A Blame Game

Last week saw the release of the long-awaited report by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) on the MH17 tragedy. The report affirmed that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile. But who pressed the button and who gave the order? Countless Ukrainians were expecting that the report would provide the corresponding names and that the Russian leadership would find itself under some international criminal investigation the day the DSB report is released. But the Western authorities are again showing, just like in so many instances during the Russian aggression in Ukraine, that it will take quite long to to tell the truth, let alone to act upon the findings. How long should this kind of investigations take? This one took 15 months and who knows how long the Dutch criminal investigation will last. The DSB investigation did not even tell exactly where the missile was launched and only said it was fired within a 320-sq-km area southeast of Torez, Donetsk oblast. According to Al Jazeera (via wikipedia.com), that area was controlled by “separatists” at the time of the downing. So, the main things, which have long been known about the tragedy and its cause, are now confirmed. And, hopefully, the criminal investigation will confirm the obvious, that the sophisticated Russian Buk launcher was operated by cadre Russian military, not some “rogue separatists”.

This particular detail is crucial. Since the annexation of Crimea, Russia has been trying to hide the direct involvement of its military in this war. One of the major conclusions of the DSB report, which the Russian propaganda is currently using, is that Ukraine, as a sovereign state, bears sole responsibility for the safety of its airspace and that “the Ukrainian authorities took insufficient notice of the possibility of a civil aeroplane at cruising altitude being fired upon.”

If the Dutch criminal investigation does not put the blame clearly on the Russian military and thus on that country’s leadership, the Russian propaganda will be quick to shift the blame and will surely breathe new life into the story of a “civil war in the Donbas” in which the Kyiv “junta” not only attacked “freedom-loving people’s republics” but also “neglected its airspace”, etc. That the ultimate guilt is with the party, which launched the missile, will not matter to them.

Why did Ukraine not close the airspace above the Donbas at cruising altitudes? Was it inexperience on the part of the fresh new government which found itself at war from Day 1 of its existence? Why did “not a single state” (the DSB report) not warn its operators that the airspace above the conflict zone was unsafe? Many of the governments, including the Dutch one, had much more experience than Ukraine’s in those matters. Why did the International Civil Aviation Organization not ask the Ukrainian authorities about airspace management or offer any assistance prior to the tragedy? Why did Malaysian Airlines not take any precautions? These questions are begging answers too.