— RT (@RT_com) December 26, 2016
“It is too early to conclude what happened with this aircraft, but since I have been asked about this by email, here are my own, personal and provisional, thoughts:
Mechanical failure: unlikely. The Tu-154 is a three engine aircraft and an extremely strong beast. It’s safety record is comparable to most aircraft of its time, even though it was often used in extreme conditions [in the Soviet Union including Siberia - JWS] other aircraft types did not have to operate in. The Tu-154 had already taken enough altitude to attempt a return to base or even a water landing. The weather that day was good. Besides, the crew did not communicate any problem. Thus the disaster had to be instantaneous.
Fuel problem: unlikely. Fuel problems are always a prime suspect when a crash occurs, but even if the engines had suddenly experienced problems or even a full shutdown, the pilots would have had the time to report this. Also, like any other aircraft, the Tu-154 can glide and maneuver without power.
Bird strike: unlikely. I am not even sure that there have ever been a triple engine failure due to a bird strike but even if there has been, they crew could have reported it which it did not. And, again, the case of US Airways flight 1549 has shown that even a catastrophic birdstrike does not prevent a fully loaded airliner from attempting to land.
Pilot error: highly unlikely. The guys flying this aircraft where extremely experienced and while human error is always possible, it mostly results in situations were it can be reported. The Tu-154 was a very complex aircraft to operate and it had its weaknesses – but these were all very well known to the Russian crews and this crew was a very experienced one.
Missile: unlikely. The Tu-154 has three engines including one mounted over the top of the rear of the fuselage and a MANPAD type missile warhead does not have the kind of blast radius capable of taking out all three of them. As for bigger missiles [SAMS - JWS], the Black Sea coasts of Russia is very tightly controlled by the Russian military and security services (as is the entire Black Sea) and to get that close to the city of Sochi would be risky and difficult.
Sabotage/bomb: most likely simply because all other causes are even less likely. True, this was a military aircraft with, supposedly, good security. Alas, I can confirm from personal experience that if you look Russian and speak Russian like a native and if you act the right way, military security in Russia is nowhere near as good as it should be.
However, if you speak with an accent or look foreign, and that includes speaking with a Caucasian accent or looking like somebody from the Caucasus, you would have a much harder time beating the controls.
For all these reasons and even though it is way too early to speculate, my preferred hypothesis is that it was a terrorist act executed by Ukrainian operatives. I hope that I am wrong and that I will be proven wrong in the next 24 hours but at this point in time, this appears to me as the most likely scenario.
One more thing: this tragedy really breaks my heart. Not only did the entire Alexandrov Ensemble perish, but two amazing personalities were on board: Valery Mikhaylovich Khalilov and “Dr Liza“ [Glinka]. There are no words to express the loss which the death of all these people represents for Russia. This is why I hope and pray that in spite of my first reaction outlined above, this is not a Ukrainian terrorist attack because if it is, the consequences will be very severe. We should know more very soon.
— Nina 🐻 Byzantina (@NinaByzantina) December 25, 2016
A Tale of Two TU-154 Crashes in Russia:
One a Polish, the Other a Russian Government Plane
For now, the Russia Analyst does not have much to add to what the ex-Swiss military analyst and White Russian Floridian the Saker has to say on this subject. However, we can point out a few additional details or odd 'coincidences'. For starters, the latest Tupolev 154 to crash on December 25, 2016 is the same type of Soviet-designed jet that crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk on April 10, 2010 carrying 96 people, including 89 passengers. The victims of that crash which was blamed by Russian authorities on pilot error in foggy weather were members of Poland's elites including President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria. Lech Kaczyński's surviving twin brother Jarosław Kaczyński heads Poland's governing Law and Justice party, where some consider him as if not more influential than Prime Minister Beata Szydło and President Andrzej Duda.
On Smolensk: “Everything is clear about it, why speculate, why use a tragedy for politics?”
— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) December 23, 2016
“Putin says he has personally heard tapes from the plane where the Polish president personally orders the pilot to land despite poor weather conditions. Says people should stop using the tragedy to spoil relations between Russia and Poland.”
Putin clearly really fed up with Polish people asking him about Smolensk. "I read the black box transcript! Stop speculating about it!"
— max seddon (@maxseddon) December 23, 2016
During his year end press conference on December 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that there was no conspiracy involved in the Smolensk crash and that he had personally reviewed the black box transcripts from the cockpit. Putin's remarks came in response to a question about the Law and Justice led Polish government re-opening the investigation in 2016 and going so far as to exhume the bodies of Lech and Maria Kaczyński in November to affirm that no foul play took place. Historically and since the return of Crimea to Russia and Donbass war began in 2014, suspicions of Russia remain high in Poland. Interestingly enough, however, Polish politicians such as Donald Tusk from the previous Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) government have slammed Law and Justice leaders for spreading conspiracy theories 'harmful to Poland' regarding Smolensk.
It should be noted that Mr. Tusk was at the scene within hours of the crash, where he was personally briefed by current Russian Defense and then Emergency Situations Minister Sergey Shoigu on what the Russians knew at the time. Today Mr. Tusk, after leaving active Civic Platform politics, is President of the European Council. His ex-Civic Platform party colleague, former Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, was forced out of active Polish political life after embarrassing recordings of him complaining that Poland is akin to a prostitute servicing a client for free, getting next to nothing from the Americans surfaced in 2014, followed by revelations of some petty mis-allocation of Polish state funds. Radislaw (whom we once shook hands with years ago at a Washington think tank event) happens to be married to Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, who has complained bitterly about an alleged Russian disinformation campaign against herself and her husband while seldom naming John Helmer, the Moscow-based Australian journalist who reported the neocon power couple's shenanigans.
The point is, the Civic Platform party is hardly less suspicious towards Russia than their more eurosceptic and nationalist rivals in Poland's governing Law and Justice Party. And yet Mr. Tusk, whose portfolio includes the EU's financing for the cash strapped failing regime in Kiev, has dismissed the allegations of anything improper or unpatriotic in his post Smolensk crash meeting with Shoigu as conspiracy lunacy. What Putin and perhaps Tusk have implied is that the promoters of the 'Russians killed Kacyzynski' theories come from outside of Poland, and aim for the not so difficult task of blocking any warming in relations between Warsaw and Moscow.
If the TU-154 Was Taken Down by a Bomb, Is this the Latest Act of Vengeance Against the Russians in an Ongoing Covert War Behind the Visible Second Cold War?
The Russia Analyst's point is, while Russian authorities appear to be directing their media and the global press away from terrorism or foul play in connection with the December 25 TU-154 tragedy, there's still a possibility of a covert 'tit for tat' message being sent. That is, for those Russian chekists always convinced that the dirtiest elements of the CIA/MI6 are behind it when planes go down in Russia, especially so recently after Moscow's military humiliated the Americans and their Saudi/Qatari partners by defeating their jihadist proxies in Aleppo, the two TU-154 crashes 2,451 days apart may not be viewed as purely coincidental. Especially since not only the world famous Alexandrov ensemble were on board bound for the Kheimmim air base near Latakia to entertain Russian troops there in a New Year's concert, but also ranking commanders associated with Moscow's deployment of military police from Chechnya to recently liberated Aleppo.
From the other side of the first Cold War dialectic, Team RogueMoney's very own 1980s covert action veteran 'W the Intelligence Insider' pointed to one odd numerological 'coincidence', which is that the Russian TU-154 crashed approximately 111 days after Egypt Air flight 804 departed from Cairo for Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport (May 18, 2016), only to crash into the Mediterranean Sea. To date, terrorism has not been officially registered as the cause of that crash by the Egyptians, who are keen not to further damage their perpetually-targeted European/Russian tourist trade after a charter jet full of Russians was reportedly destroyed by an ISIS bomb on October 31, 2015.
As Team Rogue Money's @BanksterSlayer pointed out on May 19, Egypt Air 804 crashed 804 days after Malaysian Airlines flight 370 disappeared in the Indian Ocean, leaving only traces of wreckage which washed ashore in east Africa months later. For their part, French authorities have said TNT traces were found on debris recovered from the EgyptAir Airbus A320. So far, while Russian divers attempt to recover the TU-154's black boxes in relatively shallow waters near the 2014 Winter Olympics-hosting Black Sea resort city of Sochi, there is no evidence of foul play in the December 25th crash.
Other Coincidences This Week Associated with Syria and NATO
President Vladimir Putin has declared today Monday, December 26 a day of mourning across Russia, and outpourings of sympathy have come in from around the world -- drowning out the gleeful tweets of 'Allah's vengeance for Aleppo' coming from jihadists on Twitter. One member of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and California Democratic Party's board based in Los Angeles deleted a tweet asking why more Russians didn't die in the tragedy.
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) December 26, 2016
— Luke Rudkowski (@Lukewearechange) December 26, 2016
An aide to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also took satisfaction in the deaths of nearly the entire Alexandrov Ensemble, bitterly pointing out along with other pro-Kiev government Twitter trolls that the group had performed in Crimea after the strategic peninsula seceded from Ukraine. However, the outpourings of grief from many worldwide, aside from the ghoulish delight of a few bastards on social media, have understandably distracted the Russian media and people from two ongoing stories that pertain directly to Cold War 2.0 on two fronts: in Europe and the Mideast.
Nobody's Asking CIA Director John Brennan Where Did ISIS in Al-Bab Get All Those Wonderful Toy TOWs -- But the Turkish Military is Asking Now That Their Boys Are Dying
— maytham (@maytham956) December 25, 2016
The first is the battle between Ankara's regular army and Turkish special forces and ISIS at al-Bab, in which the Turks have discovered their 'moderate rebel' Syrian allies have been basically worthless in fighting Daesh. During the last few weeks, ISIS has inflicted dozens of KIA and scores of WIA on the Turkish troops trying to secure a hospital and other ISIS-occupied strongpoints in the city, while knocking out several modern, German-made Leapard 2 battle tanks. There are now reports that Russian air strikes may be unleashed on Daesh to aid Turkish advances into the city, where strikes by Turkey's own Air Force F-16s have proven ineffective (once again U.S.-led coalition airpower, as at Palmyra when ISIS re-took the city two weeks ago, remains highly conspicuous by its passive aggressive absence).
— Brasco_Aad (@Brasco_Aad) December 25, 2016
Questions regarding how ISIS is not only fighting more competently of late at Mosul and Palmyra, but also expending many modern TOW 2 and other anti-tank missiles at al-Bab are those 'journalists' covering the super-terrorist army like Michael D. Weiss would rather not be asked. While touting ISIS recent battlefield 'successes', including via anti-Turkish Kurd activists on social media, very few people are asking why the Daeshbags are suddenly refusing to melt away quietly, as they did when the Turks initially invaded northern Syria as part of their announced Euphrates Shield operation in late August.
In other words, now that the Turks seem to be finally fighting ISIS rather than supplying and supporting them, who's directing the Daeshbags' defense of al-Bab, and showering them with TOW 2 and other anti-tank missiles of the type the CIA claimed to have only supplied to 'moderate' rebels? How much anger is there in the post-July coup purged Turkish Army against Turkey's CIA-allied spy agency the MIT over their previous support for the same ISIS terrorists now killing Turkish soldiers? If the assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov this month was 'not the killer's own initiative', was the goal in fact as Putin has said to scuttle the growth of Russian-Turkish cooperation in Syria?
Suspected 'Suiciding' in Belgium of NATO's Chief Auditor with Expertise in Terror Financing
On a related note, the story of a 62-year-old auditor general for NATO with reported expertise in tracking terrorism financing's bizarre meant to look like a suicide murder in Belgium has now gone viral. If before only some alternative and Russian media were reporting the slaying of Yves Chandelon, now the British tabloid the Daily Express has picked up the story, along with Sibel Edmonds' respected Newsbud site. As Turkish Army sources complain that their troops are being killed with (and capturing from Daesh) at Al-Bab ammunition with Turkish military and NATO markings on it, could the world be on the verge of major disclosures regarding ISIS equaling 'US-is', as Caravan to Midnight's John B. Wells would say?
Vechnaya Pamyat (Eternal Memory) to the Victims of the 12/25/2016 TU-154 Tragedy
Memory eternal to Russia's wonderful Alexandrov Russian/Red Army choir musicians, brave war correspondents and life-saving medical humanitarians like Elizaveta 'Dr. Liza' Glinka. You will be missed.