Russia pushing for 'fair investigation' of MH17 crash
Three months have passed since the July 17 crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine. On that day, 298 innocent people met a terrible death in a suspected man-made disaster probably caused by a series of fatal mistakes on the part of many different people.
Letting a civilian aircraft fly over a combat zone may have been the major mistake. The tragedy shocked people around the world. Everywhere, including every part of Ukraine and Russia, people are still praying for the victims and showing sympathy and grief.
The rules of human society demand that untimely violent deaths of innocent people are thoroughly investigated, so the guilty party or parties can be named and judged, sentenced and punished.
There's been a lot of naming and blaming in the past three months, but very little in the sense of a thorough investigation. In fact, politicians and journalists, who took it upon themselves to investigate the tragedy, have been operating with a limited number of established facts.
Cleared of rhetoric, pure speculation and tales of suspect integrity, the essential facts available to the public remain scarce and largely unexplained. We all know from the preliminary report published in September by the Dutch Safety Board that the aircraft disintegrated in mid-air after it was hit by a series of high-energy external objects, and that there are multiple holes from supposed shrapnel on the recovered parts of its wings and fuselage. There is nothing yet in the report that clearly indicates the downing of the aircraft by a missile, let alone identifying the missile as an air-to-air or surface-to-air missile.
Nevertheless, the media reported that Ukrainian, European and American politicians and unnamed US intelligence sources blamed "Russia-backed rebels" as the culprits and Russia as the supplier of the missile, without any visible attempts to prove this with sound evidence. Take note: the US insists that its intelligence data contains conclusive proof the the plane was shot down by the rebels of Eastern Ukraine with a missile delivered by Russia, but the US flatly refuses to reveal this data. Give us facts, please.
When the Russian Armed Forces General Staff puts its satellite imagery and electronic intelligence reports on the table for the whole world to see, the effort was ridiculed by some and went totally unnoticed by others.
No one seems to be interested in the Russian intelligence of the incident, revealed to the public in its totality. By the way, that data indicates a possible attack by a missile from the Ukrainian territory or from a Ukrainian fighter-interceptor plane which was registered in the area at the moment of the disaster.
Interestingly enough, suspicious bursts of radar activity around probable launch sites in Ukraine immediately before the tragedy stopped just after the crash. This is also a fact worth checking. But again there hasn't been much interest in it, just as there hasn't been any interest in the movements of Ukrainian surface-to-air missile batteries recorded in overhead imagery from Russian satellites. Why?
Outside the Russia-bashing atmosphere created by mainstream Western media during the past months, and amidst the total disregard of the disclosed Russian intelligence data, the facts reported by the Dutch Safety Board in September look just like what they actually are: preliminary findings in a proper investigation of an air crash.
However, against the backdrop of the anti-Russian hysteria they easily turn into findings that can be manipulated to reveal the identity of a predetermined culprit.
The issue is still red-hot with the media and politicians and as recently as Monday, the Australian prime minister told the whole world that he was planning to "shirtfront" President Putin when he arrives for the G20 summit in Brisbane. Apart from being a very bad idea for a meeting with a man widely known to be a Judo master, this uttering is totally unfair because there is nothing in the initial findings of the investigation that could even vaguely connect the Russian president with the Malaysia flight MH17 disaster.
Unfortunately, the investigation of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine hasn't evolved beyond the initial stage. This could be down to the fact that the Ukrainian authorities have not answered dozens of questions posed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The crash site is situated in a combat zone, and even now, in spite of the truce signed in the Belarus capital Minsk, sporadic fighting still happens every other day. Accusations against the rebels for denying access of international investigators to the site are absolutely groundless — the rebels are open for cooperation.
But there is an odd coincidence that tends to repeat itself: Ukrainian security forces start a fresh shelling of the area each time an investigation team plans to go there. That has to stop, and if Russia's Western partners are sincere about the investigation, a joint effort by all sides including the US, EU, Ukraine and Russia could achieve that result.
So far, Russia is the only nation constantly insisting on a thorough investigation of the crash by international experts. We have raised this issue in the UN Security Council and in the General Assembly. So far, Russia's demands fall on the deaf ears of its Western counterparts, who seem to be content with the status quo for a simple reason: blaming Russia becomes a self-proving justification for blaming Russia some more.
Unless a joint international effort is taken, we may never learn the truth about the cause of the MH17 crash. That would be a much heavier burden on our collective conscience than any unpleasant words and actions.
Words and actions can be revoked, but truth, undiscovered in the short-sightedness of the moment, may be lost. What we all badly need is a fair investigation.
Kirill Barsky is ambassador of the Russian Federation to Thailand.