They targeted a cargo plane but shot down a Boeing 777 passenger jetliner operated by Malaysian Airlines – pro-Russian marauders backed by Moscow. This act of terror, even if caused by an apparent mistake, will presumably worsen the political and economic relations between the Kremlin government and an overwhelming majority of states to a massive degree. For international aviation striking flight MH017 out of the skies over the rebel-controlled eastern parts of the Ukraine is a disaster.
“Major, it was the Cossacks from the Chernuchin blockpost who shot the plane.” This was the exposing radio message transmitted at 4:33 p.m. local time from a pro-Russian rebel to Igor Strelkov, the self-appointed commander in Donetsk and intercepted by the Ukrainian Secret Service. Immediately after receiving this confirmation that an aircraft had been shot down by his militia, Russian national Strelkov, alias Girkin, posted a blog bragging his men had downed an Antonov 26 cargo aircraft.
A grave error, causing the death of 298 passengers and crew members, as the world learned shortly after. No wonder the blog was removed immediately by the insurgents when their mistake came to light.
The MH017 tragedy is based on a dreadful mix-up made by the separatists who were convinced that the aircraft they had spotted on their radar screen was an An-26 belonging to the Ukrainian Air Force. If so, it would have been the thirteenth Ukrainian helicopter or plane and the third An-26 they had downed already. Sources in Kiev confirmed that one of their cargo transporters was in the air space somewhere over the eastern parts of the Ukraine at the time MH017 was shot down, but operating far away in more southerly regions.
Meanwhile, almost five days have passed since Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH017 disappeared from the radar screen shortly before entering Russian air space. While the separatists, together with Moscow’s Putin government, still deny any responsibility in this act of terror, the facts proving their perpetration have become irrefutable. They clearly provide evidence that members of the Kremlin-backed militia controlling some of the eastern Ukraine downed the airliner by firing a BUK-M1 surface-to-air road mobile missile to shoot down the plane. Analysis of the launch plume and trajectory show the missile was fired from an area between Torez and Snizhne. Various amateur photos show a camouflaged BUK-class military launcher heading towards the Russian border shortly after the downing of MH017 with one of its four rockets missing.
If missile debris can be secured, it should be possible to identify the manufacturing batch and trace its origin. This search, however, is jeopardized by the insurgents that keep inspectors and team members from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe away from the site of the crash, forbidding them to thoroughly examine the debris and remains.
Until yesterday (Sunday), the separatists had consistently denied they had recovered MH017’s black box recorders. But then, Alexander Borodai, the self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the so called Donetsk People’s Republic confessed that “jet parts resembling the black boxes were discovered at the crash site." He went on to say that the findings would be handed over to “international experts when they arrive.” When this will happen and which “experts” he meant he didn’t say.
As a reaction to this act of terror hitting commercial aviation the flags at Dutch, Malaysian, and Australian official buildings were flown at half-mast to mourn the many victims coming from
these countries, amongst them dozens of children and 193 nationals from The Netherlands.
Meanwhile the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Eurocontrol have published safety information bulletins, strongly recommending airspace users to avoid the Simferopol and Dnepropetrovsk airspace and circumnavigate using available alternative routings.