MH17 and what could have been
One year ago marks the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight #17. It departed from Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014.
It never made it to Malaysia. The plane was shot down over the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine by a Buk missile, killing nearly 300 civilians.
Despite serious evidence that points to the pro-Russian separatists shooting down the plane, Russian state media has largely pushed the blame on to the Ukrainian government. Only a few media outlets in Russia, such as Novaya Gazeta and TV Dozhd (TV Rain) consistently questioned the state media’s assertion that forces loyal to Kiev shot down the plane. Novaya Gazeta famously published its next edition after the MH17 disaster with a full-page picture of the funeral vehicles and a headline that simply read “Vergeef ons, Nederland” (“Forgive us, Netherlands”).
MH17 should have been a wake up call in Russia. It’s one thing for men to die in combat, fighting. Even if the cause they fight for is not something one agrees with, the death of soldiers is to be expected in war, even if the war is one that one party refuses to admit their role in.
MH17 was something entirely different, though. Three hundred civilians, none of which wanted to be a part of the conflict in Ukraine, were shot out of the sky to their deaths, their last moments likely of sheer terror.
The MH17 disaster could have been the tide-turner in the Donbas. If it wasn’t for the massive propaganda machine employed by the Kremlin which still blames Kiev for the disaster, public opinion regarding the War in the Donbas may have shifted and forced the Kremlin to change course in Ukraine.
Those who believe the Kremlin’s narrative will point to other disasters in the air such as the USS Vicennes shooting down Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988. 290 died in that disaster, many of them children. The United States didn’t formally apologize to Iran, but a settlement was reached in the International Court of Justice and victims’ families were compensated. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen until 1996. Did the United States conduct itself appropriately in the wake of the Iran Air disaster? Of course not. But the insistence of pro-Kremlin pundits to bring up historical events is hypocritical because even though the United States took much longer than she should have to recognize her fault on that fateful day in 1988 does not make the Kremlin’s reaction any more morally sound.
At the end of the day, the Kremlin’s refusal to acknowledge its likely role in the MH17 disaster is one part of a much bigger problem: the Kremlin’s refusal to acknowledge its full role in the conflict that has eaten away at Ukraine for the past year and a half.
The war in Ukraine must end. Acknowledgements and apologies must be made. If Russia is to be a world power, she must admit its faults as well as her accomplishments.
by Kyle Menyhert