Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Unfortunately, We still don’t know who fired the missile

July 17, 2015 10:48 am

 

Debris
from Flight 17 smouldering in a field in Grabovo,
Ukraine near the Russian border, on July 17, 2014. Photo / Getty Images

A year since a Airlines Boeing 777 was blown out of the
sky over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine – killing 298 people – there has
been little official word of progress in determining what brought down
Flight MH17.
One of the probes under way reportedly points toward
a ground-to-air missile fired from a village held by Russia-backed
separatist rebels, but the report isn’t to be public for months. Another
investigation trudges forward with painful slowness, and contradictory
theories emerge from Moscow.
A fog of vehement allegations, macabre claims and self-serving rhetoric shrouds the tragedy.
Within hours of the July 17, 2014 crash, a crucial fact appeared
clear – the wreckage was strewn over such a wide area that the plane
must have broken into bits long before it fell. Most evidence points to
the plane, which departed from Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, being taken down by a missile over an area controlled by
pro-Russia rebels.
And hours before the MH17 went down, AP
journalists saw a Buk M-1 launcher moving through the rebel-controlled
town of Snizhne, carrying four 18-foot (5.5-meter) missiles. Three hours
later and six miles west, the plane was shot down.
Still, no
official has confirmed whether the missile was fired from a warplane or
from the ground. And nobody has established who fired: the Ukrainian
army, the separatist rebels or Russian forces allegedly backing them
with troops and arms. An international investigation may be able to
answer the first question, but not until at least October. Another probe
addressing the second is likely to take until at least next year.
A look at where the investigations and theories stand:

CRASH CAUSE

The
investigation led by the Dutch Safety Board aims only to determine the
crash cause, not to ascribe blame. That’s likely to produce a report
loaded with esoteric technical detail. A preliminary report from the
board in September was able to say only that the plane was destroyed by
“high-energy objects” that pierced it from outside.
A draft
version of the final report was circulated this month to representatives
of Malaysia, Ukraine, the US, Russia, Britain, Australia and the
Netherlands for their comments and suggested revisions. Oleg Storchevoi,
a deputy chief of the Russian aviation agency, said the agency has
complaints regarding both the technical data and the arguments in the
report. He did not give details.

A separatist fighter stands guard in Donetsk, Ukraine. The downing of MH17 fuelled tensions and conflict between separatists and the Ukrainian Government. Photo / Getty Images
A separatist fighter stands guard in
Donetsk, Ukraine. The downing of MH17 fuelled tensions and conflict
between separatists and the Ukrainian Government. Photo / Getty Images
But a US official told the Associated Press that the
draft says the plane was destroyed by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air
missile fired from the village of Snizhne, which was under rebel
control. That narrative meshes with AP findings in the hours before the
downing. The official, who wasn’t authorized to comment publicly, spoke
on condition of anonymity.
The probe is being led by The
Netherlands because 196 of the victims were Dutch, and Ukraine agreed to
give Holland formal responsibility for the investigation.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

A
probe by the Dutch national prosecutor’s office aims to establishing
who was responsible. This investigation includes authorities from
Ukraine, Malaysia and other countries whose nationals were among the
victims, but Russia is not a participant.
It is unclear whom the
investigators are questioning, or the extent of the evidence they’ve
collected. The prosecutor’s office released a video calling on witnesses
to come forward and indicated the probe is focusing on rebel or Russian
involvement. The video asks for information about a Buk-11 missile
system that was spotted moving through the rebel territory before and
after the crash, then possibly heading for the Russian border. The
investigative organization Bellingcat also has devoted attention to this
missile-launcher, claiming it can be traced to one that was stored in
the rebels’ main stronghold of Donetsk.

Putin in the frame: Many Ukrainians blame the Russian President for the downing of the flight. Photo / Getty Images
Putin in the frame: Many Ukrainians blame the Russian President for the downing of the flight. Photo / Getty Images
Rebel officials at the time denied having any such
missile systems, although Russian agencies had reported rebel
claims of seizing some from Ukrainian forces a few weeks earlier.
Russia
is opposing a proposed UN Security Council resolution to establish an
international criminal tribunal for the crash; Moscow has veto power in
the security council.

RUSSIA’S THEORIES

A
few days after the crash, the Russian Defense Ministry showed photos it
said proved that Ukrainian surface-to-air systems were operating in the
area before the crash. Russian officials also said they had evidence
that a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet had flown “between 3 to 5 kilometres”
from the Malaysia Airlines jet.
The latter theory was revisited a
few months later when state television released a satellite photograph
that it claimed showed that a Ukrainian fighter jet shot down MH17. The
photo purportedly came from a little-known person who identified himself
as an aviation expert. Bloggers following the case quickly claimed the
photo was a forgery.
In June, the Russian manufacturer of Buk
systems said it had concluded the airliner was indeed brought down by a
Buk, but an older model no longer in service in Russia. It said such
systems were still used by the Ukrainian army, but it was not clear if
the Buks reportedly seized by rebels a year earlier would have included
that model.

Ukrainian rescue servicemen inspect part of the wreckage of MH17. All 298 people onboard were killed in the tragedy. Photo / Getty Images
Ukrainian rescue servicemen inspect
part of the wreckage of MH17. All 298 people onboard were killed in the
tragedy. Photo / Getty Images
Despite missile-maker’s statement, Russia’s top
investigative body says it regards the warplane as its top theory and
claims to be protecting a Ukrainian witness who has identified the
plane’s pilot.
In any case, Russian President Vladimir Putin has
said, Ukraine is morally responsible for the crash because it occurred
in a war that Russia claims was launched by Ukraine.

LOOSE ENDS

One
of the enduring mysteries of the tragedy is whether the rebels actually
publicly admitted to downing the plane. Just minutes after the crash, a
posting appeared on the social media account of then-rebel commander
Igor Girkin, saying that the rebels had shot down a Ukrainian An-26
transport plane and it crashed in the same area as MH17. The rebels had
shot down several Ukrainian planes in the early months of the war, but
apparently with shoulder-fired missiles that could not reach the
altitude at which MH17 was flying. The posting was later scrubbed from
the account, with the explanation that the post was not by Girkin
himself but by someone else with access to the account.
Girkin
also was notorious for claiming that many of the people on MH17 were
dead before the plane took off, which he said was based on witness
accounts that the bodies were putrefying immediately after the crash.

Tags:
shared on wplocker.com