A prominent scientist, several families and over 80 children - they were but a few of the 283 passengers on board Malaysian Airlines MH17 on July 17th when it was shot down on its the way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
MH17 was caught in the crossfire between the Ukrainians and pro-Russian separatists in the region of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
They say a tragedy rarely strikes twice, but not so for Malaysian Airlines. MH17 was a Boeing 777-200ER, the same model as flight MH370, which disappeared while traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing earlier this March.
A Simmering Ukraine
Ukraine has been at the center of an ongoing political conflict with Russia. The MH17 flight crash is the latest in the series of tragedies in the region.
Local Ukrainians had been protesting for a change from the corrupt, Russian-supported government of Viktor Yushencko. Protesters wanted closer relationships with Europe to help grow Ukraine's economy. Then in March, after the overthrow of Yushenko’s government, the political situation in Ukraine deteriorated further. Russia annexed Crimea, a region in Ukraine, that Russia considers very strategic (we had written here).
Meanwhile a group of Ukrainians who are trained military personnel, had formed a militia (a citizen army) under a pro-Russian rebel commander. These separatists are mainly located in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk. In June alone, rebels shot down two Ukrainian military planes. The attack on an international commercial flight is the latest in the series of conflicts.
Who Is Responsible?
It is unclear though who is responsible for the missile attack on flight MH17. Ukraine seem to have evidence to show that Russia could be responsible with its technology and financial support. Russians however have denied accusations and claim that a Ukrainian military plane flying within firing range of the aircraft could have been responsible for the tragedy. Meanwhile, European nations and the US believe that the MH17 was brought down by a Russian built surface-to-air missile.
Today’s missile technology makes it possible to aim rockets upto 72,000 feet above earth’s surface. Commercial planes are cleared to fly at 32000 feet. Sometimes no-fly zones have been declared over air spaces in war-torn and conflict ridden regions. The air route over Donetsk was however not declared an unsafe flying route.
The immediate matter is now to identify and safely return the bodies of victims to their respective families. Investigations of the plane’s black box will reveal more details of the crash. In the midst of a worsening situation, Ukraine’s newly elected Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has announced his resignation.
This plane tragedy has certainly brought the world a lot closer to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Already, several nations including the US have enforced sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea. Now, many countries who lost their citizens in the crash have been reluctantly drawn into the situation.
Courtesy: BBC, CNN, others