The campaign over the Ukraine referendum has begun

This article is a translation of "De campagne voor het Oekraïne-referendum is begonnen"

This morning (24 February) the news on all channels carries the message that ‘the research collective, Bellingcat’, has now collected almost all names of the Russian air defence unit that on 17 July 2014 had arrived in eastern Ukraine, there shot down Flight MH17, and then hurried back top Russia quickly. No place like home! 

For those who had not yet fully understood the message, it was added that the order for this crime had not been given by a local commander, but directly by Putin and his secretary of defence.

The coming weeks, all current matters that can cast Russia in a negative light will be in the limelight. This concerns the relationship between the Kremlin and the strongman of Chechnya , Kadyrov, and the crimes that can possibly be attributed to him; the death of Litvinenko in London; and of course, the trump card, MH17.

Bellingcat started as a man with a laptop on the couch at home, Elliott Higgins, and the collective works only on the basis of social media. Now it is very well possible that members of a Russian military unit are posting messages on Facebook. It becomes more difficult to prove the presumed order given by Putin and his defence minister on the basis of social media. However, for the Dutch media, this is no reason not to bring the ‘findings’ prominently in the news.

At the moment MH17 was shot down, Putin was well on his way in negotiations with Merkel and Poroshenko about a comprehensive peace deal concerning Ukraine. Restarting the gas deliveries by Gazprom was central in this matter and the Ukrainian oligarch, Dmytro Firtash, had mediated in this particular issue.

In addition, the return of the Crimea into the Russian Federation would be agreed to in exchange for a massive rehabilitation programme for the economy of Ukraine. Isn’t it remarkable that Putin briefly interrupted these negotiations (which were of vital importance for Russia) to instruct his minister of defence to shoot down a civilian airliner? A disaster that as a consequence led to new sanctions against Russia, and cause the immediate suspension of the negotiations! So he is not only a criminal warmonger, but also completely deranged, because in so doing, he kicked in his own door.

All this was brought to light by Bellingcat and integrally reported in the media. Good morning the Netherlands!. And all from Facebook and other social media, because Putin of course would not miss a chance to record his criminal orders on social media so that Bellingcat can fit them into the larger puzzle again.

The only problem is that Bellingcat has already caught a few times falsifying information. The best know case is the one in which the German weekly, Der Spiegel, apologised for reporting Bellingcat’s conclusions about Russia falsifying satellite data concerning Flight MH17. The expert consulted by the magazine made short shrift of this ‘analysis’ and concluded that it primarily served to propagate the Bellingcat label, but otherwise was no contribution to discovering the truth.

Even more important is the fact that in his letter to MH17 family members of last week, Dutch public prosecutor Westerbeke, who heads the Joint Investigation Team, (JIT) entrusted with the criminal investigation of the disaster, dismisses Bellingcat too. He writes that the JIT knows the sources for the Bellingcat report but that from these data ‘no evidence of direct involvement of individual members of this [Russian military] unit at the shooting of the MH17 follows from the report of Bellingcat’. And then we are not yet considering the conclusions about Putin and his defence secretary.

There is a lot more in the Westerbeke letter, and one would almost think, that is the news. But no, frighteningly and inexorably the Dutch media continue to report the ‘findings’ of Bellingcat, which invariably point in one direction—Moscow.

Hence there is only one explanation for this absurd unanimity. And that is that with the referendum on the EU Association Treaty with Ukraine imminen, everything that can help to keep ‘Putin’ in the dock, is being taken serious. Because that is the real referendum that the government, NATO and the EU are aiming at, for or against ‘Putin’. Thus we get the results of a small research team that even by our own criminal prosecution authorities has been discredited, presented extensively in the news, without a single reservation or health warning.

Therefore we can only conclude that this is the opening shot for the referendum campaign.

Kees van der Pijl

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