* Pro-Kremlin media blames Poroshenko for downed plane
* Russian media diverges sharply from western media
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW, July 18 Some said Ukrainian jet fighters
tailed the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17; others
speculated that Kiev's forces mistook it for Vladimir Putin's
Russian presidential jet.
But while Russia's pro-Kremlin media offered varying
accounts of how the Boeing 777 may have been brought down, they
agreed on who was responsible: the Ukrainian government.
For Moscow, Kiev and pro-Russian separatist rebels alike,
the information war to sway public opinion over who is to blame
for Thursday's disaster will be crucial to how the crisis in
eastern Ukraine develops.
Hours after the crash that killed 298 people, Putin pointed
the finger of blame at his Ukrainian counterpart Petro
Poroshenko, saying it would not have happened if Kiev had not
ended a ceasefire with the separatists.
Since then, reporting from Russia's tightly-controlled
media, which has favoured the rebels throughout the conflict,
has largely supported Putin's conclusions, sharply diverging
from Western coverage of the tragedy.
Russian media drew parallels with a Russian passenger jet
carrying 78 people which was mistakenly shot down by the
Ukrainian military in 2001 as it flew over the Black Sea.
An aviation source cited by Kremlin-owned news outlet RT
also pushed the idea that Ukrainian forces may have fired a
rocket at the Malaysian Boeing, mistaking it for Putin's jet
returning from a summit in Brazil.
"The contours of the airplanes are in general similar, the
linear dimensions are also very similar and regarding the
colouring, from a sufficiently long distance, they are
practically identical," the source said.
As is often the case with pro-Kremlin news outlets, the
narrative could not be more different from the one reported by
Western media, which RT television criticised for "unleashing a
post-crash factless blame game against Russia".
Any indication that the rebels shot down the plane with
weapons seized either from Russian or Ukrainian stockpiles could
raise pressure for stronger action against Russia.
The day before the crash, the United States had slapped its
toughest sanctions yet on Russia for its role in the separatist
conflict that has brought Moscow's ties with the West to their
lowest since the Cold War.
Russia's LifeNews online outlet carried a slightly different
account, saying witnesses had seen a Ukrainian fighter jet
behind the Malaysian airliner, which was flying at an altitude
of 10 km (32,800 feet) - so high it would be barely visible from
Russian news reports supported their arguments with the
alleged Twitter feed of a Spaniard believed to work as an
aviation dispatcher at Kiev's Borisypil airport.
"Two Ukrainian jet fighters were noticed next to the
airplane before it disappeared from the radar, all of three
minutes beforehand," the alleged dispatcher was quoted as saying
by Interfax and pro-Russian Twitter accounts.
On Thursday the cited account @Spainbuca had been deleted.
Kiev is staging an information counterattack. Officials
accused the rebels of using a Soviet-era SA-11 missile system
acquired from Russia - offering evidence that they may have
believed they were firing on a Ukrainian military aircraft.
The government released recordings it said were of Russian
intelligence officers discussing the shooting down of an
aircraft by rebels they were supporting.
"Hell," says one of those being recorded. "It's almost 100
percent certain that it's a civilian plane. Bits were falling in
the streets ... Bits of seat, bodies."
The separatists in Donetsk, near where the plane went down,
boasted to Russian newswire ITAR-TASS last month of having
gained an SA-11 Buk, which is believed to have shot down the
Boeing. Hours after the crash, however, the premier of the
self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai,
denied the claim, telling RIA news agency the fighters had no
Buk systems that could have brought down the plane.
"We didn't have Buks and don't have them now. Some other
kinds of air defence systems were seized," he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview
on state television that Kiev was spinning the facts and trying
to deceive the international community over what was happening
in eastern Ukraine.
"A stream of falsehoods is flowing out of Kiev regarding
what is happening," said Lavrov, "They are accusing everyone and
everything except for themselves."
A Western diplomatic source in Moscow said it would be "very
difficult" to convince the international opinion that the
separatists were not behind the crash.
Russia has already found some unofficial support from China,
where the state news agency said in a commentary that officials
from the United States, Australia and other Western countries
had jumped to conclusions in pointing their fingers at the
rebels in eastern Ukraine or blaming Russia.
(editing by David Stamp)