In his classic novel “The Assault” late Dutch author Harry Mulisch deals with the question of guild and responsibility. Who is responsible for the murder of the protagonist’s family? The Nazis who carry out their execution? The resistance that assassinated a Nazi collaborator in front of their house, knowing there would be repercussions? The collaborator who made himself a murder target with his treacherous ways?
It’s a scenario that’s familiar to all of us, even if we didn’t live through the Second World War. Actions lead to reactions and world events are the result of a string of actions leading up to it. In that light it’s interesting to take a look at the events in Ukraine that led to the crash of flight MH17, about a year and a half ago.
Although alternative theories exist, it’s at the moment generally believed that the Malaysia Airlines craft was downed by missile from a BUK installation operated by separatists, who may or may not be aided by elements within the leadership of the Russian Federation. If we stick with this scenario we can assume the missile was fired by mistake, as the rebels assumed they were aiming it an Ukrainian fighter jet.
Most of the world rapidly came to this conclusion mere minutes after the tragic incident took place and before any investigation into the matter was concluded. Furthermore nobody seemed to bother considering the possibilities of a mistake but spoke in terms of “terrorist attack” or “crime” and immediately pointed their finger and Vladimir Putin.
The Russians started the armed conflict, the Russians provided the separatists with a BUK installation, oh and possibly the Russians even pressed the button that launched the missile. Now, I don’t completely disregard the vast series of conspiracy theories that exist. But for context I’m going to assume the researchers did a decent job and MH17 was indeed downed by a BUK. Who exactly is responsible?
In late 2013 a crowd of Europe minded Ukrainians held a peaceful protest on the Maidan in Kiev. In the months that followed the protests were hijacked and ignited into a revolution by ultra-nationalist armed thugs and an undemocratic government was put in place through means of violence and intimidation. A government compiled of corrupt oligarchs and fascists, protected by paramilitary neo-Nazis.
As the more Russia-minded east of the country rebelled against the new leadership, the illegal government in Kiev decided to wage a war against their own people. The economically struggling region Donbass, that drew the shortest straw after the collapse of the Soviet Union, became the theatre of a dirty civil war. At first the regular Ukrainian army couldn’t get much done and suffered from demoralised soldiers and massive protests from the civilian population. Things turned around when batallions of fascist volunteers took over and relentlessly shelled civilian areas. These battalions that shamelessly carry symbols of neo-fascist groups and openly identify with Nazi-collaborator Stepan Bandera were even integrated in the regular armed forces.
These are the conditions created by Kiev and the far right groups that are in control. These conditions let to a situation were military operations take place in Donbass and rebel groups attempt to defend themselves. Because Ukraine decided to install a government that alienated the ethnic Russian part of their population, and didn’t respect the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk an armed conflict erupted that made the airspace above the eastern part of the country unsafe. But it doesn’t end there. At the time of the incident a Ukrainian fighter jet flew over Donbass. The air traffic control and the military command knew this and thus were aware that rebel forces could attempt to shoot it down. However they decided to let commercial airlines fly over the area anyway.
Russia is not innocent. Their attempts to hamper the investigation are a clear signal that something is afoot. But their involvement is a reaction in a chain of events that started with the violent uprising on the Maidan and the way the government in Kiev decided to operate.