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An assassination attempt against Russian President Vladimir Putin. A desperate ploy to draw the West into the battle for Ukraine's east. A botched mission to commit mass murder against Russian citizens.
Russian news consumers are getting plenty of explanations for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which killed 298 people. While they vary wildly in content, all point the finger at Ukraine. None admits the possibility that Russia may bear responsibility.
The story of the airline tragedy that is unfolding for Russians differs starkly from the one that people are following in the West. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told American TV viewers that rebels shot down the plane with Russian weaponry, Russians were being fed a diet of scenarios about forces in Ukraine conspiring to commit an atrocity in the skies.
Yekaterina Andreyeva, one of Russia's most famous TV anchors, delved into one theory hours after news of the crash broke: Putin, traveling home from Brazil, passed along the same flight path as the Malaysian passenger jet less than one hour before it was hit - suggesting an assassination attempt.
''The presidential plane and the Malaysian Boeing crossed paths at the exact point and at the same flight level,'' said Andreyeva. ''The shape of the plane and the length are absolutely similar, and their color would appear almost identical at such a distance.''
By Friday morning, the assassination theory was replaced by other scenarios.
One focused on the Buk missile launcher that Ukraine says brought down the plane. State-owned Rossiya TV pinned blame on Kiev by saying the rebels did not own one, while Ukraine recently deployed a Buk launcher to the area. An Associated Press journalist saw a Buk launcher - which rebels have bragged about owning in social media - in rebel-held territory near the crash site hours before the plane was brought down.
Rossiya further said that the red, white, and blue of the Malaysia Airlines logo ''resembles the Russian tricolor'' - hinting at a Ukrainian attempt to blow up a Russian passenger jet.
Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's most-read tabloid, took another tack. It claimed that Ukrainian air traffic controllers redirected the Malaysia Airlines plane to fly directly over the conflict zone, publishing pictures from flight-tracking websites that appeared to show fluctuations in the plane's route.
On Tuesday, the paper appeared to suggest that the jetliner was shot down by a Ukrainian military plane with American