Russian trolls blamed Ukraine for MH17 in 65,000 tweets after disaster: report

MH17 wreckage
Investigators begin recovery of Malaysia Airlines MH17 wreckage in Ukraine, Nov. 16, 2014 (ArnoldGreidanus/Twitter). (Investigators begin recovery of Malaysia Airlines MH17 wreckage in Ukraine, Nov. 16, 2014 (ArnoldGreidanus/Twitter))

In the two days after flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, a Russian troll factory posted over 65 thousand tweets blaming Ukraine for the disaster, De Groene Amsterdammer reports after analyzing 9 million tweets posted by a St Petersburg based troll factory called the Internet Research Agency.

According to the magazine, an organized campaign was launched after MH17 was shot down. The Internet Research Agency played a role in this, as did pro-Russia media who circulated theories that 'proved' Russia innocent in the disaster. 

Immediately after the disaster, the factory posted 40,931 tweets using hashtags like #Kievshotboeingdown and #KievProvocation, according to the magazine. The next day another 24,844 such tweets were posted. According to De Groene Amsterdammer, the campaign lated less than 24 hours. After July 19th, 2014, the Internet Research Agency still tweeted about MH17, but much less actively and often than during the operation.

De Groene Amsterdammer reported last year that Russian trolls focussed on MH17 after the disaster, but the scale of the operation was unclear until now. 

Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17th, 2014. All 298 people on board, including 196 Dutch, were killed. Investigation by the Dutch Safety Board and the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) so far revealed that the Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down by a BUK missile system from the 53rd Anti-aircraft Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, fired from a field in Ukraine that was under the control of pro-Russian separatists at the time.

The JIT tracked a convoy of nearly 50 military vehicles, including the BUK that shot down MH17, from a 53rd Brigade parking area in Kursk to the border of Ukraine between June 23rd and 25th, 2014 - a few weeks before MH17 was shot down. Australia and the Netherlands officially held Russia accountable for its role in the MH17 disaster - providing the missile that shot down the plane - in May last year. 

In September Russia held a press conference in which the country said that the BUK missile was indeed made in Russia, but was in Ukrainian hands at the time of the disaster. Russia has been pointing the finger to Ukraine since the disaster happened. In October the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it is willing to discuss MH17 liability with the Netherlands, "partly with the goal of looking professionally at the responsibility of Ukraine". The first meetings happened in March. 

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