It was ten days ago when on the heels of Russia's 30-minute detailed presentation of what it believes happened to MH-17, the US government released a satellite trajectory map of what it says was the flight's path and the site from which the missile was shot as well as various other satellite images "proving" the missile that took down the Boeing 777 was fired by the pro-Russian separatists. Yesterday the Russian defense ministry finally responded to the US release stating that the "satellite images Kiev published as ‘proof’ it didn’t deploy anti-aircraft batteries around the MH17 crash site carry altered time-stamps and are from days after the MH17 tragedy." In other words, the evidence the US has present to form public opinion was in the form of "altered images carrying wrong time-stamps."
The satellite image on the left was provided by the Russian Defense Ministry on 14 July, 2014. On the right is the image that Kiev claims were taken by its satellites on July 16, 2014. Image from mil.ru
RT reports that the images, which Kiev claims were taken by its satellites at the same time as those taken by Russian satellites, are neither Ukrainian nor authentic, according to Moscow's statement. The Defense Ministry said the images were apparently made by an American KeyHole reconnaissance satellite, because the two Ukrainian satellites currently in orbit, Sich-1 and Sich-2, were not positioned over the part of Ukraine’s Donetsk Region shown in the pictures. The Defense ministry further alleges weather and lighting conditions in the images were not possible at the dates and times Ukraine claims they were made, the Russian ministry said.
At least one of the images published by Ukraine shows signs of being altered by an image editor, the statement added.
“It’s the latest ‘masterpiece’ in the Ukrainian exercise in conspiracy theories, an attempt to divert responsibility,” the ministry said.
“It can take a deserved place next to other allegations against Russia voiced by Kiev that claimed that Russia was responsible for masterminding the Maidan protest and the tragedy in Odessa.”
“Apparently that’s why the real owners of those photos are hesitating to publish them under their own name, since it would derail the myth of the omniscience of their space reconnaissance,” the Russian ministry said.
The ministry also criticized images published by Kiev to back its allegations that Russia smuggled heavy weapons over the border and shelled Ukrainian army positions.
The images lack proper time stamps and coordinates, while Kiev didn’t bother to explain why it believes that whatever vehicles are shown in them are Russian, the statement said.
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Among the photos released is the following comparison of satellite images published by Russia and Ukraine as presented by Kiev in an attempt to dispute the authenticity of Moscow’s photos. The shadows are cast in different directions in the two images, proving that they could not have been almost at the same time two days apart, as indicated by the time stamps.
The weather is also clearly different, with the Russian image showing a cloudy day, while the image presented by Kiev shows a clear day - showing that the images could not have been taken less than an hour apart, as claimed by the time stamps. The Russian military say the actual weather conditions at the time can be easily double-checked by independent sources.
In another comparison with the images used by Ukraine, it was purposely degraded in quality in order to point out some irregularities. No such irregularities are present in the original image, the Russian military said.
The complete photo series released by the Russian Ministry of Defense can be found at this link.
Furthermore, as we reported last week, the propaganda war is not only about "who shot MH17?" but just how far the US is portraying Russia as escalating in order to frame its own escalation as an appropriate and measured response. It is here that ?Moscow again retaliated to Washington after releasing an incendiary statement, accusing the US of spinning and distorting facts to allege that Russia is testing a new cruise missile, banned by a landmark Cold War treaty. RT reports on the statement by the Russian foreign ministry:
“Once again the US is trying (and again rather clumsily) to act as a mentor, for some reason pretending to possesses the truth in the last instance and have the right to judge others. Claims are made with little to no evidence and based on warped logic, in other words presented not with further experts’ analyses in mind.”
“The purpose seems to be to create a wall of information noise to incite other countries, and to boil up a propagandist brew for the media. Or does the US administration still sincerely deceive itself that the world can take Washington’s word?”
The US report never specified how exactly Russia violated the treaty, instead offering a vague finding that: “The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”
This would be a direct violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, which banned missiles that could carry nuclear warheads in the range of 500-5,500 km. The White House described the supposed transgression as a “very serious matter” of which it has been aware since 2008, again not naming the suspect.
The media in the meantime were quick to allege the missile in question was the R-500 cruise missile with an officially stated range of 500km, which some believe can be easily modified for greater ranges.
Russia previously issued a brief response to the allegations that was dismissive, but called for further dialogue. The latest diatribe, however, makes no attempt to seek common ground, and takes pot shots at the entirety of the US approach to international treaties – repeatedly accusing Washington of duplicity and bad faith.
“American officials cite classified intelligence, when questioned about their findings. The value of such intelligence has been amply proven by the ‘Iraqi weapons of mass destruction’ myth. Such undercover research becomes even less trustworthy, with regular leaks of obviously untrue and provocative pieces of information about the conflict in eastern Ukraine, while data coming from sources beyond US control gets ignored. Years pass, but the Americans have learned nothing.”
Of course, it wouldn't be tried and true game theory retaliation without re-escalation which is precisely what Russia did when it said it exposed US hypocrisy, who themselves are developing “target practice missiles” similar to missiles in question, as well as drones, which violate the spirit of the INF Treaty.
The American report claims that “all US activities during the reporting period were consistent with the obligations set forth in the INF Treaty. Russia did not raise any new INF Treaty compliance issues during the reporting period.”
The full statement can be read here.
And while at this point Russia is correct that the "wall of information noise" has hit a level that will make any factual findings over either the events surrounding the downing of MH17 impossible, what is also quite clear is that as we forecast two weeks ago, the propaganda war between Russia and the US, up until now largely contained by the "Cold" adjective, has now escalated well into lukewarm status, and is resulting in both financial and trade victims, both on the Russian side as well as in the "West". One can hope that the ongoing escalation, which is a miniature, very concentrated replica of what happened with the arms build up during the cold war, does not also lead to a conventional or, worse, nuclear standoff, because in the new normal, the war is no longer over ideology (one would certainly have trouble identifying which is the more socialist country) but over reserve currency status. It is here that the US has the most to lose.