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article imageOp-Ed: Ukraine, U.S. and Russia have all shot down civilian airliners

By Ken Hanly     Jul 22, 2014 in World
Donetsk - Many different countries have been guilty of shooting down civilian airliners often with the loss of hundreds of lives. The list includes Russia and the United States but perhaps less well known the Ukraine itself.
As this article notes airlines are allowed to fly over conflict zones all the time. Most of the time nothing happens but sometimes there are tragic mistakes. The United States apparently mistook an Iranian civilian airliner for a military fighter when it misinterpreted its signals. Korean Airline Flight 007 entered Soviet air space near Sakhalin island was taken to be a spy mission and was shot down. The Ukrainians shot down Siberian Airlines Flight 1812 during a military training exercise.
Siberian Airlines Flight 1812 was en route on October 4th 2001 from Tel Aviv, Israel to Novosibirsk Russia. The Tupolev Tu-154 carried 78 including the crew. Most were Israelis who were on their way to visit relatives in Russia. Everyone on board including the 12 crew were killed. Ukraine eventually admitted that the crash was probably the result of a missile fired during an exercise by its military forces. Surviving family members of victims were compensated with a payment of about $200,000 per victim.
Flight 1812 was flying at a height of 36,000 feet over the Black Sea when the Russian ground control in Sochi lost contact. An Armenian plane reported seeing the plane explode before crashing into the sea. Since the crash happened less than one month after the 2001 9/11 attack the Russians thought that this might have been a Chechen terrorist attack. However after investigation the Interstate Aviation Committee in Moscow ruled that the cause of the crash was a Ukrainian S-200 missile strike confirming an earlier US opinion. An American private assessment by US military officials claimed that the S-200 overshot its target drone which had already been destroyed by another missile fired at the same time. Instead of self-destructing it locked in on the Siberian airliner 150 miles away and exploded near the plane bringing it down in a hail of shrapnel. At first the Russians dismissed the American account. However, eventually Ukrainian officials came to admit that their military shot down the plane. A fuller account of what happened subsequent to the crash can be found here.
The Siberian airlines incident shows that a missile that misses one target could possibly continue on to hit another. While it is not certain that rebels fired the missiles that hit Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, it is possible that they were aiming at another plane and missed with the missile continuing much higher to hit the Malaysian plane. More likely however is that they simply mistook the Malaysian plane for a military plane as happened in the US downing of an Iranian airliner.
Some of the blame for the event must be put on Ukrainian authorities for allowing commercial airliners to continue to fly over an area where they knew that the rebels had missiles with a range of up to 70,000 feet far beyond the 32,000 feet judged as the lower limit of safety. As a Wall Street Journal article notes: Ukraine intelligence officials said they knew three days before the downing of Malaysia Airlines 3786.KU +15.00% Flight 17 that rebels in the east of the country possessed sophisticated air-defense systems capable of felling a jetliner at altitudes in excess of where the Boeing BA +0.57% 777 was flying. Already on July 14th the rebels shot down a Ukrainian Antonov An-26 at a height of 21,000 feet. The Ukrainian authorities then raised the minimum height for airliners to fly to 32,000 feet. The Malaysian airliner was at 33,000 feet when hit. However a European aviation safety veteran said: "I can't think of any reason why you would increase a restriction to 32,000 feet when the bad boys have just demonstrated a capability to go all the way,"
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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