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Russian News Media Back Putin, Offer Different View of Jet's Downing

In Moscow, official news outlets challenge finger-pointing at Kremlin while Russian President Vladimir Putin remains silent.
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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.