Earlier this week, someone appearing to be a pro-Russian separatist posted a very peculiar, now viral, post on Russia's version of Facebook, VK.com. In the equivalent of a status update, the user "Vadim Khoma" claimed he was the one firing the BUK missile launcher that took down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine on July 17. However, this profile may not be what it seems.
Here's a screenshot of his page with the post:
Here's a translation of his 8:58 a.m. post, which was originally written in slang Russian. This has been translated by The Wire, to the best of our ability:
Waiting for the moment to kill ["мочить" is a derogatory, brutal term for death, referring to forcing one's head under water so they drown to death slowly] Ukropov ["укропов" is an offensive slang term for Ukrainians], long awaiting when it will explode...I am reminiscing when I was sitting behind the BUK, when there was no pressure. When I was asked: "Did you pity the people who were there?," I answered, "We all will die someday" and it is true. At least they had decent funerals, which differs from those who die [here] every day. No, I had no pity. And all who were in the team, they do not have pity. It had to be like that."
Essentially, this sounds like an admission of guilt (though not remorse), and not all that different from the first post claiming responsibility for the attack, which appeared on what is alleged to be separatist leader Igor Strelkov's Twitter and his VK page before the MH17 crash became public. (both were deleted when the news broke):
But there are some issues with this profile. To begin with, the name is peculiar. His name appears Vadim Khoma, an extremely Ukrainian name that does not match with his URL, dmirsaev, which likely stands for Dmitry Mirsaev, a Russian name. Even the names Vadim and Khoma do not make sense together, as Vadim is formal name, where as Khoma is a more common, simple name. Essentially, it looks like it was slapped together.
His profile also claims he is from Pskov, Russia, despite having a Ukrainian name. Pskov is home to the Ostrov Naval Air Base, and the region made global news when fresh graves of Russian soldiers presumably killed in combat in Ukraine were discovered in late August. Russia has claimed many times that there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine, yet these Russian soldiers died in the Donbass region of Ukraine during the summer. Russian officials continue to deny Ukrainian combat as the cause of death, saying that one of the deceased paratroopers died "while carrying out his duties," with no further details. When reporters attempted to approach and document the graves, they were threatened, attacked and some of the evidence was destroyed. Nonetheless, it was proved that these Pskov trained paratroopers died across the border and were then buried in their training region without explanation. Because of Pskov's connection to the public eye, it would be a reasonable home base for "Vadim Khoma" to have on his profile.
While the account has been active since 2013 and does post regularly, some of the pictures were discovered to be pulled from other profiles, and are much older than the original post date. Anatoly Shary, a Ukrainian reporter, pointed out a strange photo on the Khoma profile, dated September 19, 2014, which originally appears on another user's profile on April 20, 2013.
Here's the photo on Khoma's profile:
The image has been flipped and seems to have another filter applied to it, but is otherwise the same. Shary believes other images were also pulled and altered in this manner to appear on Khoma's profile.
On the other hand, the language used on the profile does seem in line with someone of this man's age and region. Graphic photographs appear on his profile of a dead soldier, but it is unclear whether the soldier is a Russian or Ukrainian military member. Khoma writes, "These are the results of the militia, we arrived later as a result 35 killed Ukropov [an offensive slang term for Ukrainians], and three prisoners of war, certainly Russian work, why the fuck are we fighting !?!" This bit of humanity does make this profile seem more, well ... human.
There is also the motive—why would someone want to make a fake profile with a claim like this? Well, to make the separatists look even worse than they already do. This same tactic appeared in July, when a letter allegedly written by Igor Strelkov was circulated, asking MH17 looted items to be turned into headquarters so they can be sold for money to buy weapons. We determined the letter was a fake. The pro-Russian separatists, as they have proved time and time again, look badly enough on their own, without the help of faux social media posts.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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