Russia trying to spin tragedy

Putin conciliatiory, but denying fault

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MOSCOW — Rus­sia pre­sented a com­bi­na­tion of con­cil­i­a­tion and blus­ter Mon­day over its han­dling of the downed Ma­lay­sia Airlines jet, with Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin seem­ingly prob­ing for a way out of the cri­sis with­out ap­pear­ing to com­pro­mise with the West.

On one hand, he of­fered con­cil­ia­tory words in a video state­ment, oddly re­leased in the mid­dle of the night, while the sep­a­rat­ists al­lied with Mos­cow in south­east­ern Ukraine re­leased the bod­ies of the vic­tims and turned over the black box flight re­cord­ers from the doomed air­craft to Ma­lay­sian of­fi­cials.

How­ever, two se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cers force­fully de­manded that the United States show pub­licly any proof that reb­els fired the fa­tal mis­sile, and again sug­gested that the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary shot down the Ma­lay­sia Airlines jet, de­spite the fact that Ukraine has not used anti-air­craft weap­ons in the fight along its east­ern bor­der.

Mr. Putin seemed to re­spond to the out­raged in­ter­na­tional de­mands grow­ing daily that he in­ter­vene per­son­ally to rein in the reb­els — par­tic­u­larly to halt the de­grad­ing chaos sur­round­ing the re­cov­ery of the re­mains. But at the same time, Mos­cow did not con­cede that it was at fault.

“Putin is try­ing to find his own vari­a­tion of a twin-track de­ci­sion, be­cause he does not have a clear exit,” said Gleb O. Pav­l­ovsky, a po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant who once worked for the Krem­lin.

The pres­sure con­tin­ued to ex­pand. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama de­liv­ered yet an­other per­sonal re­buke to Mr. Putin from the White House lawn over the in­tran­si­gence of the reb­els to­ward the in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion, hours be­fore they agreed to more co­op­er­a­tion. In ad­di­tion, an ini­tial ex­pert anal­y­sis of pho­to­graphs of the air­plane’s fu­se­lage found that the dam­age was con­sis­tent with be­ing struck by the type of mis­sile that U.S. of­fi­cials said was used.

To­day, Rus­sia faces the threat of far more se­ri­ous sanc­tions from its main trad­ing part­ners in Western Europe.

“Of course this is a strong blow to him, a strong blow to his strat­egy,” said Mr. Pav­l­ovsky, re­fer­ring to the fact that Rus­sian sep­a­rat­ists fight­ing in east­ern Ukraine have been dis­cred­ited glob­ally, due to sus­pi­cions that they shot down the air­craft and their han­dling of the crash site.

“It touches him, too,” he said, “He wants to get out, but to get out with­out hav­ing lost.”

Mr. Obama called for Mr. Putin to “pivot away” from the reb­els, link­ing him di­rectly to their abuse of the crash site. “Rus­sia, and Pres­i­dent Putin in par­tic­u­lar, has di­rect re­spon­si­bil­ity to com­pel them to co­op­er­ate with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Mr. Obama said in brief re­marks. “Pres­i­dent Putin says that he sup­ports a full and fair in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and I ap­pre­ci­ate those words, but they have to be sup­ported by ac­tions.”

Mr. Putin’s state­ment was is­sued on the Krem­lin web­site at 1:40 a.m. Mon­day on video, with an­a­lysts sug­gest­ing that the tim­ing was aimed more at Wash­ing­ton than Rus­sia. His usual swag­ger seemed ab­sent; in­stead, he looked pasty and un­sure.

United States - North America - United States military - United States government - Russia - Eastern Europe - Europe - Barack Obama - Ukraine - Vladimir Putin - Russia government - Donetsk


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