Russia was the first to call for an impartial and transparent international investigation of the crash of the Malaysia Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin as well as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have voiced this position on more than a dozen occasions over the past four days. They have confirmed it in phone calls with their foreign counterparts, including Prime Minister David Cameron on 20 July. Mr. Putin said it again in his televised statement on Sunday night.
The idea of an investigation has been supported by the UN Security Council. It therefore represents a matter of broad international consensus. The question is how to move from declarations to real work.
The Russian position is clear: an investigation must be launched as soon as possible, under the auspices of Ukraine and with the leading role of the International Civil Aviation Organization, with the participation of interested governments and international bodies such as the Interstate Aviation Committee (a post-Soviet aviation authority that includes representatives of both Russia and Ukraine). This would allow the inquiry to be independent and to avoid biased conclusions.
What we have been seeing so far on the part of our Western partners is a willingness to declare “pro-Russian” militia and Russia responsible even before any proper investigation has started. If anything, this means to put pressure on the future inquiry.
Meanwhile, it is wrong to say that the existing circumstantial evidence points exclusively towards the militia’s responsibility. Several other versions are widely discussed in the internet and by the media.
Within this context, the Russian Defense Ministry has announced that it had detected deployment by Ukrainian forces of anti-aircraft Buk systems in the conflict area a few days before the tragedy. The Ministry has published a number of questions to the Ukrainian authorities, Ukraine being the country in whose sovereign airspace the disaster occurred. Among those questions are: why airspace over the hostilities area had not been closed to civilian aircraft; why Ukrainian special services started to work with air traffic control records before the arrival of international representatives; can Ukraine provide internal reports on movements of Ukrainian military aircraft and records of the use of anti-aircraft weaponry by the Ukrainian army on the day of the crash, etc. This is not to lay the blame on Ukraine, but let’s not forget the 2001 incident when a Russian civilian airliner was shot down by mistake by Ukrainian forces during drills.
On a more general note, the outrage at an alleged Russian complicity in the air crash has completely diverted attention from the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine. The government is continuing its “anti-terrorist” operation that leads to new civilian deaths every day. No attempt has been made by Kiev to enter into any meaningful dialogue with the militias. There is no public discussion of constitutional reforms that would grant regions a proper self-rule and guarantee the status of the Russian language.
It is clear that, whatever the exact cause of the MH17 tragedy, it wouldn’t have happened, had Kiev not resumed fighting on 28 June. Yet, so far Kiev’s friends seem to do nothing to encourage the authorities to change their current perilous course. Rather, the decisions on sanctions against Russia serve as an encouragement to continue the military operation. It wasn’t Russia, who rolled the dice. It was the EU’s clumsy unthought-through plan to engage in geopolitics in Ukraine on the cheap that triggered this chain of events.
We are convinced that there can be no military solution to this conflict. Only a settlement negotiated between Kiev and the regions in the south-east will have a chance to be a lasting one. It will require a truly collective effort, as well as joint analysis and, perhaps, self-criticism.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.