Tag Archives: Donetsk

John F. Hall Jr.: When leaders won’t lead in stopping Russia #MH17

John F. Hall Jr. writes: The nearly 300 people killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 were merely victims to Russia's ruthless efforts to tear apart an independent, sovereign nation on its border that seemingly threatened Vladimir Putin's twisted vision for a re-born Soviet Union.  © AFPJohn F. Hall Jr. writes: The nearly 300 people killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 were merely victims to Russia’s ruthless efforts to tear apart an independent, sovereign nation on its border that seemingly threatened Vladimir Putin’s twisted vision for a re-born Soviet Union. © AFP

We’re now nearly one week past the unconscionable execution of nearly 300 innocent souls aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH-17) by Russian-sponsored, Russian-trained, and Russian-armed criminals over the skies of Europe.

Many of those sacrificed to Russian-orchestrated aggression and expansionist goals in Ukraine on MH-17 were genuine humanitarians, selflessly dedicated to eradicating AIDS in the world. All of those lost were innocent men, women, children — even infants — who could have had no argument in Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

They were merely victims to Russia’s ruthless efforts to tear apart an independent, sovereign nation on its border that seemingly threatened Vladimir Putin’s twisted vision for a re-born Soviet Union.   We all know this to be true.

Most of those who were lost in this crime against MH-17 were Europeans, but European leaders have, collectively, collapsed, acquiesced, and done virtually nothing to punish Russia or to call it to account for its role in this heinous crime.

Instead, European leaders are proceeding with state-of-the-art arms sales from Paris to Russia, laundering Russian profits in London, and are forcefully tempering sanctions from Madrid, Rome, and Berlin.

Given the timidity and hypocrisy of the Free World’s response to this crime, Putin might soon reasonably expect a medal from the European Union for his leadership in this crime against humanity, which would be unprecedented, except for the fact that the Soviet Union did the very same thing itself — and behaved with the very same obstructionism and intransigence — 30 years ago, when it deliberately shot-down an unarmed civilian passenger aircraft on September 1, 1983.

History has, regrettably, now repeated itself over the formerly safe skies of Europe.

European leaders, many of whom have just shrugged their shoulders and shamefully handed over the lives of their own citizens to Putin’s aggression, are apparently more intently focused upon gas deliveries, financial windfalls, and arms-sales profits than they are upon the truth or justice in the matter.   At the same time, even the U.S. president is presently busying himself making campaign fundraising speeches, when he should be actively working with his European counterparts, demanding unified, crippling sanctions on Putin’s war-machine.

European and American leaders have apparently chosen not to lead in this crisis, in which Putin has taken the undisputed advantage.   This happened before in 1938, too, with another dictator.  It’s now up to the people of the Free World who put their purported leaders and “servants of the people” in-power to show them how to lead or to lead for them.   In this case, a few truths must be acknowledged, and a few steps must be taken — together, as allies against evil.

First, we must all acknowledge that Vladimr Putin’s criminal stooges in Ukraine are nothing more than Russian mercenaries, societal backwash, and drunkards who are only skilled in smashing ballot boxes, looting local treasuries, and shaking-down the local populace. They’ve done it superbly. They have no acumen for governing, except as a mafia governs.

Second, the reprehensible act of shooting down a commercial civil aircraft over Ukraine was an act perpetrated by Russian-led terrorists in Ukraine.  This is a fact, notwithstanding the wild — and largely absurd — propaganda of Putin’s own skilled disinformation machine in Moscow.   The people of the world, and especially of Europe, must call upon Russia to account, and the ridiculous Russian propaganda must be corrected and challenged with truth.

Third, Putin has now invaded and annexed two lesser, non-threatening, sovereign neighbors in his reign, in Georgia and Ukraine, owing solely to those nations’ efforts to join more closely with European democracies.   In both cases, Europe and the U.S. stood-by on the sidelines, watching Russia consume freedom-loving nations seeking to join with them.   U.S. and European citizens must compel their leadership to acknowledge these facts and embolden their elected leadership to act with resolve to end Putin’s hegemonic ambitions.

Fourth, Russia must be excluded from the Group of 20, as well as any other gathering of civilized nations seeking peaceful and harmonious trade and international relations. Russia is actively seeking conquest in Europe, and it’s now apparently willing to execute hundreds of innocent civilians for this goal, either by its own hand or that of its intoxicated proxies. The Group of 20 is no place for Russia.

Fifth, an immediate arms and financial embargo from the EU is overdue. The European Union’s next “big move” is to punish further Russian aggression by an arms embargo, but they still can’t decide upon it. Why wasn’t that first on Europe’s list of sanctions? It’s not in-effect because too many countries in Europe profit from the sales of arms to Russia and the laundering of illicit profits that Putin is using to destabilize Europe itself. That’s why. European citizens must must demand an end to this. U.S. citizens must likewise demand greater, more meaningful sanctions against Russia. Both the U.S. and Europe must be united in this effort.

Sixth, until Russia returns Crimea and its people to Ukraine, and until all Russian forces and all Russian-sponsored terrorists that have murdered loyal Ukrainians combatting Russian-sponsored invasion and assaults against Ukrainian freedom and independence are either out of Ukraine or behind bars, tough sanctions that will ruin Russia’s ability to wage war upon its peaceful neighbors must remain in place.

Russia unlawfully invaded Ukraine’s Crimea, in clear violation of the guarantees of Ukrainian sovereignty embodied in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which Putin has already gleefully trampled. Putin has likewise happily supported the murder of Ukrainian, Tartar, and other civilian and military people in his imperial Ukrainian gambit.

Putin’s aggression must not be allowed to stand unreversed and unresolved.

When Russia’s people finally prevail upon their corrupt leadership to behave like a responsible member of the international community, then these things can be reconsidered, and Russia can perhaps be reintroduced to the community of responsible nations. Until then, Russia can simply enjoy the company of Iran, Syria, Sudan, Cuba, China, and North Korea — militaristic, brutal, dictatorships with no regard for law, rights, or peace in the modern world.

The blood of the defenders of Ukrainian freedom and democracy — and now the blood of the hundreds of innocents of MH-17 — stains Putin’s hands, yet Putin is laughing at the West’s shameful impotence as he works to dismember Ukraine, solidify his gains in Crimea, the Donbas and Georgia, and to move further westward. Putin has the initiative. The United States and the free democracies of the world are presently doing little more than playing the role of simpering, appeasing Neville Chamberlains. All of this while Putin dictates terms.

When will Europe, whose hundreds of sacrificed citizens on MH-17 are now crying-out for justice, finally stand up?

Does it require Putin’s further invasion of Moldova, Lithuania, or even Poland, on the timeworn Soviet pretext of “protecting Russian-speaking minorities,” before the West finally realizes that they’ve — once again — come to the Soviet game too late?

When will the international community finally call “bullshit” on Putin’s lies and his irrational pretexts for Soviet aggression, and finally demand justice from Putin’s Russia?

John F. Hall is an international lawyer practicing in Washington, D.C. who has traveled to Ukraine.

John F. Hall | Kyiv Post.

BBC News: First #MH17 dead to be flown to Netherlands from Ukraine

An Australian Air Force Boeing C-17 is one of the planes assigned to the task of repatriating the bodiesAn Australian Air Force Boeing C-17 is one of the planes assigned to the task of repatriating the bodies

The first bodies recovered from the Malaysia Airlines plane which crashed in Ukraine last week are to be flown to the Netherlands for identification.

A day of mourning is being held to mark the occasion, more than five days after the aircraft was downed in a rebel-held area in eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile US intelligence officials said they believed pro-Russian rebels had shot down the jet by mistake.

But no direct link to Russia itself had been found, they added.

The plane crashed in a rebel-held area after apparently being hit by a missile on 17 July killing all 298 people on board, most of whom were Dutch.

A refrigerated train carriage carrying around 200 bodies from the crash site arrived in the government-held city of Kharkiv on Tuesday.

The operation to find the remaining bodies and secure crucial evidence continues.

Russia has repeatedly said Ukrainian government forces are to blame for the attack, but the US officials said that Russian claims were “not plausible”.

A majority of those who died were Dutch nationalsA majority of those who died were Dutch nationals

National mourning

The first bodies from flight MH17 are due to arrive in Eindhoven at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT) after a farewell ceremony attended by Ukrainian officials in Kharkiv.

The Dutch royal family and the prime minister Mark Rutte will meet the plane.

The bodies are then due to be taken to the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks for identification. Mr Rutte said that process could “take weeks or even months”.

The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning.

In a separate process, the aircrafts flight data recorders have been handed over to Dutch authorities by Malaysian officials.

The devices, also known as ‘black boxes’, will be sent to Farnborough in the UK for analysis.

Analysis: Aleem Maqbool, BBC News, Washington

It’s a briefing by US intelligence officials that’s left many scratching their heads.

Since the crash, officials in Washington have been playing up Russia’s involvement in attacking the plane. Secretary of State John Kerry in particular pointed the finger of blame firmly at Moscow and said evidence would be produced very soon. That’s what was expected.

But while senior intelligence officials said Russia had “created the conditions” for the plane’s shooting down, there was, as yet, NO evidence of the direct involvement of the Russian government. They said that while it’s likely separatists brought down the Malaysian Airlines plane… it was by mistake.

So why would the White House want to wind down rhetoric, in the way it appears to many it has? It could be around the difficult question about what to do with Russia if there IS evidence it was directly involved. It is, after all, a country heavily involved in international diplomatic efforts regarding Iran, Syria, and North Korea, and a country a lot of Europe relies on for its gas.

For the White House, the question of how to put enough pressure on President Putin to stop his country backing rebels and undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty, is still, very clearly, a troubling one.

US intelligence officials, speaking anonymously at a press briefing on Tuesday, said the “most plausible explanation” for the shooting down of the plane was that rebels mistook it for another aircraft.

“Five days into it, it does appear to be a mistake,” one of the officials said.

Experts have expressed concern that forensic evidence at the crash site could be lostExperts have expressed concern that forensic evidence at the crash site could be lost.

They went on to say that Russia was responsible for creating the conditions that led to the crash.

“It’s a solid case that it’s a SA-11 that was fired from eastern Ukraine under conditions the Russians helped create,” one official said.

However, there was no direct evidence of direct Russian involvement in the firing of the SA-11 surface-to-air missile believed to have caused the crash, the officials said.

Nor did the US know that the Ukrainian rebels possessed SA-11 missiles until after the plane was shot down, the officials added.

The officials said that their findings were based in part on social media postings and video released in recent days.

Countries directly affected by the disaster, such as the Netherlands, Australia, and the UK, have been concerned that the crash site was not properly sealed off, with the risk that valuable evidence could be put at risk.

Meanwhile, the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and rebels has continued, with reports of fighting round Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Tuesday the army had captured the strategically important town of Severodonetsk, located some 140km (87 miles) from the key rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.

Fatal Flight path of flight MH17

BBC News.

BBC News: Challenges of forensic investigation #MH17

hallenges of forensic investigation

Three teams of international experts have now reached the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in eastern Ukraine on 17 July. World leaders have called for the investigation to start urgently but there are fears that the crash site may been compromised. Rob Brown and Alison Trowsdale look into what challenges the air crash investigators will face when they start to piece together the final moments of flight MH17.

The crash site

Could the evidence at the crash site of flight MH17 have been tampered with or contaminated? Footage has shown cranes lifting large sections of the fuselage. A video which emerged on Sunday showed pro-Russian rebels shortly after the crash searching through wreckage and the personal belongings of those on board.

Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have visited the site several times.

Their spokesman Michael Bociurkiw told the BBC World Service that major pieces of the aircraft – including the tail fin – looked different during their most recent visit from when they first saw them. He said the pieces looked as though they had “been cut into”.

Aviation expert David Learmount says the usual procedure is for a crash site to be secured like a crime scene so that evidence is not disturbed until official investigators arrive.

“This particular site has never been secured and it still isn’t,” he says.

The pattern of the wreckage on the ground is also important. If it is scattered across an extremely wide area, then it shows that the plane “blew up in the sky and fell apart in the sky,” says Mr Learmount. Moving or tampering with the wreckage would disrupt that pattern.

Crash site near village

Satellite images taken by DigitalGlobe on 20 July appear to show the large debris field near the village of Grabove.Satellite images taken by DigitalGlobe on 20 July appear to show the large debris field near the village of Grabove.

Debris in field

About 700 metres (2,296ft) down the road from the village is another patch where bodies and debris have been found.About 700 metres (2,296ft) down the road from the village is another patch where bodies and debris have been found.

Tail piece

A piece of Flight MH17's tail, with the Malaysia Airlines marking, is seen lying on its own about 100m (330ft) south of the other debris.A piece of Flight MH17′s tail, with the Malaysia Airlines marking, is seen lying on its own about 100m (330ft) south of the other debris.

How a missile could have brought down MH17

How a missile could have brought down MH17

The wreckage

Once at the crash site, investigators will want to look at the external marks on the wreckage, says David Gleave, an aviation expert from Loughborough University and a former air crash investigator.

“Some pictures I’ve seen look as if various panels of the plane have been hit with a 12-bore shotgun and that shows evidence of something from the outside trying to get in, rather than a blast inside the aircraft trying to get out.”

Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) says: “The imagery that has so far been available is certainly in keeping with the kind of damage one would expect from a surface-to-air missile with a fragmentation warhead.”

There has been speculation that a Buk or SA-11 missile was responsible – this type of missile is equipped with a proximity fuse which can sense when the target is close and detonate the missile before impact, firing out fragments of shrapnel.

But David Owen, author of the book Air Accident Investigation, says, “Even if fragments of a missile were retrieved, it would not be enough to establish responsibility because both sides have access to this kind of equipment.”

But with parts of the aircraft already moved, how difficult will it be for investigators to prove the cause of the crash?

Mr Gleave says it would be incredibly difficult to substitute the aircraft parts or to cover up the damage.

“Instant and secure access to a crash site is always ideal,” he says, but he believes that if the crash was indeed caused by a missile, there will be enough evidence on the ground.

The outside skin of the aircraft also can provide essential evidence, says Mr Learmount. “It could contain traces of explosives from an internal blast or a missile – unless it has been tampered with,” he says.

“In theory, air crash investigation techniques are very good but the big problem here is possible crime scene contamination,” says Mr Owen. “Bodies have been moved, pieces of wreckage have been moved and there are the chaotic conditions of a war zone – all that means information may be obscured or the wrong conclusions may be drawn from it.”

'Black boxes'

  • The flight data recorder (FDR) is designed to record the operating information from the plane’s systems. Whenever the pilot touches the controls or changes course, the FDR records that action.
  • The cockpit voice recorder (CVR), as its name suggests, records conversations between crew members on the flight deck and any other sounds that occur within the cockpit. In commercial aircraft there are usually several microphones sending audio information to the CVR.

There were two black box recorders on flight MH17, storing key information about the flight as well as conversations in the cockpit. The pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine handed over both recorders to Malaysian experts on Monday and the head of the Malaysian delegation said they were “in good condition.” But could the information inside have been tampered with?

“It is possible to tamper with black boxes, but in order to be successful, it takes a lot longer than four days,” says Mr Gleave. “Someone could have interfered with the recorders to make the data unreadable but in that short space of time, you couldn’t substitute fake data for real data to come up with a different cause of accident.”

Robert Francis, former vice-chairman of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), agrees. He says flight recorders can be damaged, rendering them unreadable, but he has not heard a case of the data inside being tampered with. The chance of the recorders not containing good data is very slim, he says.

Rebels allowed the train carrying the bodies to leave their territory after negotiations with the MalaysiansRebels allowed the train carrying the bodies to leave their territory after negotiations with the Malaysians

The victims

The bodies of those killed in the crash have been taken out of rebel-controlled territory and will be flown to the Netherlands for identification. However, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has warned that this process could take months.

There are also concerns how the bodies have been treated, stored and transported.

Mr Francis says that, depending on how much has been taken from the crash site, there will be big challenges for any scientific investigation. “Just the fact that all the victims are gone makes it difficult to do any kind of analysis on how the aircraft blew apart and how the passengers died.”

“The bodies of those who died need to go under pathological examination,” says Mr Gleave. This will allow investigators look at shrapnel wounds and will assist with information on whether it was a bomb onboard the plane or an external explosion coming into the cabin.

Some experts are warning that even talk of evidence tampering might bring the results of any investigation into question. “Anybody who doesn’t like the outcome of this investigation can claim it is not valid because nothing has been protected,” says Mr Learmount.

Michael Bociurkiw, David Owen, Robert Francis and David Learmount spoke to the BBC World Service

BBC News.

Flight #MH17: Search continues for more remains of victims ‘still at crash site’

MH17 plane debris ‘may have been changed’

The search for victims of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine must go on as only about 200 bodies appear to have been found so far, Dutch officials say.

Forensics expert Jan Tuinder said his team had begun counting the bodies that earlier arrived in the town of Kharkiv.

The first bodies, which were moved out of territory held by pro-Russian rebels, are due to be flown to the Netherlands on Wednesday.

The plane crashed in a rebel-held area last Thursday killing all 298 on board.

Western nations say there is growing evidence the rebels shot down the plane using a missile supplied by Russia.

Russia, however, has suggested Ukrainian government forces are to blame.

Experts have expressed concern that forensic evidence at the crash site could be lostExperts have expressed concern that forensic evidence at the crash site could be lost

Speaking at a news conference in the town of Kharkiv, Mr Tuinder said they would have to go back to the crash site to carry out another search.

“We will not leave until [all] remains have left this country so we will have to go on and bargain again with the people over there,” he said.

It was widely reported that more than 280 bodies had been on the train, which brought the remains to Kharkiv.

However, Mr Tuinder later clarified that a reliable source who was there during the loading of the bodies on to the train had given a figure of 200.

He said this number could increase as the forensics teams go through the refrigerated wagons.

A newly released satellite image shows the crash site in the middle of Grabove in eastern UkraineA newly released satellite image shows the crash site in the middle of Grabove in eastern Ukraine

Meanwhile, in a statement, Interpol said international experts in Kharkiv would carry out preliminary examinations on the bodies before their transport to the Netherlands.

Most of those who died when the Boeing 777 crashed were Dutch, and the first remains are due to be flown from Kharkiv to the Dutch city of Eindhoven on Wednesday.

From there, they will go to a facility in the city of Hilversum for identification – a process which Dutch officials say could take months.

The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a national day of mourning.

Interpol said the remains of victims recovered so far from the crash site had been “labelled and numbered before being transported in refrigerated freight wagons from Donetsk to Kharkiv”.

MH17 crash Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte on plans for repatriation Continue reading