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​‘Malaysian airplane tragedy is a wakeup call to the Ukrainian govt to stop what it is doing’

Neil Clark is a journalist, writer and broadcaster. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter

Published time: July 18, 2014 11:01
An armed pro-Russian separatist stands at a site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

What is happening in the east is a humanitarian catastrophe, with cities under siege, civilians killed, bombing of innocent people, and now on the top of that we have this terrible tragedy with 300 losing their lives, journalist Neil Clark told RT.

RT:Do you think there is any connection between this tragedy and the conflict in eastern Ukraine?

Neil Clark: It’s very hard to say, isn’t it? It is still early days but there seems to be a remarkable coincidence that this plane just went down for technical reason in this region which faced fighting in the last few weeks. I think it is very wrong for President Poroshenko, the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people to be trying to blame other people for this, to blame the so-called rebels, because there is no evidence of this. We already heard how the so-called separatists in the east don’t have the means to shoot this plane down, they don’t have the surface-to-air missiles by which it was shot down, and it was shot down. So it is very irresponsible at this moment of time when almost 300 people lost their lives for the Ukrainian authorities to be trying to make political capital of this and shift the blame to other people. I think it’s very wrong.

RT: State Department spokesperson was very careful when commenting on the situation, saying "we have seen the reports everyone else have seen and that's it". Is it surprising that she avoided any mention of the military operation in Ukraine?

NC: It is quite remarkable isn’t it? Because it is a war zone and if it is proved that this plane was shot down then of course it is all to do with the war in Ukraine at the moment. It is a war zone; we have seen almost 500 civilians killed there by the Ukrainian authorities. The overall responsibility must lie with those who have created this war in Ukraine but now it’s not really the time to be accusing people of shooting down this plane. We are going to stay calm, we are going to stay very forensic, and we are going to wait till the evidence is produced. It has been shot down and clearly flying at that kind of altitude there would have to be some surface-to-air missiles or it has been shot down by another plane, and of course separatists won’t be able to do this. I think there is a strong likelihood that the Ukrainian authorities did this, but we can’t say it at the moment till we get more people on the ground to inspect it and we have forensic experts in there. So it’s a time to stay calm and certainly this is not what the Ukrainian authorities have been doing. Unfortunately, people are going to use this tragedy to try to make particular points and to blame people in the east and to blame Russia.

A man walks, on July 17, 2014, amongst the wreckages of the malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine (AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)

RT: If this plane was shot down, what could be the implications for whoever is responsible?

NC: My fear is that if the plane was shot down by the Ukrainian authorities which seems likely, bearing in mind the fact that it was flying so high and only surface-to-air missiles could have done that, and we know that Ukrainian authorities have possessed those missiles. If it was done by the Ukrainian authorities then what I fear is that there will be some kind of cover up that we won't be allowed to know the truth of this because it will be huge blow to the Ukrainian government, there will be an absolutely outcry about it. The sort of PR war would be lost by them. So I fear that we may not learn the truth, as it was the case with the earlier incident a few years ago when the Ukrainian authorities did shoot a plane over the Black sea. We only learned later on that it was them, they denied it at the time. I think there is a big political effect behind this. The most important thing is somehow we get to the truth. We may actually not get to the truth because of course if they find that the plane was shot down, everybody is going to deny it and it is going to be very hard to prove it.

RT: We're already hearing claims and counter-claims over who's to blame. How quickly will we know the truth?

NC: It depends. If it was the Ukrainian authorities who shot down this plane it is going to be very politically bad for them for the truth to come out, so I would fear a cover up. It is very important that a truly international unbiased team of people goes there and launch a full investigation. It is going to be impartial people, we can’t just rely on Ukrainian government officials to come in and make allegations, and it has got to be done by independent people. 300 people have lost their lives; it’s an important tragedy, just think of the family members. For them and for everybody else we have to get to the truth of this and we mustn’t play politics on this issue. This plane, if it was shot down, we need to find who did it.

RT: What does this tragedy mean for Kiev authorities and the whole world?

NC: This is a wakeup call to the Ukrainian government to stop what it is doing. The hostilities against people in the east Ukraine must stop altogether now. Nearly 500 people have been killed by the Ukrainian government in recent weeks. When Colonel Gaddafi’s forces killed around 200 people in 2011 the US used it as a pretext for war against Libya. It was so-called humanitarian intervention. What is happening in the east is a humanitarian catastrophe, we have cities under siege, we have civilians killed, we have shelling, bombing of innocent people, and now on the top of that we have this terrible tragedy with 300 losing their lives. If the plane was shot down we can say for sure that this would not have happened had it not been for the Ukrainian government deciding to use military force trying to subjugate opposition to it. This was the wrong road; I say it all the time. And let’s hope now that this tragedy brings people to their senses and the Ukrainian government closes off its military campaign.

RT: Malaysian Airlines is in the headlines for the second time this year. If it turns out that this was a straight-forward accident - would this put the company's future in jeopardy?

NC: I wouldn’t travel on Malaysian airways, would you after this? To lose 2 planes in 6 months is quite astonishing, quite incredible. Of course we still don’t know what happened to the earlier plane, people are talking about cover ups there. So I think it’s a very bad news for Malaysian airways, of course there are still questions to answer like why this plane was flying over that area today, whether it was on the correct flight path. It was flying over a war zone where missiles have been fired. It’s a war zone, so why it was flying over there? That’s just another question we have got to find out answers to really.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.