Opinion: Will Russia’s MH17 adventure end in the Hague Tribunal?

Markas Zingeris
DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

Ukrainians have never had a better case against the Kremlin. The war criminals that targeted a passenger plane with BUK, or as it is called in the West, SA-11 missile systems, also globalized a bloody conflict on the post-Soviet periphery. According Maxim Eristavi, U.S. magazine Politico’s correspondent in Kiev, Ukrainian authorities are currently working around the clock collecting evidence about Russian weaponry transferred to the separatists, training they received, and Russian scouts’ instructions to the “Donetsk People’s Republic” chieftain.

Russian media has reported that the plane was shot down by the Ukrainians themselves, or alternatively, that it simply dropped out of the air, like the Boeing of the same airline that disappeared over the Indian Ocean last year, sparking ridicule from the international community.

Meanwhile, there are mountains of flowers near the Dutch Embassy in Kiev, and, according to the Politico, a girl holds a poster that reads “Putin is a killer!”

Even the most imaginative commentators, the most insightful experts and researchers of war in eastern Ukraine could not have imagined the apocalyptic imagery surrounding the crash site and the remains of the passengers. Residents of the area controlled by the separatists, whose roofs were penetrated from above by falling bodies, must have thought they had been transported into a zombie horror movie.

Donetsk People’s Republic military leader and the Kremlin spy Igor Strelkov-Girkin who commented with satisfaction in his blog first about the ptičkopad-birds’ fall (separatists’ jargon for downing aircraft), later changed his mind and told reporters that the plane had been carrying dead people. The logic of his thinking is clear: the more dead were transported by the aircraft, the less bombers would be to blame. Poor lamb did not know that there were one hundred top-level scientists and physicians on the plane, carrying visual materials (hence the plasma bags scattered on the ground) to a conference about the global AIDS epidemic in Australia.

Although the situation is changing rapidly and international observers were not able to capture an initial image of the crash, the picture looks really bad. As tweets inform, here is a three-year kiddie in the sunflower field, and a woman with a twisted leg, bloody face and the hand behind her head as if she had been trying to give a signal before her death. Crushed on impact after a drop of 10,000 feet. The black silhouettes of corpses’ porters with stretchers. The loose papers of a student of Thompson University, but where is the student? Tampering, including the removal of bodies and evidence was happening long before authorities were able to cordon off areas for future investigation.

The most “benevolent” separatist occupation in the disaster area, according to the media in Kiev, which I tend to believe more than the Kremlin, was surfing the rye and sunflower fields looking for credit cards or simply “souvenirs.” Surely, that would be the most hideous and incriminating removal of evidence, along with the removal of parts of aircraft or missile fragments, which help determine the kind of missile that downed the plane and pinpoint where it came from.

Even a pro-Moscow aviation professional, a former Deputy Minister of Russian Aviation, said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio that the passenger aircraft could not have been mistaken for a transport aircraft. That could mean that this was a deliberate provocation. Or, as it is mentioned [in the interview], it was an act by morally immature people with a primitive Homo Sovieticus view of the world.

The tone of the Kremlin’s spokesman is currently demure, implying that Moscow is also stunned by the recent events. However, buzz from Russian chauvinists talking to the manipulated Russian masses shows that the Kremlin actually feels uncomfortable, as if to say: now we’ve really done it, guys.

Russia itself is aware that nobody will believe its unilateral investigation, which may have passed muster in the Cold War era for Western leftists or other credulous people. After all, some people believed the lies about a South Korean passenger plane shot down over the Soviet Union in 1983 (allegedly it was spying on Russia), but no one will believe this line of thinking in the era of the Internet. This is especially true since the Kremlin has been caught in many insolent lies since annexation of the Crimea. Of course, we’ll also remember Russia’s response when London sought extradition for [Alexander] Litvinenko’s murderer.

On 18 July, U.S. representative to the UN Samantha Powers argued that, based on the existing data, the fatal missile from the systems SA-11 being in the area of the airplane crash likely meant that the separatists were armed and trained by Russian professionals. The U.S. and UK have revealed considerable evidence of the separatists’ role in the attack and there are public records of conversations between the Russian military and the separatists appeared in the public sphere.

The Ukrainian government should be blamed for one thing — failing to declare a no-fly zone over a restive area, in accordance with international aviation convention. However, this would only have been a formality. The plane was shot down over the area controlled by the separatists and crashed there. With modern weaponry, however, the plane could theoretically have been shot down from anywhere – including from a relatively peaceful area.

This tragedy brought up a multitude of memories, which both sides use to publicly attack each other. Pro-Moscow commentators remember the airliner Tel Aviv-Novosibirsk shot down by mistake in the Black Sea region by the Ukrainian military in 2001. Those who see the Kremlin’s fingerprints in this crime believe that this is the irresponsibility characteristic of Russians, transferring a super-rocket system to swindlers and robbers. After all, commentator Yulia Latynina warned on Echo Moskvy after the crash that children should not to be allowed to play with matches.

The tragedy also brings up memories of the South Korean passenger Boeing shot down by Soviets in 1983. Millions of credulous fools around the world, particularly the citizens of the USSR, were misled about the shooting for many years. When the Soviet Kremlin was forced to admit that the airliner was shot down, it found a way to justify it: the flight was on a reconnaissance mission to gather information.


What does the death of hundreds of Europeans and citizens from other continents in the sky above Ukraine mean?

Commissions, whichever and how many of them there may be, will work long and boring investigations. Various intrigues will become evident in the process of data collection. With a global wave of public outrage rising, there is less hope that the study of the Russian side will be objective. No one believes the Kremlin in the West.

The unfolding scandal is a spectacular lesson for Lithuanian politicians, diplomats, researchers and journalists. It is generally known – as is evidenced by the multitude of facts and statements – that the current Kremlin consistently refuses to stay the Europeanization course marked for Russia hundreds of years ago by Peter I. That same development thread carried also by Catherine the Great and by the most advanced Russian ruling elite, educated at an early age to enlighten the people with western spirit, beginning from almost native French language for aristocrats and completing with education in Europe. There is a respect in Russia for really civilized international and internal standards of coexistence.

After turning back from all of that, however, only one paradigm remains [for the Kremlin]: the nationalist (and dangerous for global community) rampage of a Slavic mission, in particular expansion and the cultivation of alleged “greatness.” Can Cossacks, who flog not with whips but fire missiles in the 21st century, inculcate the love of an empire?

That is not new. And no one, except perhaps the Russian power structures, wants to go back down this road, which led the first time to the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and ultimately the collapse of Moscow Communist empire 74 years later. The collapse of the Moscow Empire cost the world more innocent lives than a downed passenger plane.

The civilized world calls foreign policy based on strength extortion of the weak. The problem is that the Kremlin is a black box for West which is in no way succeeded to be decoded.

Finally, all the results should be presented to the Netherlands. Not only because the majority of the passengers on MH17 were Dutch. Primarily, because the Dutch Hague is a city where international terrorism, war crimes, and crimes against humanity are regularly prosecuted.

Translated by Lotus Translation

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