You can only imagine investigators’ exasperation at Russia’s schoolyard-level protesting at the probe into the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The governmental instinct to mitigate the political fall-out from such an event is understandable. But Russia’s ham-fisted attempts to distance itself from MH17 have left its administration looking as pathetic as a child who insists – with crumb-covered fingers – that he hasn’t been in the cookie-jar.

From the outset the Russian government’s contemptible attitude has been to treat the public like idiots. While a full and frank admission over its role would have been too much to expect, Russia has resorted to extraordinary cowardice.

It has not even had the decency to put forward a reasonable cover story, relying instead on propaganda of astonishing ineptitude which surely renders inconceivable any suggestion that the Russian government actually believes its own insulting codswallop.

Among the principal losers in the whole charade is the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK), which has established itself as a competent and respected accident investigation authority, but faces having its reputation undermined by its own government.

MAK probably understands the frustration of the MH17 investigation panel. It has been subjected to a similar politically driven backlash, with persistent claims from the Polish government of investigative bias and falsification over its inquiry into the presidential Tu-154 crash at Smolensk in 2010. Poland’s establishment of a new commission to look into the crash seems pretty shabby for a country which has worked hard to ensure that the historical record of Second World War atrocities committed on its territory is not rewritten.

During September a new feature film, entitled Smolensk, appeared in Polish cinemas. While essentially a fictionalised account centred on the circumstances of the crash, it serves to promote ludicrous and paranoid, but politically expedient, theories of a Russian cover-up.

That Poland’s senior leadership attended the film’s premiere in early September probably says every­thing about the rationality of the new commission.

The pair are not the only merchants peddling claptrap to the masses. National pride and aversion to blame have contaminated several accident inquiries.

Civil aviation safety is a serious business. Coping with the aftermath of failure demands honesty, integrity and courage. There’s no room for face-saving.