The papers are full of the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, with the tragic loss of nearly 200 innocent people.
The separatist rebels have accused the Kiev government of shooting down the plane. The Kiev authorities have said it was the rebels who did it.
It seems to me likely that it was the rebels, and that they did it by mistake, using a missile system captured from the Kiev government forces. However, it is also possible that the government forces did it, either by mistake or deliberately to encourage Western involvement in their conflict. I guess a fourth possibility is that the rebels did it, and that they used a missile system supplied to them by the Russians.
In truth, we don’t actually know (yet) who carried out this act.
What we do know is that there is a war going on in Eastern Ukraine. The Kiev government is attempting to put down a significant armed rebellion, and what is happening there is what is usually known as “civil war”. Even before the tragedy of MH17, hundreds of innocent people had been killed in this war.
There seems to be a disturbing attempt by Western authorities to play down this war, and pretend that everything is basically fine in Ukraine, with just a few protests in Eastern cities. Everything is not fine. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of it, there is a war going on there. The sooner it stops, the better. The longer it goes on, quite apart from the loss of life that will result, the more bitterness and hatred will be its legacy.
For now, though, the war continues. Over the last few days, several military planes belonging to the Ukrainian Air Force have been shot down in the region.
And yet still, there were apparently no less than four civilian airliners crossing Eastern Ukraine, of which one was MH17.
“Eurocontrol”, the European Air Traffic Control system, together with the airlines concerned (all of them, and not just Malaysian Airlines) have questions to answer, it seems to me. Of course, the primary responsibility for shooting down the airliner lies with whoever actually shot it down. But the actions of Eurocontrol and the airlines in continuing to fly over this area seem irresponsible to me.
Perhaps it saves them a bit of aviation fuel to fly over Eastern Ukraine, and puts a few more dollars (or euros or pounds or whatever) on their bottom lines. That seems to have led them to fly civilian aircraft across a war zone in which more than one military plane had already been shot down.
The airlines are now falling over themselves to announce that they are no longer flying in the area; in the case of Delta Airlines claiming the decision is due to
an abundance of caution.
It seems their caution before this tragedy was insufficient.
Eurocontrol and the airlines need to tell everyone what their policy is on flights over war zones, especially war zones that are characterised by the presence of sophisticated anti-aircraft missile systems.