By James Imam
BERLIN (Reuters) – Dismissing mounting evidence that a Russian missile downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, news anchors on Russian state-owned TV are shown voicing alternative theories in a new documentary: one claims a Ukrainian fighter jet shot down the plane; another suggests the aircraft was floored by aliens.
Ukrainian director Roman Liubyi’s documentary “Iron Butterflies” shows how a cross-border investigation concluded in 2016 that the plane was downed with a Russian BUK surface-to-air missile in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine – and how Russia responded to the findings.
“This is the perfect example of how truth can be manipulated, how it can be covered from view,” Liubyi told Reuters of Russia’s portrayal of the incident, in which 298 were killed. “The scale of the manipulation is unimaginable.”
International prosecutors said earlier this month that they had found “strong indications” Russian President Vladimir Putin had approved the use in Ukraine of a Russian missile system which shot down the plane but that there was not enough evidence for a criminal conviction.
Two former Russian intelligence agents and a Ukrainian separatist were convicted of murder by a Dutch court in November for helping arrange the Russian missile system. The criminal investigation was led by the Netherlands, with participation from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any Russian state involvement.
The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month, opened at the Berlin Film Festival on Tuesday.
Weaving a collage of news footage, documentary images and specially-recorded interpretive dance, Liubyi counterposes videos outlining the findings of the investigation with material from Russian TV, including a Russian experiment claiming to disprove the investigators’ report and a talk show host decrying the probe as Western provocation.
In a scene shot following the findings, the Dutch cousin of a victim tells journalists why he believes a BUK was used, before lambasting Western governments for continuing to buy Russian gas.
Liubyi said the West had done too little too late to punish Russia, emboldening Putin, who went on to invade Ukraine in February 2022.
“If the world had reacted to MH17 and stopped trading with Russia, it would have sent a clear message,” Liubyi said.
(Reporting by James Imam, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)