by Thom Kilburn
On July 17, flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was travelling over the conflict-ridden region of eastern Ukraine when it suddenly disappeared from the radar. The Boeing 777 airplane crashed 30 miles away from the Russian border, killing all 283 passengers on board.
U.S. intelligence officials have said they believe pro-Russian separatists shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 “by mistake”, not realizing it was a civilian passenger flight. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement that said a SA-11 missile, also known as a Buk, was fired from eastern Ukraine under “conditions the Russians helped create”.
Officials blaming the separatists for downing MH17 cited sensors that traced the path of the missile, shrapnel markings on the downed aircraft, voiceprint analysis of separatists claiming credit for the strike online and a wide array of photos and data from various social media websites.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine’s website, an increasing amount of heavy weaponry to separatist fighters crossing the border from Russia to Ukraine has been detected. In a recent statement, the embassy said Russia has “sent a convoy of military equipment with up to 150 vehicles including tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers to the separatists”.
Both Russia and separatist groups have responded to accusations of involvement with the missile launch by denying all responsibility. Rebel leaders have suggested that Ukraine’s armed forces may have shot down the plane.
Among those killed were 193 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians (including 15 crewmembers), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos, one Canadian and one New Zealander. Six of those killed were delegates headed to an international conference in Australia on AIDS. 80 of the victims were children.
As of the first week of August, much of the debris of the obliterated plane and the remains of the passengers’ belongings still littered the wheat field in which MH17 flight crashed. Although efforts to clean the crash site and identify bodies were still underway, the process was repeatedly slowed by the ongoing fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.