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Thread: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

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    Phonetics do wonders. Forum Moderator Eltrotraw's Avatar
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    Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Wikipedia article

    A little surprised that this hasn't been posted here, but -
    I do want to warn that this is an ongoing event and rather graphic things are occurring there right now.

    Let's go over some background information...

    As far as I understand it, this has been ongoing since November 21, 2013, starting with Ukraine suspending an Association Agreement and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union (EU) in exchange for "better relations" with Russia. The former of the two agreements would have given Ukraine a treaty to be allowed several cooperative rights from the EU, while the latter would have allowed for trading goods with the EU. Now, while the government had suspended these agreements, showing some level of dislike for them, the citizens themselves opposed the government's decision and decided to protest.

    The Ukrainian government's response to these protests were violent, the earliest report I'm reading here being on November 30th, and since then there've been increasing amounts of violent protests and violent government responses. Protesters have resorted to using weapons in response (i.e. molotovs, seized weapons from police/government responses, glass, catapults) to the government not backing down on using deadly force against these protestors (I believe I've seen them pull out tanks past all the riot gear and equipment).

    This has been escalating for a while. Although Ukraine's still prepared to use deadly force against the protestors, the majority of protesters also will not back down.

    Here's a Before/After picture of Kiev's Independence Square.
    Last edited by Eltrotraw; July 18th, 2014 at 01:38 AM.

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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    Here's a Before/After picture of Kiev's Independence Square.
    .... This has gotten way too out of hand.
    Seeing how beautiful the square was and how wrecked it is now, I can only imagine what the rest of the city looks like....

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    aspiring concern troll Peasley's Avatar
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    I gave a couple speeches on this topic over the weekend at my tournament and in anticipation of those have had to copy and paste around 200 articles about the Ukraine crisis. Givwn the recent escalation, I'll be semi-hijacking this in order to discuss the Russian invasion that has resulted from Euromaidan.

    This is absolutely a scenario in which we (the United States and the European Union) must take an active role. The common sentiment is that Crimea (the Ukrainian peninsula and semi-autonomous republic on the Black Sea) should be conceded to its occupiers, troops that Russia denies affiliation with yet are clearly under orders from Moscow. The rationale behind that is pretty self-evident, being either out of apathy or fear of WWIII. Here's why the West can't let this act go unchecked.

    Crimea's independence bid is dubious at best. One justification for inaction floating around is that Crimea is majority-Russian, and that its citizens want to secede and join the Russian Federation anyway. While it is true that Crimea is more ethnically and politically Russian than the rest of Ukraine, it is best not to buy into the Kremlin line over "the will of the people." Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia has authorized force in Crimea to protect ethnic Russians from "Ukrainian nationalist violence" that has not materialized. In truth, it is a petty power-grab to take back a traditionally-Russian territory and secure Russia's Black Sea fleet in Sebastopol while Ukraine's government is in flux. Crimea has a process by which it can attain legal secession via a referendum of all Ukrainian voters. Allowing it to leave Ukraine through a vote that does not abide by that measure is an offense to Ukrainian sovereignty, and it is best to be suspicious of any "democracy" engaged at the end of a Russian gun barrel. Moreover, Russia makes no claims to "defend" Crimea's ethnic Ukrainians or Tatars. The Tatars themselves are the oldest inhabitants of the region and resent the Russian government for Stalin's deportation and genocide of them in the 1940s.

    The West needs to set a precedent of democracy. A common refrain of liberals (and with increasing volume, libertarians) is that the US is not "the world's police force." This rationale may make sense in some places, but a total disengagement from Ukraine's future would be a disservice to democracy and human rights. Democracy worldwide actually receded for another consecutive year, and the democratic "revolutions" of the Arab Spring have collapsed into a depressing tangle of the same old repression (Egypt), instability (Tunisia), and jihadism and civil disaster (Libya, Syria). The West should take notes on its failure to take decisive action to promote democratic institutions and pro-democratic movements in those uprisings and not let Ukraine suffer the same fate. The course of actions begins with a strong endorsement of Ukraine's new government and a commitment to reforms going forward, even in the face of Russian aggression.

    Allowing Russia to invade unimpeded sets a terrible precedent. The Internet loves to invoke Godwin's law, but there are some spooky parallels between Putin's justification to invade Crimea (defending ethnic Russians) and Hitler's justification to invade Czechoslovakia (defending ethnic Germans.) Putin is a cunning and aggressive leader, as demonstrated by his domestic repression of opposition along with his actions in Ukraine and Georgia (in 2008.) He once referred to the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the great geopolitical tragedy of the last century," not because he misses communism, but because he values Russian power. Putin cannot be allowed to freely trample upon international law as the West idly stands by and wags a finger disapprovingly, lest he be embolden to pull this stunt again in other old Soviet bloc states.

    President Obama and the rest of the West need to act decisively. The question is, will we be bothered to?

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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    So Peasley, what do you think should be done?

    I'll admit that I'm not very educated on this, but I'm very skeptical that we can do much here. Using America's military in this case would just be asking for trouble.

    Europe could give Russia some economic sanctions, I suppose (the US doesn't import enough from Russia for us to actually be able to hurt them with sanctions, but Europe does a lot of trade with them). That's really as much as I can picture the West being able to do.
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    I believe that there are already some economic sanctions being put on russia, that or trade agreements with the U.S. or something.

    http://money.cnn.com/2014/03/04/news...ussia-ukraine/

    Yeah, the EU and Russia are so closely intertwined that it screw with both of them to impede trade.

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    aspiring concern troll Peasley's Avatar
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    Quote Originally Posted by Superninfreak View Post
    So Peasley, what do you think should be done?

    I'll admit that I'm not very educated on this, but I'm very skeptical that we can do much here. Using America's military in this case would just be asking for trouble.

    Europe could give Russia some economic sanctions, I suppose (the US doesn't import enough from Russia for us to actually be able to hurt them with sanctions, but Europe does a lot of trade with them). That's really as much as I can picture the West being able to do.
    Military action by the US or the major European military powers is not feasible right now, you're right. Direct confrontation with Russia should be avoided at (almost) all cost. You're also correct that the US and Russia aren't very economically engaged.

    The first step is ensuring that the US and Europe are working in lockstep to provide a congruent response and not allow Russia to take advantage of fractures in the West. Sanctions from the US on Russian officials and oligarchs is a start, but a far more effective measure of pressure on the Russian economy would be European and especially German sanctions. Interestingly, the Republican Party has come up with a few decent-sounding ideas. Marco Rubio proposed that the US should ease shale gas export restrictions and provide Europe with gas to reduce Russia's ability to press the continent via Gazprom and its pipelines.

    There also needs to be a coherent plan to build a strong and democratic Ukraine. John Kerry going to Kiev with a $1 billion loan for the transitional government is a start. Hopefully the racists in the EU can be pushed aside an a longterm plan to integrate Ukraine into the Union can be established, as well as a national bailout.

    The West ultimately just has to up the ante on soft power, in my amateur opinion.

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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/0...n_4973122.html
    Crimea has seceded from Ukraine to Russia

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    aspiring concern troll Peasley's Avatar
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests


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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    See here: www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/world/europe/ukraine.html

    Meanwhile, in Red Square, the crowds do the Sevastopol Waltz and Putin said to the crowds, “After a long, hard and exhaustive journey at sea, Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to their home harbor, to the native shores, to the home port, to Russia!” When he finished speaking, he joined a military chorus in singing the national anthem.

    Spoiler: If you are curious about the anthem 

    I am neutral about the Russian annexation of Crimea, though I like the anthem.
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    Quote Originally Posted by Peasley View Post
    whole load of words here
    Pretty much spot on but the US doesn't really give a &&&& about democracy. It'll use that line when democracy suits its national interest, like going into Iraq and getting rid of Saddam, the Afghanistan situation or getting rid of a Gaddafi type. Just look into numerous CIA help with coups on democratically elected leaders that don't comply, particularly South American Socialist ones.

    It made this line fairly humorous to me "and it is best to be suspicious of any "democracy" engaged at the end of a Russian gun barrel." When coming from someone mainly talking about actions the US should take.
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    To vex the world rather than divert it. Villerar's Avatar
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    Captain Obvious here: The best approach seems to keep economic sanctions in place and hope it eats into Putin's popularity (that will take a long time) while trying to defuse tensions between the East and the West of Ukraine. Hopefully Poroshenko will be able to work on that, but it doesn't look like it up to now. The Ukraine, the US and Europe should insist on the return of Crimea and not come back on that condition. And Europe (not just the EU) should finally make serious work of energy independence, giving phasing out energy that is dependent on Russian gas (usually gas for heating) a higher priority in Eastern Europe.

    Reconciliation will be difficult, as Russian-speakers understandably want their language officially recognised, while most others are abhorred by the thought. Speaking Russian anywhere in Eastern Europe outside Russia or majority Russian areas is a very bad idea (maybe except Yugoslavia). Many people still resent it because of the Soviet era.

    On the flipside, ethnic Russians face discrimination in several East-European countries because of the above. It is time the EU directs more attention to that and integrates a demand for greater recognition of Russian populations into its framework for protecting the rule of law. Otherwise we're letting a time bomb remain in place.

    Still, I don't have much sympathy for the separatists.

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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    Tough words from Ukraine's defence minister:

    New Ukrainian Defence Minister Valeriy Heletey has promised that the army would retake Crimea, restoring the country's territorial integrity.

    Addressing parliament in Kiev, he said: "There will be a victory parade... in Ukraine's Sevastopol."

    Russia annexed the peninsula - which has a Russian-speaking majority - in March after a controversial referendum.

    In eastern Ukraine, a government offensive against pro-Russian separatists is continuing.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28144334

    It's in all likelihood more bark than bite, but it doesn't do much to de-escalate the conflict.

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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    But they do put their money where their mouth is on another front:

    Ukrainian separatist rebels have pulled back to the main city of Donetsk, abandoning several strongholds in the Donetsk region to government forces.

    The pro-Russian gunmen abandoned the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, as well as some smaller towns, in the north of Donetsk region.

    But they have vowed to continue the fight from Donetsk city, describing the withdrawal as a tactical retreat.

    Ukrainian forces launched an offensive this week after a truce broke down.

    The BBC's David Stern in Kiev says the military's capture of Sloviansk, where the eastern insurgency began in April, is a major victory for the government.

    The government said in a statement that the rebels had fled after mortar shelling from government forces.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28177020

    I am surprised that the government forces have made such a comeback after slumping for months. I must say I am more sympathetic to the government forces (they don't kidnap OSCE workers, who are as neutral as they get in this conflict), but the course of this civil war isn't reason for much praise for them either.
    Last edited by Villerar; July 5th, 2014 at 11:38 AM.

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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    This opinion article predicts a protracted civil war mostly consisting of urban warfare with some small mobile rebel bands. Interesting is the motivation the author ascribes to Putin: an interest in creating and continuing a semi-chaotic situation in Ukraine to de-legitimise democracy in the mindset of most Russians (it is a public secret that Russia is a sham democracy). I'm not sure it is the main motivation, as Putin is also very concerned about NATO encroaching into 'its' sphere of influence (the former East Bloc) - but clearly the two don't contradict eachother.

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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    A lot has happened recently (see the link below) but I am going to zoom in on this because it seems potentially ominous:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28285208

    And earlier on Sunday, Russia warned of "irreversible consequences" after a man was allegedly killed on its side of the border by a shell fired from Ukraine.

    The incident reportedly happened when a shell hit the courtyard of a residential building in a small Russian border town, also called Donetsk. The Ukrainian government denied firing on Russian territory.
    So what is the matter? Russia has raised its threats against Ukraine. As I am rather inclined to believe the Ukrainian government's statement that they didn't attack Russian territory as that would be a horrendously bad move for them, I can think of four scenarios:

    1) The shell was actually fired by Ukrainian forces, but it was a misfire.
    2) Rebel forces decided to fire at a Russian settlement in an attempt to force an intervention against Ukraine.
    3) It was an accidental shot by the rebels.
    4) Russia has instigated an attack at its own territory to create an excuse for intervention.

    Option 4 may seem well within tinfoil hat territory, but considering the Russian government's overall track record of duplicity and all-time human rights violations there is no cogent reason against it. So a rat may be smelt.

    That said there are no ways to judge which alternative is the most likely right now so we'll have to wait this one out. I hope it was a rebel attack, but even that is bad enough, especially if Ukrainian army ordnance was used.

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    Phonetics do wonders. Forum Moderator Eltrotraw's Avatar
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    I thought there were some Ukrainians announcing that they were planning on fighting back against Russia? Something about "we won't take this lying down" or something... can't find the article off the top of my head, but I do know it was about a week or so ago - unless these are the rebels you speak of.

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    To vex the world rather than divert it. Villerar's Avatar
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    Perhaps you are thinking of the Defence minister's statement that Ukraine would retake Crimea. That would involve attacking Russian troops on Russian held territories. However, such a strategy would seem suicidal for Ukraine. As impressive as the military's recent gains are, the Russian army is of a different order and they could easily create additional fronts. The course of the Ukrainian campaign also suggests they want to keep Russia out of the conflict. I think Crimea will most likely be regained by sanctions and diplomacy.

    If it was something else, I have no idea what it might be. It won't be the rebels. They are very pro-Russian, several of their fighters are Russian and it is widely suspected that they are backed by the Russian government (this is close to being a fact, but the Russians deny it).

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    To vex the world rather than divert it. Villerar's Avatar
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    Kudos to Captain Panda for tipping us about this one:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28354856

    A Malaysian airliner carrying 295 people has crashed in east Ukraine on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, amid allegations it was shot down.

    There are no signs of survivors at the scene of the crash near the village of Grabovo, which is under the control of separatist rebels.

    Flight MH17 had been due to enter Russian airspace when contact was lost.

    Ukraine's president called the loss of the plane an "act of terrorism" as the rebels denied shooting it down.

    Separatists are believed to have shot down two Ukrainian military planes over the region in recent days.

    Leading airlines have announced they are now avoiding eastern Ukraine.
    It has to be said that Ukraine has a bad reputation with shooting down airliners, but this looks either like an action by the rebels or an accident that didn't involve them. Why would the Ukrainian government use anti-air missiles if the rebels do not have an air force? That the rebels accuse the government instead of claiming it was an accident is suspicious.

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    Clobberin Monster The Kirbinator's Avatar
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    First, Malaysia Airlines lost a plane over the Indian Ocean and now this.

    Malaysia is now involved in this Ukraine-Russia mess.
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    That's exactly what I thought, but the question is how Malaysia is going to respond to this.

    This has not been a good year for Malaysia Airlines.

    Edit: at least the other airline companies have wised up and changed flight routes to go around Ukraine.
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    There are rumours that Malaysia Airlines may go out of business, especially given how Malaysians are no longer willing to board an airline that lost two full airplanes within a span of five months.
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    To vex the world rather than divert it. Villerar's Avatar
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    Quote Originally Posted by The Kirbinator View Post
    There are rumours that Malaysia Airlines may go out of business, especially given how Malaysians are no longer willing to board an airline that lost two full airplanes within a span of five months.
    That would be rather cruel, as this case seems like a military take-down and for the other one there were also strong leads that it was a criminal act. So it isn't related to Malaysian Airlines' quality or anything.

    The BBC article has been updated. The USA and Ukraine claim to have evidence it was a missile attack, with the US not disclosing who was behind it and Ukraine claiming the rebels were behind it. That model of fair-minded politics, Russia, has stated it holds the Ukrainian government responsible for resuming hostilities. The nationalities of most on board have been established.

    Edit: The official death toll has been increased to 298. It seems more (former) politicians are claiming it was a rebel attack. Tony Abbott and Hillary Clinton have made statements to the effect.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...es-destruction

    The former US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, made some of the most potent remarks in a television interview, saying there were strong indications Russian-backed militia were to blame and action was needed to "put [Vladimir] Putin on notice that he has gone too far and we are not going to stand idly by".

    Clinton called for the EU to increase sanctions on Russia, while the Australian prime minister Tony Abbott called on Russia to explain the disaster as it “now seems certain it’s been brought down by a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile”. There were 28 Australians on board the plane, along with 154 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, nine passengers believed to be from the UK, four each from Germany and Belgium, three from the Philippines, one Canadian and one from New Zealand. The nationalities of 39 passengers had not yet been verified. Australia announced a national day of mourning and dipped flags in the capital, Canberra, to half mast.
    The missile was likely fired by a Buk missile system, either a Sa-11 Gadfly or a Sa-17 Grizzly. This is an AA-vehicle of Russian manufacture. Both the Ukrainian government and the rebels possess such weapons.

    This is the conversation the Ukrainian government claims to have intercepted:

    Audio was circulated on social media, apparently released by Ukrainian security services, purporting to be an intercepted conversation of pro-Russia rebels confirming they had shot down a civilian jet.

    The conversation is apparently between a group leader and his superior and suggests that they initially thought they had brought down a military aircraft but later realised their error.

    The group leader, "Demon", tells his boss: "A plane has just been shot down. [It was] 'Miner's' group. It crashed outside Enakievo. Our men went to search for and photograph it. It's smouldering."

    After his men apparently inspect the crash site, Demon reports back. "Kazakhs from the Chernunkhino checkpoint shot down the plane. The plane disintegrated in mid-air … they found the first body. It's a civilian."

    He carries on: "I mean. It's definitely a civilian aircraft."

    His superior, nicknamed "Greek", asks him: "Were there many people?"

    Demon replies: "A f***ton. The debris rained right into the yards."

    Greek asks: "What's the aircraft?" and is told: "I haven't figured it out yet. I haven't reached the main section. I only looked at where the bodies began to fall. There are remains of chair mounts, the chairs, the bodies."

    Greek asks: "Any weapons there?" and Demon says: "None at all. Civilian things, medical stuff, towels, toilet paper." "Any documents?" asks Greek, and Demon, perhaps realising what has just happened, replies: "Yes, an Indonesian student from Thomson university [in the US]."
    Last edited by Villerar; July 18th, 2014 at 03:01 AM.

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    Phonetics do wonders. Forum Moderator Eltrotraw's Avatar
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    Re: Euromaidan - Kiev Protests

    Due to rising tensions and the conflict going on, I'm going to take the liberty of renaming this thread to fit that as well, since the protests did lead to the escalation of both.

    Quote Originally Posted by Villerar View Post
    This is the conversation the Ukrainian government claims to have intercepted:
    If this conversation's to be believed, these people took down the Malaysia Airlines flight thinking it was a military aircraft.

    For reference, this is a Boeing 777 - are there any military aircraft with similar shape and coloration here?

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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    This is another strange side to this story:

    On Thursday afternoon a social media site attributed to Igor Strelkov, a Russian citizen who has emerged as the commander of rebel forces in Donetsk, announced that the rebels had shot down an An-26 Ukrainian transport plane, and also that there was "information about a second plane". The post was later removed.
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...es-destruction

    Let's compare an An-26 to your Boeing 777.

    http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/...e_2849333b.jpg
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...-26_of_SAF.JPG

    The size is way off, the shape of the nose does not match, the proportions of the front, middle and rear segments differ, the propulsion is different and consequently the wings have different positioning.

    So if the quoted section is true, it would indicate that the rebels lack sophisticated means of identifying aircraft while having sophisticated weapons to bring them down. That would be a very dangerous combination.

    And things are even worse. There appear to have been at least five researchers on HIV/AIDS and a WHO employee on the air plane. They intended to go to a world conference on AIDS in Melbourne. One of the researcher is described as been a prominent expert.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...eved-dead-mh17

    It is true that there was a post that stated an An-26 was taken down. Here's the proof: http://web.archive.org/web/201407171.../strelkov_info

    Vox claims there are reasons to be more careful:

    http://www.vox.com/2014/7/17/5913089...oting-down-the

    The pieces certainly seem to fit. But there are also some strange aspects of Strelkov's claims that should at least give pause before reaching definitive conclusions about MH17. Here are three big ones:

    (1) Strelkov's post, on the Russian social networking site VK, was quickly deleted. A later post appeared to blame Ukrainian government forces for shooting down the plane.

    (2) The VK account may not actually be run by Strelkov at all. BuzzFeed's Max Seddon spoke to eastern Ukrainian rebels who said the page "is a fake made by fans." If that's the case, it may be that Strelkov fanboys saw the plane go down, surmised (perhaps wrongly) that rebels had shot them down, and bragged about it on the VK page. It is also possible, to be fair, that the rebels were lying to Seddon about the VK page.

    (3) Strelkov's post appeared to claim credit for shooting down not a civilian airliner but an Antonov AN-26, a two-prop transport plane that is often used by militaries in eastern Europe. The AN-26 is 78 feet long; MH17 was a Boeing 777, which is 242 feet long. It's possible that rebels mistook the large Boeing 777 for a much smaller AN-26, especially from thousands of feet away. But this casts a bit further doubt on the idea that people fired on the airplane and then posted on VK about it; if someone fired on the plane they likely would have noticed it was a large jet and not a small-ish prop plane.
    However, of the three reasons that are listed, only the second would be decisive if it turned out to be true. Obviously, it is a horrible idea to take these rebels (or the Ukrainian government for that matter) at their word. The others don't indicate much more than a screw-up (the first is typical squabbling and the third would point at initial incompetence in identifying the plane).

    Edit: The BBC have a different translation of the conversation mentioned in an earlier post. It also contains a third one.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28362872
    Last edited by Villerar; July 18th, 2014 at 05:13 AM.

  25. #25
    To vex the world rather than divert it. Villerar's Avatar
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    Re: Rising Tensions with Ukraine and Russia

    Kaadus credits to SNF for these links: audio of the leaked conversations.

    http://www.nytimes.com/video/world/e...w-nytimesworld

    Via TPM (I don't share the author's optimism): http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/game-changer--5

    Were it not for the hundreds killed, it would also be comical the ridiculous series of events Vladimir Putin's reckless behavior led up to this morning. For months Putin has been playing with fire, making trouble and having it work mainly to his advantage. Certainly in the context of Russian history and nationalist aspiration reclaiming the Crimea is a vast accomplishment. But the whole thing blew up in his face today in a way, and with repercussions I don't think - even with all wall to wall coverage - we can quite grasp.

    Find extremists and hot-heads of the lowest common denominator variety, seed them with weaponry only a few militaries in the world possess - and, well, just see what happens. What could go wrong?
    Spoiler: Abra Kadabra 
    Last edited by Villerar; July 18th, 2014 at 10:57 AM.

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