Espreso. Global

 Il-76: Ukrainians made mistake with communication

25 January, 2024 Thursday

Ukrainian air defence systems must and will shoot down military aircraft - these are military targets. But hiding behind prisoners while flying military aircraft is a crime


Here are the first conclusions on whether there were any mistakes in the communication of the situation with the IL-76 by the Ukrainian side

It will take a long time to figure out what really happened with the downing of the IL-76. From what the Russians have shown and not shown, this story is suspicious. Perhaps it was a plane with weapons, and the idea of prisoners was invented after the shooting down. Perhaps this is part of a bigger preparation for Lavrov's trip to the UN, just like the shelling of Donetsk on 21 January. But there are a few things I can say right now.

1. Russian propaganda leaked the story about the plane with prisoners extremely early. The Ministry of Defence said this 25 minutes after the shooting down. 40 minutes later, Simonyan and Skabeeva's husband, MP Popov, wrote about it. In about an hour, the head of the State Duma Security Committee, Kartapolov, had already created a whole legend about how two planes were flying and one was turned around.

I will say even more. By one o'clock in the afternoon, Russian propaganda had already created a legend about the pilots who had diverted the plane from the village. Then they literally put this legend in the mouths of the locals to record them. There are videos of such conversations: "You do understand that they took the plane away from the village, right?" - a whole bunch of them. It's a bit comical that the names of these pilots were only asked in the evening.

All this happened very quickly. That is, we received the Russian narrative about the plane with prisoners as a complete story an hour after the plane went down.

And here I would like to note that in such a situation, commenting on certain facts without understanding the whole situation is much more dangerous than not commenting at all.

Any message - whether the plane was shot down or not - is irrelevant, it will simply fit into the enemy's narrative as a convenient brick. Therefore, if you want to comment on this whole story, you have to present your own version of events. To tell it, you need time and knowledge of the facts.

2. There is still no sane video from the scene. A whole day has passed, and Russian propaganda has not yet been able to show evidence even on the evening news. Everyone seems to be filming at the scene, but their footage is very uninformative. Something is not right here.

3. The main claim of Russian propaganda is that the Ukrainian side knew about the plane with prisoners. And this is the key to this whole story. It is the question of whether the Russians informed the Ukrainian side that they were going to take prisoners on this plane and whether they requested a corridor for this purpose that is the main question in the question of "who is to blame?" if indeed Ukrainian prisoners died.

By the way, I hope that all those who once shouted that Ukraine was to blame for the downing of MH-17 by the Russians in 2014 because it had not imposed a no-fly zone over the Donetsk region will now rush to blame Russia for not warning them about the transportation of prisoners on this particular plane?

This is the key point in this story. Because our air defence systems must and will shoot down military aircraft - these are military targets. But hiding behind prisoners while flying military aircraft is a crime. And it seems that this is the crime that the Russians have now shown to the whole world.

4. There was indeed a communication error on the part of the official Ukrainian authorities. Yes, there was! But not in the way that everyone is making noise about. It was not in the fact that the president or the General Staff should have stated that they were looking into it. And it's not about who was shooting and where. It relates to the previous point.

Let me explain.

An hour after the plane went down, at about 12:00 Kyiv time, Russian officials accused the Ukrainian side of having been informed that this particular plane was transporting prisoners.

But it was only at 17:46 that the Main Intelligence Directorate stated the following: "At present, Ukraine does not have reliable and comprehensive information about who exactly was on board the aircraft and in how many."

For its part, Ukraine has fulfilled all the agreements to properly prepare the exchange. The Russian captured servicemen were delivered on time to the agreed place for the exchange, where they were kept safe.

According to the agreements, the security of our defenders was to be ensured by the Russian side. At the same time, the Ukrainian side was not informed of the need to ensure the security of the airspace in the area of the city of Belgorod within a certain period of time, as had been done on numerous occasions in the past.

Ukraine was not informed about the number of vehicles, routes and forms of delivery of prisoners. It is known that prisoners are delivered by air, rail and road.

This may indicate Russia's deliberate actions aimed at endangering the lives and safety of prisoners.
The landing of a transport aircraft in a 30-kilometer combat zone cannot be safe and should in any case be discussed by both sides, as otherwise it jeopardizes the entire exchange process.

Based on this, we may be talking about planned and deliberate actions of the Russian Federation to destabilize the situation in Ukraine and weaken international support for our country."

And so. Such a statement should have been made no later than 30 minutes, an hour at the most, after the first reports of prisoners on the plane. And it doesn't matter whether the plane was really carrying prisoners or whether it was a Russian invention. It was necessary to state that the Russian side did not warn Ukraine immediately.

It was a mistake to wait for the whole day. It is also a mistake that this is still not the center of Ukrainian communication around this case. Because it is these statements in the Main Intelligence Directorate's statement that need to be conveyed to foreign media and politicians as much as possible.

And this should be done not just by posting on social media. We need to go out and speak out with our voices.

And the fact that there was no such statement in time, and now it is not heard loud and clear, is a consequence of the fact that there is no centralized system for combating disinformation. There is no single center authorized to comment in emergency situations. And there is not even an authorized person who would be a spokesperson in such matters.

Specially for Espreso.

About the author. Olha Len, journalist.

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the authors of blogs.

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