Biggest Stories of the Decade – The downing of flight MH-17

Written by Comment

On July 17th, 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down near the village of Hrabove in Ukraine.

The commercial airliner had 298 souls on board – 283 passengers and 15 crew – including 80 children, none of whom survived. This year on June 19th, five years after the crash, the Dutch-led ‘Joint Investigative Team’ (JIT) issued four international arrest warrants for those responsible. So, just what happened that day over a field in Ukraine?

A Buk mobile ground-to-air missile launcher, the same weapon used in the attack. Image:Wikimedia

The incident took place at the height of the Ukrainian Civil War between the EU-backed Ukrainian government and Kremlin sponsored, pro-Russian separatists. In the weeks prior to the downing of the plane several Ukrainian military jets were downed by Separatist rockets, and investigators believe – via examination of radio communications – that those responsible mistakenly believed the passenger plane to be another military jet. In the days after the attack, the artillery used to down the plane was taken back into Russia, from where it left weeks earlier.

The four people identified by the JIT include three Russians with Moscow and FSB connections and a Ukrainian. Russian officials, unsurprisingly, deny any involvement and are refusing to extradite the suspects. Something you only do, of course, when you are 100% sure they will be found guilty. The four will be tried in absentia in the Netherlands in March next year.

On board the plane were two locals, John Alder and Liam Sweeney. Both were hardcore Newcastle United fans and were onboard the plane travelling to watch their beloved Magpies play a series of pre-season friendlies in New Zealand. Their families, along with the families of the 296 other victims of this war crime, will likely never get justice. And that only compounds one tragedy into another.

The approximate route taken by flight MH-17 and from take-off at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to where it was shot down near Donetsk. Image:Wikimedia

Last modified: 15th April 2020

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