is not delivered, but, I think Putin even there prefers to stay aloft and let the other Snowden’s do that work.

      The larger problem is that the jocks running the US side of things will see any restraint or negotiation as “weakness” and kick even more sand onto the picnic to get the fight they think they want.

  19. gaylord

    One more possibility: retribution against Malaysia for having tried U.S. officials in absentia in Malaysia and having convicted them of war crimes, including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their legal advisers Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo. There was also Flight MH370 which mysteriously disappeared. Coincidence?

  20. nat scientist

    As a risk manager, I’d take comfort in a ground -based BUK launched at me at 30,000 feet rather than taking it up a SU-24 fighter jet with full cannon in the side cockpit window, both events being equally likely.

  21. Jason

    Not that I think he’s right, but gaylord is probably thinking of this:

    The catch here is that while the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, while not exactly a fraud (it may even be explicitly authorized by the Malysian government, I’m not sure) has NO international recognition or jurisdiction. It’s an NGO. But “news” websites fishing for page hits, even theoretically responsible ones like CNN, don’t exactly go out of their way to point out that bit.

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