While Russian President Vladimir Putin faces widespread condemnation for providing weapons and support to pro-Moscow Ukrainian separatists blamed for shooting down a Malaysian airliner, Muscovites are hearing a very different story.
The state-run Russian news media has gone into overdrive in an effort to discredit allegations from the U.S. and many other nations that Putin bears responsibility for arming the rebels, widely blamed for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it flew over Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people on board.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented the U.S. case for Russian involvement in the tragedy on Sunday on “Meet the Press,” saying Moscow has been transporting military supplies to the rebels in Ukraine in recent days, including a Buk missile battery that was sent to the area where the flight was hit — "hours before" it was shot down.
Meanwhile, tabloid headlines in Western countries talk of “Putin’s victims,” “Putin’s missile” and “Putin’s rebels.”
But readers and TV viewers in Russia are hearing a different narrative in a series of stories that attempt to pick apart the Western charges.
For example, one Russian TV piece challenged a video clip that Ukrainian authorities said showed the Buk missile battery being rushed toward the Russian border shortly after the shootdown, saying the serial number on the truck -– 312 -– showed the missile launcher was Ukrainian army equipment.
And Dozhd TV took note of the wave of criticism directed at Putin in a chyron denouncing “Putin hunting” by foreign leaders.
Nor has the Russian news media had a problem getting soundbites and pithy quotes from Russian politicians.
Deputy Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin, for example, said on Twitter that the U.S. has reached its conclusions about responsibility for the crash before the facts are known. He cited a bit of recent history to underscore his point: “Just like Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction!”
On the other hand, the Russian media has not paid much attention to an upwelling of sympathy from Russian citizens who have been leaving flowers and other gifts at makeshift memorials outside the Malaysian and Dutch embassies.
That might have something to do with the stinging messages scattered among the other remembrances, like this one, “Not all Russians are murderers and terrorists.”
For now, Putin, who issued a statement implicating Ukraine for the tragedy within hours of the shootdown but has since been silent, appears to be happy to let others offer the Kremlin’s talking points.
What remains unclear is whether he will accept whatever evidence of Russian involvement the U.S. and its allies eventually produce — or simply ignore it.
First published July 20 2014, 5:02 PM
In a career spanning 40 years, Jim Maceda has covered more than 100 countries and many conflicts, terrorist attacks and natural disasters, as well as cultural and human interest stories. He has interviewed dozens of world leaders. Over the years, Maceda has reported from the front lines of Rhodesia, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, and Chechnya, as well as on the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, including NATO airstrikes in Serbia and Kosovo. He is the veteran of scores of embeds in Afghanistan and Iraq, doing stories on the U.S. Army, Marines and Special Forces as well as insurgents and civilians torn apart by war. Since 1999, Maceda has been based in London.
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Maceda was named NBC News' Germany correspondent in 1994, based in Frankfurt, from where he covered Eastern Europe, the Bosnian civil war and peacekeeping missions in the former Yugoslavia and Haiti. In addition, he covered major breaking news in Iran, Russia, China and the Middle East.
In 1990 Maceda became the NBC News Moscow correspondent, covering an array of stories from the Soviet Union and Russia, including the attempted coup on then-President Mikhail G. Gorbachev and the fall of the Soviet Union. In February 1992 Maceda became the first foreign TV correspondent to gain access to a secret nuclear city in Siberia, named K-26, which housed the biggest plutonium weapons factory in the former Soviet Union. Maceda also covered the civil war and the failed U.S. peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
Maceda was based in Manila from 1988 to 1990 as an NBC News Asia reporter and producer. He covered a wide range of datelines, including the Cambodian War, the Burma Revolt, the Drug War in Colombia and the Panama Invasion. In 1989 he won an Emmy for his reporting on the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing.
From 1984 to 1988, Maceda was a senior news producer in London. During that time, he was part of the first U.S. television team to cover the devastating famine in Ethiopia. In 1988 he won an Emmy for his coverage of the Palestinian Intifada, or Uprising, the same year he made his switch to on-air reporting. He also served as the acting bureau chief for NBC News in Manila in 1986, during the People Power Revolt and fall of Ferdinand Marcos.
Maceda was the deputy bureau chief and producer for NBC News in Tel Aviv from 1981 to 1983 where he covered major events including Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, its handing over of the Sinai to Egypt and the 1982 Lebanon War. While in Beirut, he produced the heralded 17-part "Lebanon Diary" series.
Maceda got his start in journalism as an associate producer for CBS News in Paris, from 1973 to 1976. As a freelance reporter and producer for French TV from 1976 to 1980, he was the first to secure a joint interview for a European TV network with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat after the Camp David Accords. In 1980 he joined NBC News' Paris Bureau as an associate producer and researcher.
Maceda has won numerous awards and citations, including an Edward R. Murrow award for his coverage of the 7/7 London terror bombings, seven Emmy nominations, four Overseas Press Club awards, and three National Headliner awards. In 1991 he received the Olive Branch Award from Columbia University for his stories on Russian nuclear proliferation. Maceda has had the distinction of reporting exclusively for two, long-running news series on "Nightly News with Brian Williams": "Putinâ€™s Russia" (2007-2008) and "Far From Home" (in Afghanistan, 2010-12).
Maceda graduated from Stanford University in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He then pursued post-graduate studies at the Paris Sorbonne. He is married to Cindy Lilles, has a grown daughter from a previous marriage, and is the doting grandpa of three young girls.