Russian media outlets have been caught using images of victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and claiming instead they are mass graves left by the retreating Ukrainian army.
Several times in the past week, media outlets connected to the Kremlin have used images of the MH17 victims lined up in body bags, claiming instead that they were Ukrainian citizens who were tortured, raped and killed by Ukrainian troops.
Earlier this week, REN TV ran a story claiming that dozens of bodies were discovered in mass graves, adding that some of the bodies had their organs removed. Just days later the same outlet claimed that more bodies had been found, but again used images of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 victims.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe noted that some graves had been found in Ukraine, but none matching the Russian media’s account of events.
OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw told Deutsche Welle radio on that forensic examination would be necessary to further investigate the claims of mass civilian graves.
“We do not have a single version about who carried out these killings,” he said.
But Russian media outlets have been claiming that OSCE is actually supporting their claims. From RT (formerly Russia Today):
The OSCE has confirmed that three mass graves, allegedly with many bodies, have been found near Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Two of the bodies have already been identified.
“The ‘military police’ of ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ told the SMM [special monitoring mission] that three unmarked graves allegedly containing multiple bodies had been found; two of them were located in a coal mine, Komunar, near the village Nyzhnia Krynka (35 kilometers north-east of Donetsk) and one inside the village,” the OSCE said in its report.
The flight, which had 298 passengers, crashed in eastern Ukraine after being hit by a surface to air missile. Some witnesses in the area claimed that Russian troops may have played a role in shooting down MH17.
One witness told BBC News that a crew operating the BUK missile launcher seemed to be Russian.
“Well-disciplined, unlike the rebels, and not wearing the standard Ukrainian camouflage uniform sported by government and rebel troops alike,” the witness said. “They had pure Russian accents. They say the letter ‘g’ differently to us.”
Despite Russian media reports that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 victims were actually massacred civilians, human rights group have affirmed that both Ukrainian troops ad Russian-backed rebels have committed war crimes during the conflict.