MH17: vast majority of Russians believe Ukraine downed plane, poll finds

Independent survey discovers 82% of Russians blame Kiev for downing Malaysia Airlines aircraft with loss of 298 lives

The vast majority of Russians believe the Ukrainian military shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, a new poll has shown, underlining how differently the tragedy has been presented in Russia than in the west.

Western leaders have said pro-Russian rebels most likely fired a surface-to-air missile at MH17, which went down over eastern Ukraine on 17 July, killing all 298 people on board. Last week, Russia's defence ministry presented satellite and radar footage that it claimed showed Ukrainian surface-to-air missiles and warplanes operating near the Malaysian airliner when it went down. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has called for a full investigation into the crash, but he has also said the "government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy".

According to a poll conducted by the Levada Centre, an independent Russian research organisation, 82% of Russians surveyed blame Ukrainian forces for downing the plane. Of 1,501 respondents surveyed in Russia's six biggest cities, 46% said they believed a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile was responsible, and 36% said a Ukrainian warplane had shot it down. Only 3% believe the rebels in eastern Ukraine were responsible for shooting down the plane. Sixteen per cent said they didn't know. Levada said respondents were allowed to give multiple reasons, but the majority picked one answer.

The poll results came after EU governments agreed on economic sanctions against Russia's finance, oil and defence industries, over what they said was Moscow's failure to stop arming rebels in eastern Ukraine and cooperate fully in the MH17 investigation. They amount to the most extensive EU sanctions imposed on Russia since the cold war. The US quickly followed with similar sanctions of its own.

The Levada Centre sociologist Denis Volkok said state-controlled TV news was largely responsible for forming public opinion on MH17, noting that 94% of Russians relied on this source for information on events in Crimea and Ukraine.

"A different reality has been created on television, where there are different theories, different history, different images, which equate the Ukrainian forces with fascists," Volkov said.

Russian state-controlled television has presented a variety of explanations for the tragedy, while broadcasting rebel leaders' denials. Unfounded theories, including one which argues that Ukrainian forces had been trying to shoot down Putin's plane, have received wide coverage. Television and print media have also been revisiting the story of Siberia Airlines flight 1812, which the Ukrainian military admitted it shot down over the Black Sea in 2001.


Alec Luhn in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Ukraine: missile that downed MH17 plane was not ours
Foreign minister denies missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines jet over east of country came from Ukrainian military

Shaun Walker in Kiev

18, Jul, 2014 @9:21 AM

Article image
Ukraine releases MH17 plane crash ‘suspect’
Vladimir Tsemakh, who was arrested in June, may be part of prisoner swap deal with Russia

Andrew Roth in Moscow

05, Sep, 2019 @2:48 PM

Article image
MH17 report identifies Russian soldiers suspected of downing plane in Ukraine
Investigative team says it can link Russian soldiers to missile thought to have downed Malaysia Airlines flight in 2014

Alec Luhn

24, Feb, 2016 @3:14 PM

Article image
MH17 plane crash trial opens in the Netherlands
Trial begins of three Russians and a Ukrainian accused of killing 298 people

Jennifer Rankin

09, Mar, 2020 @3:27 PM

Article image
MH17: Rebels likely shot down plane 'by mistake'
Senior US officials said intelligence supports the theory that rebels shot down MH17 “by mistake," but that there is “no evidence of direct Russian government involvement"

Helen Davidson

23, Jul, 2014 @8:52 AM

Article image
Downed Malaysia Airlines plane: how did it go wrong for flight MH17?

All flights now barred from eastern Ukraine, where airliner was downed while reportedly flying 1,000ft above restricted airspace

Dan Milmo

17, Jul, 2014 @8:19 PM

Article image
Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' as world fury mounts over flight MH17

Dutch PM describes armed rebels' behaviour in blocking access to crash site as 'revolting'

Shaun Walker in Kiev, Oksana Grytsenko in Grabovo, and Philip Oltermann in Berlin

20, Jul, 2014 @10:23 AM

Article image
Briton killed when flight MH17 shot down over Ukraine identified
WHO official Glenn Thomas, one of ten Britons killed in crash, was travelling to Australia to attend international Aids conference

Martin Williams

26, Aug, 2014 @7:34 PM

Article image
MH17 crash report: Dutch investigators confirm Buk missile hit plane - live updates
Follow live updates after the Dutch Safety Board released a long-awaited report into how 298 were killed when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine

Matthew Weaver

13, Oct, 2015 @2:04 PM

Article image
MH17 investigators to pinpoint missile launch in rebel-held Ukraine
Report expected to say Buk missile was fired from separatist-held area in Ukraine and its launcher smuggled back to Russia

Luke Harding

27, Sep, 2016 @2:00 PM