After reading my book a journalist with the UK’s Daily Star newspaper, David Rivers, reached out to the daughter of passenger Sergei Deineka, Liza Deineka, whose social media postings I quoted. He published her response in a story today.
As you may recall, just 11 day after her father and all the other passengers aboard MH370 had effectively been declared dead by the Malaysian prime minister, Liza posted a photo of herself with her father on Instagram with the comment, “Happy Birthday, Daddy.” Several friends added comments with their own well-wishes. One wrote, “With the birthday boy! Let everything always be good for him,” followed by a string of emojis: a blushing, smiling face; a gift wrapped with a bow; a noisemaker; confetti; a toy balloon; a bow. “Thank you,” Liza responded, with a kissy-face emoji.
I found this exchange startling because signals transmitted from MH370 suggested that the plane was hijacked to Russia. Since Deineka and Chustrak were former Soviet Army veterans who happened to be sitting right under the SDU, they seemed top suspects as potential hijackers. Of course, if they took the plane and flew it to Kazakhstan, they would not be dead as commonly assumed, but alive. And Liza’s social media posts (both here and elsewhere) seemed to be saying just that.
I long ago reached out directly to Chustrak and Deineka’s families but had been told they didn’t wish to speak to me. Rivers, however, had better luck. After he contacted her and asked about my theory she responded with a statement. The translation reads:
Since March 8, 2014, I have not seen or heard (from) my dad. The evidence is that he is not dead, so all I can do is hope for the best.
I am very sorry people want to discuss and condemn the emotions of people who have a missing person missing. I don’t agree with many in this article.
Starting with answers, ending the reasons why my dad flew this way. They flew to Beijing to get a visa.
No plane wreckage was found, so I can’t be sure that they crashed. All I can do is hope that people could be saved.
Unfortunately, so far no one has given us reliable information about what happened to the plane and the people in it.”
A couple of things about this statement struck me as remarkable.
First, though Rivers doesn’t clarify this in his article, the reason that Liza brings up the visa is that she’s attempting to explain why her father and his partner were on the plane in the first place. As I described in my book, Chustrak’s widow stated in a Ukrainian court filing that her husband and Deineka were traveling to Beijing in order to get to a trade show in Guangzhou. Yet this is a very roundabout way to get from Kuala Lumpur to Guangzhou.
In this statement, Liza seems to be suggesting that this leg of their journey was necessary in order for the men to get the visas they needed for their trip. But that’s not how travel into China works. A Russian friend of mine who lives in China emailed me that “Visas should be obtained either outside China or, if you have an invitation from a Chinese company, in a port of entry through special police facilities. It takes a week to get a one-year multiple visa, a couple of days for one-entry visa.”
In 2013 the Chinese introduced an exception, whereby you could fly without a visa to certain cities (including both Beijing and Guangzhou) and stay for up to 72 hours if you had an onward ticket to a third country. Ukrainians were among the nationalities qualified to get these Transit Visas.
Regardless of which of these options Chustrak and Deineka might have intended to avail themselves of, since any visa facilities that are available in Beijing are also available in Guangzhuo, I am unable to discern a visa-related reason for these men to go to Beijing. If any readers feel otherwise I would very much welcome their input.
The second thing I find remarkable about Liza Deineka’s statement is this: “The evidence is that he is not dead.” The most mundane interpretation of this statement would be that she means there is no evidence he is dead—but on the face of it she is saying something quite different, namely that there is positive evidence for his still being alive. I can’t imagine what this evidence might be, but if such a thing existed it would be of course highly interesting. I’ve asked Rivers to send me the original statement in Russian, in hopes that a close parsing of the original by a native speaker will clarify her meaning. He’s said he will and I’ll post an update when that happens.
By the way, she writes “I am very sorry people want to discuss and condemn the emotions of people who have a missing person missing.” I think it should be self-evident that I’m not condemning her emotions, to which I’m sympathetic; rather I’m trying to understand the meaning of the things that she wrote and posted on social media.
It’s a confusing situation. On the one hand, her family is part of a suit against Malaysia Airlines for wrongful death; on the other hand, they haven’t had him declared dead in Ukraine. If his family celebrated his birthday in March of 2015 that suggests they believed he was alive, whereas here she says “all I can do is hope for the best.”
Also, I don’t know what she means by “No plane wreckage was found, so I can’t be sure that they crashed.” Several pieces of wreckage have been found that have been confirmed to have come from MH370, as anyone with even a glancing familiarity with the case wouldl know.
Rivers tells me that Deineka has said she is unwilling to answer any further questions. This is a pity, because if her father’s presence aboard MH370 was innocent then I think a simple clarification of what the men were doing and why would clear up the fog of suspicion.
By the way, I get that the Daily Star’s journalism is not held in particularly high regard. But Rivers has clearly done some real reporting here, and apart from some tendentious language (and an entirely fabricated quote in the headline, for which I do not hold him responsible) his article is accurate.
UPDATE 5/21/19: David Rivers has sent me the texts of the original messages he got from Liza Deineka:
I first put your blog post to her for her right of reply, she said: К сожалению ,я не могу найти эту информацию в интернете.не могли бы вы прислать мне отрывок,где упоминается о моем отце?
I sent your blog post to her, and she said: С 8 марта 2014 года я не видела и не слышала своего папу.Доказательств что он мертв нет,так что все что мне остаётся это надеятся на лучшее!
Мне очень жаль ,что люди хотят обсудить и осудить эмоции людей,у которых близкий человек пропал безвести.Я со многим не согласна в этой статье.начиная с моих ответов ,заканчивая причинами почему мой папа летел таким путём.
Летели они через Пекин ,чтобы получить визу.
Then, I asked her what she mean by ‘evidence is my dad is still alive’, she said: Обломки самолета не были найдены,так что я не могу быть уверена ,что они разбились.Все что я могу делать-это надеяться,что люди могли спастись.
К сожалению,до сих пор никто не дал нам достоверную информацию что случилось с самолетом и людьми в нем.
I then asked what her thoughts were on the debris found, and she said she no longer wished to talk about the subject.
It would seem that Liza Deineka believes that no MH370 debris has been recovered from the Indian Ocean, and that this is positive evidence that her father is still alive. It may be that she has not paid particularly close attention to how the case has unfolded. [UPDATE TO THE UPDATE, 6/6/19: Reader TheBlueMarble writes: “My Russian is not perfect (and neither is my English), but the meaning of ‘Доказательств что он мертв нет’ is definitely not what the translation you’ve got suggests. It very literally means ‘there is no evidence that he is dead’ and nothing more than that I’m afraid. To be honest, I see nothing in the Russian text that would prove she actually believes that her father is alive – it sounds way more like an expression of a faint hope rather than any sort of conviction.” I think this is correct, and that another valid translation would be “There is no proof that he is dead,” which would make even more sense.]
I’m still curious, though, about the visa story. Seems like there’s more to uncover here.