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article imageHunt begins for the executioners of Flight MH17

By Robert Myles     Jul 18, 2014 in World
Kiev - As Heads of State worldwide paid tribute to the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, shot out of the sky over Ukraine, Thursday, the search began to track down those responsible for the worst terror attack on an aircraft in Europe in over 25 years.
The downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER aircraft with 298 passengers and crew on board was the worst single aviation tragedy over European soil, unlinked to mechanical failure, since that tragic night, over 25 years ago, when a terrorist bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103 in the skies above Lockerbie in Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew on board.
It took decades of investigative work both locally and internationally to bring those allegedly responsible for the Lockerbie atrocity to trial. A similar international investigation, drawing on resources from a number of countries, is now underway to bring to justice whoever was responsible for yesterday’s taking of 298 innocent lives on board a civilian airliner headed to Kuala Lumpur.
Details of the passenger manifest of Flight MH17 have yet to be released pending relatives of the victims being informed but it’s clear the atrocity touches a number of countries with 154 Dutch, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, six Britons, five Belgians, four Germans, three Filipinos and a Canadian being among the victims.
Although Ukrainian Air Force planes and helicopters had previously been shot down over eastern Ukraine, Flight MH17 was not flying in a restricted zone. Civilian aircraft often traverse conflict zones, taking the shortest distance between two points, while taking height-based precautions to guard against attack from ground-based weaponry.
Flight MH17 was reportedly flying at 33,000 feet, well above the range of most ground based surface to air systems, yet it still appears to have been shot down by a ground-launched missile.
Such a scenario narrows down the range of weaponry that might have been used in the attack. BBC News reports Ukrainian interior minister, Anton Herashchenko pointing the finger of blame at a Russian-built Buk surface-to-air missile system as the most likely hardware deployed in obliterating Flight MH 17.
Also known by its NATO codename of Sa-11 Gadfly, this medium-range surface-to-air missile system is designed to defend against high-performance aircraft and cruise missiles. Significantly, the maximum target altitude of the SA-11 Gadfly is 72,000 feet, so Flight MH 17 was well within that weapons system’s range.
Separatists in eastern Ukraine are unlikely to have come upon such sophisticated weaponry by chance and the concern for Western defence analysts is that Russia has been stepping up its support for pro-Russia militias operating within the territory of its neighbor by making available ever more advanced hardware.
Late Thursday, the New York Times Moscow correspondent Ellen Barry tweeted that Interfax had quoted a rebel source as saying, "We simply do not have such air defense systems."
But another scenario, carried in a brief report from Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, end-June, has pro-Russia militias taking control of a number of air defence systems, including the Buk. At the time, one pro-Russia militant group posted a tweet on twitter which appeared to confirm the group’s latest acquisition.
Shortly after yesterday’s tragedy, pro-Russian separatists announced they’d found Flight MH 17’s black-box flight data recorder, an essential tool for air accident investigators.
According to Le Monde, the separatists wanted to send the black box to Moscow for analysis. Such a move would be contrary to international regulations governing air accidents which specify that the country over whose territory the aircraft came down has jurisdiction, i.e. Ukraine.
But a later report this Friday morning said Ukrainian emergency workers had found the plane's black box flight recorder.
Much as Moscow might have desired the black-box being sent to Russia for analysis, Russia has no role jurisdictionally in the air accident investigation now getting underway.
Quoted in The Guardian, Sidney Dekker, an expert on aviation safety at Griffith University, said: "According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation - a UN body - authority over the crash site and all in it lies squarely with the country in which it happens. It is not where the plane has registered, or from where [it flew], or where the airline is based."
Mr Dekker said that if another party removed material such as flight data or cockpit voice recorders, or even fragments of a missile, that would constitute a contravention of international agreements.
The responsibility rested with Ukraine to appoint an investigator-in-charge, who would call upon other expertise as required, from international sources, if necessary.
Russia’s involvement in any investigation, therefore, seems likely to be restricted to being called to provide explanations of a missile’s operational capabilities in the event of the investigator-in-charge finding that a missile was indeed the means used to bring down Flight MH 17.
Meanwhile, the Heads of State of Ukraine and Russia put their respective slants on yesterday’s events.
Ukrainian President Poroshenko, responding to an accusation made by Aleksandr Borodai, one of the pro-Russia separatist leaders, denied any Ukrainian military involvement.
Pointing to a pattern of incidents, Poroshenko said, "This is the third event in the last few days following An-26 and SU-25 planes being brought down. We do not exclude that this plane was also shot down and we stress that the armed forces of Ukraine did not carry out any action to destroy targets in the air."
But Russian President Vladimir Putin was quick to apportion blame for Flight MH 17’s demise entirely upon Ukraine, stating, “I would like to note that this tragedy would not have occurred if there were peace in that country, or in any case, if hostilities had not resumed in southeast Ukraine. And certainly, the government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy.”
Time will tell who launched the fateful, fatal missile that ended Flight MH 17 and the lives of all on board but Australian Premier Tony Abbott, 27 of whose compatriots’ existence was so abruptly terminated yesterday, may have caught the mood of many this morning.
Responding to the Russian Ambassador to Australia having claimed that Ukraine was to blame for the Flight MH 17 disaster when summoned to a meeting with Australia’s Foreign Minister, Prime Minister Abbott described the Russian response as, "deeply, deeply unsatisfactory."
Saying events in Ukraine had nothing to do with them (the Russians),"doesn't stand up to serious scrutiny", said Abbott.
The Australian Premier added, "No excuses, no blame-shifting, no protecting of people who may be backed by Russia but may be involved in this terrible event."
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