Russia’s state-controlled television on Friday wheeled out conspiracy theories to explain the Malaysian air crash, including one holding that it was a bungled attempt to down President Vladimir Putin’s presidential jet.
After Putin said that Ukraine was responsible for the crash, Russian state television focused on several theories that pinned the blame accordingly.
“The aim could have been Plane No. 1,” Russia 24 television said, referring to Putin’s presidential jet, quoting an Interfax civil aviation source as saying the logo on the Malaysian plane’s wing “looks like the Russian tricolour.”
To back up the claim, it aired television footage of a hawkishly pro-NATO former Ukraine defence minister, Anatoliy Grytsenko, saying someone should kill Putin.
The president returned to Moscow on Thursday from a tour of Latin America, and his plane and the Malaysian liner both flew over eastern Europe at roughly the same time, Channel One television noted.
Television reports also centred on an alleged second plane that several witnesses said they saw at the scene.
Channel One cited a local resident who said she saw another plane fly off as the Malaysian jet burned on the ground.
“One plane fell and the second one flew over to the side, towards Dnipropetrovsk,” she said.
“It’s possible that in (her) words is the solution to the mystery,” Channel One’s news anchor said, suggesting that the second plane was involved in the liner’s crash.
She said the second plane could have been a Ukrainian armed forces plane which was then downed by the rebels shortly afterwards.
“So far we don’t know where the plane is and what happened to the pilot. Local residents said they saw a person parachuting down in the area of the tragedy,” she said.
Casting doubt on Ukraine’s suggestion that the rebels were behind the crash, Channel One stressed that the Kiev authorities “fully control the situation in the air.”
It also suggested that Ukraine’s announcement of a terrorist attack came suspiciously soon after the event.
“It’s not possible to find out so quickly where, what and why. That means they shot it down themselves,” Channel One quoted a test pilot, Ruben Yesayan, as saying.
Almost all Russian newspapers carried photos of the crash on the front page on Friday, although state daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta led with a survey into Russians’ eating habits.
The pro-Kremlin tabloid Tvoi Den splashed a full-page cover photo of the crash scene with a line reading: “Donetsk People’s Republic Authorities Claim Plane Destroyed by Ukrainian Buk Missile,” an anti-aircraft system.
It quoted a member of the Donetsk rebels’ security council, Sergei Kavtaradze, as saying that “according to our information this plane was shot down by Ukrainian armed forces.”
The Izvestia daily, also pro-Kremlin, reported a rebel claim that the disaster was “a planned provocation by Kiev.” The newspaper referred to eastern Ukraine as “Novorossiya”, or New Russia as some separatists do.
Rebel leaders were quoted in Izvestia as saying the rebels controlling the area of the crash did not have weapons as sophisticated as the Buk to down the airliner.
“Judge for yourself, who could have done it? The rebels don’t have weapons that you could use to shoot down a plane at such an altitude, but Kiev does,” added Konstantin Dolgov, the co-chairman of the “Novorossiya” people’s front.
A Ukrainian military expert, Igor Levchenko, told the Kommersant business daily that Kiev did have several Buk missile systems in the conflict zone, but that “they definitely would not be used against such a target as a passenger liner.”
Some media questioned why a civilian plane had been allowed to fly over a conflict zone.
Kommersant cited aviation sources as saying that flying across eastern Ukraine was “reckless”, even at 10,000 metres (33,000 feet), and said Ukraine should have banned all flights over the area.
“It remains unclear how a Boeing 777 came to be above a conflict zone and why air traffic controllers didn’t prevent a potentially dangerous situation,” wrote Rossiiskaya Gazeta.