See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Russian State TV Edits Wikipedia to Blame Ukraine for MH17 Crash

The war in Ukraine moves to Wikipedia. Images mixed by author.

The war in Ukraine moves to Wikipedia. Images mixed by author.

A day after a horrific plane crash in eastern Ukraine claimed the lives of nearly 300 people, speculation about who is to blame for shooting down the aircraft is in full swing. Leaders of Ukraine, Russia, and even the separatists in Donetsk have all placed responsibility on each other. In Kyiv, President Poroshenko blamed rebels in the east and criticized Russia for destabilizing the border. In Moscow, Vladimir Putin claimed that Kyiv is accountable for anything that happens in Ukraine. Donetsk’s putative leader denies any role in the attack on Malaysian Flight MH17, saying it must have been the Ukrainian Air Force.

Unsurprisingly, the blame game is now playing out on Wikipedia, where editors battle to record the polemics that best reflect their side of the story. Earlier this morning, the Russian-language Wikipedia entry for commercial aviation accidents hosted one such skirmish, when someone with an IP address based in Kyiv edited the MH17 record to say that the plane was shot down “by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.” Less than an hour later, someone with a Moscow IP address replaced this text with the sentence, “The plane was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers.”

Thanks to a Twitter bot that tracks anonymous Wikipedia edits made from IP addresses used by the Russian government, we know that the second edit to the MH17 article came from a computer at VGTRK, the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company.

A Wikipedia article about commercial aviation catastrophes was edited by VGTRK.

VGTRK is the home of Dmitri Kiselyov, who is known informally as the Kremlin’s chief propagandist. Kiselyov is notorious for his strong criticisms of the governments in Kyiv and Washington. During the Crimean crisis, Kiselyov once boasted on television that Russia remains “the only country in the world capable of turning the USA into radioactive dust.” In June, two VGTRK journalists were killed near Luhansk after coming under mortar fire while embedded with local rebels. Nadiya Savchenko, the helicopter pilot whom separatists captured in Ukraine and transferred to Voronezh earlier this month, now sits in a Russian detention center, accused of participating in the attack that killed the VGTRK reporters.

The Twitter account that discovered VGTRK’s Internet activity, @RuGovEdits, is modeled on another bot, @CongressEdits, which tracks Wikipedia edits made from IP addresses in the US Congress. The code for CongressEdits, created by programmer Ed Summers, is open-source software and can be configured easily to watch for anonymous edits from any IP ranges.

  • Pingback: Someone at a Russian state TV network edited Wikipedia to blame the MH17 crash on Ukraine - Vox

  • Halou

    Childish behavior from both IP addresses..

    • Syed

      Definitely, but it doesn’t matter, perception prevails. They are doing their job.

    • Micah Wilson

      Moral equivalency is the coward’s way out. Take a stand.

  • Al Seredin

    Cannot they wait for the results of the investigation before blaming anyone? Keeping in mind that President Putin’s plane returning from Brazil crossed paths with MH17 minutes apart. Maybe the real target was Putin. Surely you do not think that Russians would down their own President’s plane?

    • Alexandermp

      Yep. Why waste time on investigation when you can blame the Russians and people will Applaussaahh!

      • Keith Cassinger

        classic russian troll response. Everyone do a search on “russian paid trolls” on google. This guy and who he is responding to are both classic trolls. Let’s all call them out.

        • Alexandermp

          Yeah, because I get so much money from Mazah Rrassha for writing this.

          Look at how intelligent you are, blaming people around, calling them trolls when you have no proof whatsoever to present to the discussion in question. Look at how cool you are, conducting this witch hunt.

          Shits like you are showing how people should look in the opposite direction from which you are pointing, because right now you’ve employed a shaming tactic instead of proving why any party should be blamed.

    • superstu22

      Tell me how you know Putin’s plane was in the air at that time – where did you read that..?

      Who told you that? Sharpen your critical knife Al…

      • Alexandermp

        Although Putin’s plane is a lame excuse, I agree, your logic for dismissing it is appalling. The excuse is lame because the flights crossed paths a thousand kilometres away, thus it is irrelevant, unless new facts are provided about its intended flight path or something.
        Why your logic is appalling? Because it rests solely on the non-credibility of news agencies defending Russia, and the implicit credibility of the news agencies that work for the US.
        I would say “believe none”, but that would make your life hard, like mine, because right now I have very little credible information on this incident, because I’ve seen so many contradictions spewed out by the US, and so many fuck-ups by Russian media, that there is very little that is sure enough to believe.

        • superstu22

          Okay, stop using words like “appalling” to describe someone’s logic – it’s called superlative switch off.
          Alexander, my eyes are wide open in this age of the NSA,, but most of the time the most obvious conclusion is the right one.
          The most obvious conclusion here is that a bunch of poorly trained miners were given a SAM, shot down 3 valid targets with it and went for a 4th.
          I think that’s what happened. What do you think happened? Genuinely interested to hear your pov.
          Your friend from the West, Stu.

          • Alexandermp

            I’m sorry for my poor vocabulary, but I had to show a strong reaction to a course of thought that I considered far from correct.

            I agree about Occam’s Razor, but it works just most of the times, not always. And this simple explanation has a lot of questions. For example:
            1. Ukraine keeps saying that there are not simple miners, but trained military personnel who served in the military their entire life. Especially that to operate an anti-aircraft missile system, you need quite a lot of training. That training would prepare for recognizing civilian aircraft, by height, speed, size, heading, etc. If they were to shoot down any airplane, they would’ve shot down a civilian one long ago, because that corridor is used by lots of flights, from Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam; not to mention airplanes coming from other directions, on other routes. That means that they DID have a way to determine civilian aircrafts. It doesn’t rule out the possibility that the rebels did it, but it sure puts a huge question mark, especially after the next point is examined:
            2. Qui Bono? Who gets to benefit? Well, Ukraine would have more attention upon itself, and help from the international community to fight this civil conflict. Now it won’t be judged for shooting down people that just wanted independence. The US gets a stronger partner (more like Puppet) in the region, and Shell gets to extract the gas from the region occupied by the rebels, according to an existing contract with the new government. The fact that Joe Biden’s son suddenly became chairman or something like that of a large ukrainian drilling and oil company is also suspicious.
            3. Why would Ukraine and the US fake anything then? The phone recording is very likely to be fake, since the encoding date on the video is one day earlier. Also judging the contents of the recording, they say that it has fallen first in one town, then near another, then it ends up 40km away from the first said position. In the same video. It’s like they were describing a probable zone. The video time might also be a glitch, but I’ve never seen anything like it on modern computers. The US Embassy has qualified the recording as real, as well as the video that allegedly shows the BUK missile battery moving to fire. But the problem is that according to the phone recording, the Buk system fired from a town located 30km away from the place where that film puts it. So they can’t both be right like the US says.
            4. The US says that it saw the missile fire from the satellite. Yet this evidence is not yet public. At what hour, what was the missile path, from where did it fire? Is it consistent with the already conflicted evidence? Of course, holding out for so long is also suspicious.
            5. The plane went slightly off course. I know it’s still in the same corridor, but usually it flies more to the west. I am curious at what the conversation with the ATC was. If it had clear instruction on that exact path, I’d say that “the ukrainians did it” would become the primary version.

            It’s not like this never happened before. Ukraine shot down a russian plane in 2001 and didn’t admit it for a long time, shifting blame. I realize: different government, different time, but still. It’s not a first for the US. Iran Air 655 was downed, with a similar victim count, and the US did not only not acknowledge their fault in it, but they gave a medal to the captain who ordered the missile launch, and gave a compensation to family members “as a favor”, because the US is so good; but never admitted its fault in the end.

            In the end, the conclusions won’t matter. Everyone already blames Russia, and even if compelling evidence appears that puts Russia out of the blame ring, people will forgive and forget the ones to actually blame, and will continue to blame Russia, just like with everything else, including the Smolensk aircraft accident where Poland’s president and office died, where it was clear from the records that it was the pilot’s mistake, to allow the president in the cabin, who dictated a rushed unsafe landing – until now there are lots of people who continue to say that Russia organized the whole thing.

            The damage has already been done. It doesn’t matter what the conclusion of the investigation will be. Which is why I really hate such fucked up news networks, that jump to conclusions, ignoring the facts, going for the fucking money.

          • superstu22

            I am unable to reply in your eloquent manner. Pieces here & there, yes (the YouTube video time & date argument has already been debunked, but that is a trifle – that ‘evidence’ is weak and one must always consider the source and that source has much to gain from releasing that tape, yes, I get that, and for every Iran Air 655 I see you a KAL 007 ), but I am not factually equipped to argue against your case.

            And you’re right. We blame Russia. We won’t go to war (‘hot war’), but don’t underestimate the effect of international sanctions. Iran, the great pariah state, is on its knees at a poker game holding nothing, it is effectively excluded from the 21st century.

            I can’t predict what our leaders will do. Presently, there is much anger & outrage, wholly directed East.

            Ciao Alexander, nice sparring with you.

            Good luck.

          • Alexandermp

            KAL 007 entered a prohibited air space during a time when spy planes were expected, during the cold war. Which makes it a casualty of war. That doesn’t excuse the lost lives, but in that incident it seems that someone has been throwing live meat against the enemy’s cannons.

            The sanctions – it’s nice how the US can do all kinds of crimes and get away with it, but as soon as something happens in the East, without real evidence, everybody blames Russia and everybody imposes economic sanctions.

            I know people from Ukraine, and I know people from Russia. Believe it or not, but the ones from Russia are more against any military conflict than any Ukrainian I know. But you know what they hate the most? US foreign policy that dictates to all of its puppets how to act, and to impose sanctions that only harm them in the end. And now the US is making a puppet out of Ukraine.

            You might be a happy patriot or whatnot, but you don’t realize that the US is not you, it’s not the people. You have already moved closer to an oligarchy than ever before in history, and not going towards the better future. Income inequality is growing, and the state only declares to do something, but immediately backs out again. The US is slowly becoming a feudal society, where estate taxes will be eliminated, and whole wealth will be handed down to the next generations, to make more wealth, while the rest rent out means of survival. And there will be no place to escape, because everything will be owned by the US, and no state will pose any opposition. As fantastic as it may be, if you don’t believe it – look at the evolution of wealth, and look at what policies are pushed by current politicians.

            I’m not saying that Russia is better, fuck no! Besides being an oligarchy, it is also an even stronger theocracy than the US is. But, Russia keeps the US on their toes, and that’s a good thing. Edward Snowden could escape prosecution, and more cases like this will follow, unless there will be no more escape from the all-reaching hand of the US government.

  • Al Seredin

    As for Nadia Savchenko. She was captured in Russia by FSB wearing the uniform of her chosen Ukrainian military. She will explain her mission, I am sure.

    • Alexandermp

      What’s the deal with her? Can you provide some relevant story that would shed some light on her?

      • Al Seredin

        Ptin’s plane traversed the same route he was the real target of the ZioNazis http://www.theburningplatform.com/2014/07/17/was-putins-plane-the-target/

        • Alexandermp

          that’s stupid. Even the Russians are denying this moronic scenario. Their paths crossed thousands of kilometers before MH17 got hit.

      • Al Seredin

        Do you know how to use Google? I guess not. They do not use it in the “only democracy”

        • Alexandermp

          Don’t “google it” me. I’ve searched and the first results had very little relevant information. You brought it up, it’s your moral obligation to provide a relevant story.

  • Pingback: Russian Media Goes Far Out to Explain Malaysia Airlines Disaster | News Feed

  • Pingback: Wired UK: Russia caught editing Wikipedia entry about Flight MH17 | Take A Stand

  • Pingback: Russia caught editing Wikipedia entry about downed Malaysian airliner |

  • Harvey Henkelmann

    You can never trust what Wikipedia says.

  • Alexandermp

    Well, so far the fact hasn’t been established. Why not blame the original edit, and only the follow-up that just reverses the senseless accusation?

    • Alexandermp

      AH! I know why. Because everybody hate Russia, because bears and vodka, because red communist hate. Because ‘Murica says so.

      • asehpe

        No — because Putin puts people under house arrest for dissenting, denies access to websites because of their opinion, and fires professors who disagree…

        And if you don’t think so, then why? Because Rasha says so? :-)

        Do you see how you are in the same position you claim others to be? Either you want to wait for the truth to be revealed, or then you’re just giving vent to your own favorite ideological bias.

        • Alexandermp

          OMG, that is so bad. Because of that we should blame everything on Putin. But wait, doesn’t Obama… wait… Guantanamo Bay… Prisoners… no trial… torture… drones… Iran Air Flight 655… ah, whatever… The US doesn’t do this kind of shit, because ‘Murica!
          Name me one website that is not accessible from Russia.

          And no, I’m not in the position that I claim others to be in. From the very moment I found out about the tragedy, on Facebook, from George Takei, I started looking into this shit. From that moment when I heard what happened, I knew that morons would instantly and unconditionally blame Russia. Which DID happen.
          Then I started looking for evidence. I saw very weak, or indirect evidence that the separatists have fired. No evidence that other parties have fired. Then I saw a strong motive from Ukraine, and a course of action from them that facilitated this event.

          I know that right now nobody presents any unquestionable evidence, which doesn’t give me the right to say who is the last guilty party (who launched the unavoidable chain of events that lead to the imminent death of 298 people). Because guilty are not only those that fired the rocket. Even if the separatists launched the rocket (which I think is the most likely, but uncertain scenario), the plane DID divert from course, to end up in a military conflict zone where airplanes were shot down in the prior days, in the situation where Ukraine DID report them having a Buk complex just days before.

          However I blame all the idiots who haste the conclusion in the media. And since it wasn’t Russia who first pointed their finger, I see them pointing the finger as a self-defence strategy.

          • Keith Cassinger

            everytning is blamed on Putin, becsuse Putin is to blame. You are just a brainwashed troll. We’re onto you TROLL!

          • Alexandermp

            Keith, you again.
            How about you spew out your unconditional hatred somewhere else, like in the toilet.
            Maybe Putin is also responsible for the bombs dropped on Japan? Maybe he is responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs?

          • Keith Cassinger

            Yup me again. Wherever you russian hired trolls are I will be little girl. You know I’m right and thst pisses you off. The world is onto you azzholes now!

      • Keith Cassinger

        troll. go collect your check now.

        • Alexandermp

          again with your moronic accusations. Could you at least once provide something useful? Of course you can’t, What am I saying?! Because you’re a fucking moron!
          Go chew on a stick. That way at least some energy will be expended by organs from your head.

          • Keith Cassinger

            You trolls Never provide anything useful. Talking to you is a waste, you use scripts. So here is my “useful” evidence for comrade Alexander: google “russian paid trolls” and you will find this russian jerk I’m responding to fitting perfectly. stop giving them the time of day.

    • Keith Cassinger

      Because you are a troll, hired to create controversy on commemt sections on Western websites. Frickin troll!

  • srmmedia

    sorry to bust everybody’s bubble but what the western media is not reporting is that the video released by the Ukrainian government that alleges it intercepted a conversation between Russian officials and proRussian separatist has been absolutely 100% proven to have been fabricated. The video was created on July 16th , one day before the crash. Which suggest that not only did the Ukrainian government fabricate the video and the alleged conversation but they also in advance planned ahead this operation before the fact. Which implies that Ukraine planned this event and it is indisputable that this is a false flag operation.

    http://www.theburningplatform.com/2014/07/18/evidence-continues-to-emerge-mh17-is-a-false-flag-operation/

    • asehpe

      Funny website, your source. Why doesn’t it say who they are, who they are connected to, and who pays them? Looks like a blog that could be kept by someone in a cellar. How exactly does a claim in such a place equals “100% proven”?

      Look — I want to see the truth as much as the next guy. But by propagandizing such an obviously unauthoritative website — they didn’t even try to make it believable! — you’re not helping the Russian side. Much the opposite, actually.

      • srmmedia

        I’ve been reading several sources about the video in question and i posted a link to this one because it seems to have a large amount of information and it does have links if you follow them to other sources of information… This is not the only website. Do your own research on your own about the time stamping of the original video and see for yourself.

        • Alexandermp

          as much as I get blamed for defending Russia and being pro-russian and stuff like that, I have to call bullshit on this.
          The evidence for the fake conversation is bullshit. Doesn’t mean that the conversation is real. Just that the main evidence (publishing date) is total bullshit.
          1. This isn’t an official link. Anyone could have uploaded that file, and it could’ve been anything in it. Theoretically, it could be anything, not necessarily the plane crash, and its creation date could be legit.
          2. Anyone can change the date on his computer, and then create a video file, and upload it. Or anyone can change the file metadata, which is what is shown on that website.

          But judging that Ukraine DID have a very dirty record regarding media, I would find the recording to have very little credibility anyway.

          • Keith Cassinger

            Your just a litle troll trying to play like you are not Russian in your second world toilet. stfu.

          • Alexandermp

            Hey, bitch! What’s cooking? Remnants of your shitty brain?

          • Keith Cassinger

            Yup tough guy, you would be the biggest pussy in person I’m sure of it. Clssic broken english russian disgusting troll you are. also a little girl. Hahahaha!

          • Alexandermp

            FYI, I ain’t even reading your shit. Your name is enough already for me to flag your stupid ass. Learn to behave.

      • Keith Cassinger

        Becuase they are Russian paid trolls and quote Russian state media. That’s all they have. They don’t even question why their independent media ownership is down to 0%.

        • Alexandermp

          look at yourself in the mirror. Your latest comments define the word “troll”.

          • Keith Cassinger

            Wow I have my very ow russian troll! Listen Boris, go shoot down plane somewhere. We’re onto you.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site