Russia edits Wikipedia entry linking Kremlin to MH17 crash

Russian President Vladmir Putin (front centre) visits the Trinity Lavra monastery with Kirill (front right), Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, in Sergeiv Posad in the Moscow region July 19, 2014. — Reuters pic
Russian President Vladmir Putin (front centre) visits the Trinity Lavra monastery with Kirill (front right), Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, in Sergeiv Posad in the Moscow region July 19, 2014. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — Russian government officials reportedly tweaked a Wikipedia entry that allegedly accused the former superpower of arming “terrorists” with missiles, including one believed to have shot down and killed all 298 people on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

According to the UK’s Telegraph yesterday, a Twitter bot which monitors edits made to the online encyclopaedia from Russian government IP addresses has spotted that changes are being made to a page relating to the tragedy.

IPs are unique numbers relating to certain computers or networks.

The British daily reported an internet user from within the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) had changed a Russian-language version of a page listing civil aviation accidents to state “The plane [flight MH17] was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers”.

The edit was done to an earlier text — written just an hour earlier — which said Flight MH17 had been shot down “by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk missiles which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.”

All edits to Wikipedia are permanently logged, with the username and IP address being stored along with the changes they have made.

An automated Twitter bot called congress-edits was created to monitor for changes made from US Congress computers and immediately tweet them. The source code powering that project was released to the public, allowing the creation of RUGovEdits which performs a similar role in Russia.

A tweet today from the account, translated into English, says: “Wikipedia article List of aircraft accidents in civil aviation has been edited by RTR [another name for VGTRK]”.

Flight MH17 is believed to have been shot down over eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian militants Thursday, killing all 298 people aboard, a Ukrainian interior ministry official said.

Malaysia’s flag carrier said air traffic controllers lost contact with MH17 as it flew over eastern Ukraine towards the Russian border, bound for Asia.

Russian news agency Interfax has also reported an entry citing claims by pro-Russian separatists that they had found the plane and that its flight recorder was removed.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has denied any responsibility, however, telling advisers yesterday (Friday) that: “certainly, the government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy.”

US president Barack Obama said his administration has concluded that a surface-to-air missile launched from insurgent-held territory in eastern Ukraine brought down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner.

“Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions,” Obama said yesterday at the White House. Russia continues to refuse to “de-escalate the situation” in the region, he said, calling for an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine.

The US is raising pressure on Russia to end support for the rebels as the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting over the catastrophe and members of Congress called for yet more US-ordered economic sanctions against Russia in retaliation for the downing of the airliner.

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