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West vs East: Who has the most plausible MH17 theory?
West vs East: Who has the most 'plausible' MH17 theory?

Following the official handover of the 'black box' Washington officials believes that pro-Russian separatists are the ones most likely to have shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet "by mistake".

US intelligence officials think that the most "plausible" case scenario is that these separatists were not aware that MH17 was a passenger flight when they fired, what the United States believes was a Russian-made SA-11 surface-to-air missile.

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In Russia the most widely read news sources are government backed and the 'plausible' theories reported in newspapers and on television widely contrast with those deemed 'plausible' in the West.

Unsubstantiated reports of an assassination attempt against Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as a botched terrorist mission may be a desperate ploy to draw the West into the battle for Ukraine's east.

Russian news consumers are getting plenty of explanations for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which killed 298 people. While they vary wildly in content, all point the finger at Ukraine. None admits the possibility that Russia may bear responsibility.

Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 lies in a field in Grabovo, eastern Ukriane. Photo: Getty

The story of the airline tragedy that is unfolding for Russians differs starkly from the one that people are following in the West. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told American TV viewers that rebels shot down the plane with Russian weaponry, Russians were being fed a diet of scenarios about forces in Ukraine conspiring to commit an atrocity in the skies.

This was highlighted last Friday with the public resignation of one a London-based reporter for Russia's state-owned English-language channel RT. Journalist Sara Firth quit in protest at RT’s coverage of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine.

Firth is the second person since March to publicly resign from RT, formerly The Kremlin-funded channel, which provides a staunchly pro-Russia version of events, told AFP that Firth "has declared that she chooses the truth; apparently we have different definitions of truth".

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Yekaterina Andreyeva, one of Russia's most famous TV anchors, delved into one theory hours after news of the crash broke: Putin, traveling home from Brazil, passed along the same flight path as the Malaysian passenger jet less than one hour before it was hit — suggesting an assassination attempt.

"The presidential plane and the Malaysian Boeing crossed paths at the exact point and at the same flight level," said Andreyeva. "The shape of the plane and the length are absolutely similar, and their color would appear almost identical at such a distance."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a televised question-and-answer session with anchorwoman Yekaterina Andreyeva. Photo: AAP

By Friday morning, other scenarios replaced the assassination theory.

One focused on the Buk missile launcher that Ukraine says brought down the plane. State-owned Rossiya TV pinned blame on Kiev by saying the rebels did not own one, while Ukraine recently deployed a Buk launcher to the area. An Associated Press journalist saw a Buk launcher — which rebels have bragged about owning in social media — in rebel-held territory near the crash site hours before the plane was brought down.

Rossiya further said that the red, white, and blue of the Malaysia Airlines logo "resembles the Russian tricolor" — hinting at a Ukrainian attempt to blow up a Russian passenger jet.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed killing all 298 on board including 80 children. Photo: Rob Stothard/Getty

Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's most-read tabloid, took another tack. It claimed that Ukrainian air traffic controllers redirected the Malaysia Airlines plane to fly directly over the conflict zone, publishing pictures from flight-tracking websites that appeared to show fluctuations in the plane's route.

On Tuesday, the paper appeared to suggest that a Ukrainian military plane with American help shot down the jetliner: "A Ukrainian attack plane and an American spy satellite were following the fallen Boeing," a report claimed.

Russian media have suggested that Ukrainian authorities orchestrated the downing to make it look like a rebel attack, in hopes it would be the catalyst for luring Western powers into military intervention.

Nationalist politicians are also heating up the tone in Russian media — and fueling conspiracy theories.

"The fact that the plane fell is an American provocation," firebrand member of Parliament Vladimir Zhirinovsky told Vesti FM radio station.

"They always do everything possible to blame Russia. It's possible that there were corpses that were placed ahead of time in the seats of the plane."

Russian state-controlled television, which is where a majority of Russians get their news, tends to toe the official line and abrupt changes in language on the air can reflect changes in Kremlin strategy. In June, Putin began soft-pedaling his rhetoric on Ukraine after recognizing May 25 presidential elections, in an apparent attempt to stave off Western sanctions.

Ukrainian rescue servicemen inspect part of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Photo: Rob Stothard/Getty

After the airline tragedy, Putin led the shift to a more aggressive tone.

"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," Putin said. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."

Outrage has grown in the West over what appears to be a bungled start to the investigation. Rebels allowed a group of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe only a superficial inspection of the crash site on Saturday before firing warning shots when two Ukrainian members of the group attempted to study wreckage.

In Russia, meanwhile, news reports repeat that the rebels have been cooperating with the observers — and blame Kiev for stalling the arrival of international investigators.

"Yesterday the OSCE group worked in the field all day at the scene of the plane crash," First Channel's Sunday broadcast began. "So far the Ukrainian authorities do not want to send a group of international specialists to Donetsk."

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