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By John Helmer, Moscow 

Two Dutch nationals, David Petraeus and Sandra Roelofs (lead image, centre), were involved in the US planning of an invasion of the Donbass region, eastern Ukraine, in the days running up to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014, when 193 Dutch and 38 Australians were among the 298 passengers and crew killed.  

Petraeus, a US Army general and director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2011-November 9, 2012), is a Dutch citizen by law because his father, Sixtus Petraeus from Friesland, was a junior officer in the Dutch merchant marine at the outbreak of World War II. David Petraeus was awarded a Dutch knighthood in 2010 and is celebrated by the Dutch as “the most visible Dutch American personality on the national and international scene”.

Roelofs, Dutch by birth in Zeeland, became the wife of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (left) in 1993, and she has remained his collaborator in open political as well as clandestine operations in Georgia, Ukraine, and the US since then.

In the early days of July 2014, when the Ukrainian forces of then-President Petro Poroshenko were launching their US-directed offensive in the Donbass, Petraeus met Saakashvili at the latter’s home with Roelofs in New York to discuss a military operation which Saakashvili then discussed with Poroshenko. Last week, speaking on Ukrainian television as a member of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government, Saakashvili broke his silence to reveal partial details of the military plan.  

Did either or both of them engage Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s (right) government before July 17, 2014, in readiness for Rutte’s promotion of the NATO force invasion plan immediately afterwards? Rutte’s involvement in that plan was first revealed by the Dutch press on July 25, 2014.

In September 2014, Saakashvili told the New York Times he was in exile from Georgia – where he was under indictment for corruption – and living in a Brooklyn apartment belonging to an uncle. He didn’t mention his wife Roelofs to the newspaper; he did say he was making the US his work and home.

He had been “visiting old boosters like Senator John McCain and Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state. He said he was in the process of changing his tourist status here to a work visa and in the meantime is enjoying the bars and cafes of his adopted homeland. On his roof deck, with sweeping views of Manhattan, he has entertained David H. Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency”.

Sixtus Petraeus (left) with his son David at the latter’s graduation from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1974, where he also courted and then married the Academy superintendent’s daughter, Holly Knowlton.   

With Nuland and Petraeus, Saakashvili told the newspaper, he had been discussing the war in Ukraine. “‘It’s the end of Putin,” Mr. Saakashvili, 46, said of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the topic of discussion on Thursday [September 18, 2014] as its president, Petro O. Poroshenko, met in Washington with President Obama and congressional leaders. Mr. Saakashvili called Mr. Putin’s actions ‘very, very similar’ to those in Georgia. ‘I think he walked into trap.’”

Saakashvili was big-noting himself for Poroshenko, a university chum in Kiev in the early 1990s.  With approval of Nuland, Poroshenko engaged Saakashvili not long after, first in February of 2015 as chairman of the Consulting International Council for the Reforms for the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and then the following May as governor of Odessa. The Kiev press reported Saakashvili’s real job was “negotiations on the supply of U.S. arms to Ukraine”.  He and Roelofs moved to Ukraine, where in awarding Saakashvili Ukrainian citizenship officials claimed he had been resident in the country since February 23, 2014.

He told Ukrainian television Channel 24 in February 2015 (right):   “Unfortunately, America hasn’t taken part in your [Ukraine’s] war until now, well, sanctions and so on, but she was not [part of the conflict] … Now they realized that something needs to be done, it’s time to save this [Ukrainian] nation, right? And at the time, the Soviet Union was destroyed by the prices on oil, and by the Stingers, the rockets that Reagan was giving to the Afghan mujahidin to shoot down Russian, eh… Soviet helicopters and planes. Now the major necessity you have is anti-tank weaponry – you don’t have good ones… Americans have newer advanced weaponry that they use. As soon as they [Americans] will burn down first 50 Russian tanks there will be absolutely different situation [on the ground]. And Americans are ready to give, Americans are ready to give the drones, the real ones, not the ones that are made here [in Ukraine] … and they will give you artillery, trucks with artillery.”

In November 2016 Poroshenko sacked Saakashvili and revoked his citizenship; their falling-out became public as Saakashvili called Poroshenko “a thief and a traitor”.   Saakashvili and Roelofs returned to the US. Then in May 2019 they resumed their political career in Kiev.

In May 2020 Saakashvili was rewarded by the new Ukrainian President Zelensky with an appointment as “head of the executive committee of Ukraine’s National Reform Council”; that was a consolation prize after Zelensky tried but failed to appoint him a deputy prime minister. According to a London newspaper, Saakashvili “has been installed in a top position co-ordinating reforms in Ukraine”. His real job, he told the newspaper, was “in charge of talks with the IMF…  Asked if he would use his acquaintance with US president Donald Trump to weigh in on the fund, Mr Saakashvili said ‘we should go to the political leadership, the political side as well’”.

Last week Saakashvili returned to Channel 24 in Kiev to reveal he had discussed details of a direct US intervention in eastern Ukraine in mid-2014. “ ‘I remember there was a moment when they could have taken Donetsk. I’m not saying this on my own — General Petraeus…sent me a long text message then, I was in upstate New York, on some holiday. He says: ‘A, B, C, D, D’ – it is written on the points why now is a good time to enter Donetsk,’ Saakashvili said. According to him, Petraeus insisted on the need to capture Donetsk, justifying this by the fact that the security forces could cope on their own. Saakashvili noted that he sent the plan of the American general to Petro Poroshenko, but he did not react. ‘Well, I understand that at least call back, get interested, invite this person, listen to his opinion. I would do this at least,’ he continued. According to Saakashvili, he called Poroshenko and tried to discuss with him the proposal of the American general, but the Ukrainian president took the topic of conversation in a different direction.”  

Research by Liane Theuerkauf indicates the timing of Petraeus’s plan and his meeting and exchanges on the invasion plan with Saakashvili was in the early days of July 2014, immediately after Slavyansk and Kramatorsk were captured by Poroshenko’s army in the Donetsk region. Slavyansk fell on July 5;   Kramatorsk the same day.   Poroshenko announced his battle to take Donetsk and Lugansk cities on July 6  and again on July 8.

On July 10, 2014, the Poroshenko regime announced it had begun a “total attack” on “several fronts” against Donetsk and Lugansk. 

Research by Sam Bullard, reported in The Lie That Shot Down MH17 (right),  “by July 9 or 10, the separatists were recovering with the use of Grad multiple rocket launcher systems (MLRS) targeted at the advancing Ukrainian armoured columns and their forward concentrations. Poroshenko blamed Russian firing across the border.  The tide had clearly turned by July 11 as Poroshenko’s losses mounted.  But Poroshenko had fallen short in his effort to provoke Russia into a direct, visible military intervention. He was also failing to convince the US and NATO allies that they should intervene directly to support him”.

“On July 11 a major battle was fought near Lugansk, where a Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 was shot down. Much of Ukraine’s 79th Brigade was destroyed near Lugansk; the militia didn’t say where they obtained the Grad MLRS that were decisive in that battle. Ukraine’s 24th Mechanized Battalion met a similar fate. By July 14 Ukraine’s forces along the southern border – between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers – were trapped in what was called the Southern Cauldron. Ukraine sent three armoured columns to resupply them, but they ran into stiff resistance. Both sides were claiming victory at the hotly contested airport at Lugansk. Near Lugansk a Ukrainian An-26 transport plane was shot down by the separatists, probably with a MANPAD; Kiev claimed, and possibly believed, that a Russian fighter had shot down the An-26 with an air-to-air missile. This happened just three days before MH17 was attacked.”

“On the morning of July 16, Kiev had five units struggling inside the Southern Cauldron: the 79th Air Assault Brigade, the local Shakhtersk special forces battalion, the 24th Mechanized Brigade, the Azov Battalion, as well as the 72nd Mechanized Brigade. Their situation inside the Southern Cauldron was chaotic, with everyone looking for an undefended spot where they might escape. The cauldron’s terrain is relatively flat and mostly agricultural, so there was almost nowhere for large groups to hide. The Ukrainian assault to take the high ground at Saur Mogila failed, as a smaller cauldron was forming to the east of the airport at Izavarino, on the Russian border.  The government forces also were encircled near Krasnodon. Nowhere was the fighting going well for Kiev.  On July 16 the separatists captured Marinovka; the cauldron was now firmly sealed.”

The morning of July 17, 2014 Ukraine had much manpower and equipment trapped in the Southern Cauldron. Map source for enlarged view.  
Map source

Bullard’s chapter, “The Battle of the Southern Cauldron, July 1-July 17, 2014”, can be read in the book here.  Theuerkauf, with Bullard a co-author of the book, reported her research on the autopsy evidence of what had caused the downing of the aircraft in Chapter 2, “Fate of the cockpit crew”.

The book documents also the planning of the Dutch and Australian governments with the US and NATO to land up to 9,000 troops in eastern Ukraine, allegedly to secure the crash site of MH17, the aircraft’s black boxes, and the bodies of the victims. Publication of this plan first appeared on July 25, 2014, in the Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf.  By then the press leak was designed to ensure that the operation was called off, as Dutch Prime Minister Rutte announced himself on July 27. The details of the Australian role in the invasion plan were leaked in local media in mid-2016 as part of a campaign to unseat the prime minister at the time of the plan, Tony Abbott.

Until last week’s disclosure in Kiev by Saakashvili, it was uncertain what the extent was in July 2014 of the planning by the US for military intervention to support Poroshenko’s assault on Donetsk and Lugansk. The unplanned collapse of the Ukrainian Army in the Southern Cauldron, and the effectiveness of Russian military support for the counter-offensive, were already obvious by July 17, when the attack on MH17 took place.

The implication of Saakashvili’s fresh disclosure is that the US was intensifying its satellite, electronic and radar surveillance of the battlefield region, and of the reinforcement routes from Russia, from the start of July; with NATO surveillance in support, including the Dutch military intelligence service MIVD;  and in response Russian satellite, radar and electronic countermeasures.

A panoramic view of the MH17 crash area in Donetsk region, midway between Donetsk, 40 kms to the southwest (left) and Lugansk, 50 kms to the northeast (right).

Accordingly, on July 17, 2014, there should have been US satellite and NATO coverage of the area as the MH17 flew over, and was then attacked and destroyed. There should have been satellite imagery of the attack, as Secretary of State John Kerry claimed immediately afterwards, though not again. The memorandum of Colonel  Kenneth Stolworthy written to the Dutch government on August 23, 2016, and recently revealed in Dutch court,  however, is evidence that there are no US satellite images of the movement of a Russian BUK across the border or of its launch at MH17. The evidence of the MIVD reports one month later is that neither MIVD nor NATO had direct imagery proving that a Russian BUK had been transported into Ukraine from a Russian base and then fired at MH17. For these stories from last week, click to read.  

By the end of Poroshenko’s military campaign, he and his army were defeated. The US also proved its failure to save them, just as it had proved in Saakashvili’s ill-fated Georgian war of August 2008.

In victory, the Russian side won on the battlefield; it continues to lose in the propaganda war.

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