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Iran admits to plane shootdown, but Russia still won’t

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BERLIN – Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russia’s overseas propaganda channel, RT, had a telling reaction to Iran’s admission that its Revolutionary Guards Corps had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner last week.

“There are two schools of thought on how a big country that demands respect should behave if it messes up catastrophically,” Simonyan wrote in a Twitter thread. She went on:

“Some think the country must deny, deny, deny, never admit anything and never apologize for anything. Otherwise it’ll just get strangled and ‘it’ll only get worse.’ And simply because go to hell. Most decision-makers in most powerful countries I know, including our own, belong to this school of thought. The other school of thought holds up Iran as an example. Purely as a human, I’m with the latter school. In my book, Iran manned up. Will things only get worse for it because of that, we’ll see. When people wake up on the other side of the ocean.”

Simonyan’s tweets reveal an internal debate within the Russian establishment on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014. The European Union and the U.S. have blamed, and sanctioned, Russia for the death of the 298 passengers and crew. An international investigation established that the plane was shot down with a missile obtained by separatist fighters in the region from the Russian military, but Russia has repeatedly denied this, coming up with one alternative version of the incident after another. There’s no doubt as to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite “school of thought.”

The RT editor is wrong, though. The “deny, deny, deny” strategy employed by Russia in the MH17 case is an exception rather than a general rule. What Iran did is far more typical. Countries that shot down passenger airliners usually admitted it sooner rather than later. And, yes, in most cases they had to bear the consequences. It’s not clear how denying can avert ultimate responsibility, either.

When a Soviet fighter jet brought down a Korean airliner in the Russian Far East in September 1983, denialists led by Defense Minister Dmitry Ustinov briefly won the upper hand in the ruling Politburo, though a Foreign........

© The Japan Times