A leading Russian state-owned news agency has apologized for an online quiz about the crash of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine that it published on its website on the first anniversary of the tragedy.
RIA Novosti published the 15-question quiz on July 17 about the MH17 disaster, which killed 298 people, but deleted it shortly thereafter following a flurry of outrage by social-media users who decried it as callous.
The quiz included photographs of the Malaysia Airlines plane’s wreckage and memorials to the victims, and participants who selected the right option in the multiple-choice poll were greeted with the automatic response: “Congratulations! Your answer is correct”:
RIA Novosti said on its Twitter feed that it had suspended the editors responsible for the quiz.
“We apologize to readers and mourn with the victims’ relatives and loved ones,” the agency tweeted.
In a statement on RIA Novosti’s Facebook page, the news agency’s parent company, state-owned media behemoth Rossia Segodnya, said the authors and editors responsible for the material could be fired pending an internal probe.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down on July 17, 2014, over an area in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists locked in a war with Ukrainian forces.
Kyiv and Western governments maintained that the rebels shot the plane down using a Buk surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia. The Dutch Safety Board’s draft investigative report on the tragedy draws the same conclusion.
Russian officials deny Moscow’s involvement and have accused Ukraine’s Air Force of shooting the plane down.
The RIA Novosti quiz on the disaster included questions about the date of the disaster, how many passengers were aboard, and who controlled the situation on the ground at the crash site “until the arrival of aviation experts.”
It also included a question related to claims by the Russian Investigative Committee that a Ukrainian soldier has given evidence that MH17 was shot down by an air-to-air missile, a claim that dovetails with Moscow’s allegations of Kyiv’s responsibility.