The leader of the pro-Russia rebel group that controls the area where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed on Thursday reportedly posted a warning on social media just as news about the commercial jet was breaking.
“We did warn you — do not fly in our sky,” it reportedly said.
According to Mashable, Igor Gorkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, said that “a plane has just been downed” on VK.com, Russia’s Facebook-like social network, around the same time that Flight 17 went missing.
Strelkov “deleted the post when he found out it was actually a commercial jetliner carrying 295 innocent people — not a military aircraft,” Mashable reported.
With both the rebels and Ukrainian government casting blame in the other direction over the crash that appears to have killed 295 people, Strelkov’s social media post appeared to be a clue about what really happened.
But then the story became more muddied. The rebel group told BuzzFeed that the social media profile being cited was “a fake made by fans” of Strelkov.
“Listen, we don’t have these weapons,” another rebel leader told Mashable when contacted about the post. He then hung up. The rebels later reportedly alleged that the commercial plane had been shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet, which they then took out.
The content of the post is also confusing, based on the known facts, as Vox noted. Strelkov’s alleged post appeared to refer to a military transport plane being shot down, one that would have been about 150 feet shorter than the Malayasian Air Boeing 777. Foreign Policy also observed that the post appears to take credit for downing a different plane.
But some other facts fit. The timing of the alleged post is right, according to Mashable. U.S. officials told the Washington Post that the plane had been shot down by surface-to-air missiles. The rebels reportedly obtained such weapons last month and have reportedly fired at other aircraft in recent weeks.
For now, though, both sides are denying responsibility, and the veracity of Strelkov’s post itself is in question.
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