Opinion: No end to the MH17 disaster | Opinion | DW | 13.10.2015
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Opinion: No end to the MH17 disaster

The Dutch Safety Board's report did not reveal the cause of the MH17 crash. Who fired the Buk missile at the aircraft? It's high time the Kremlin and rebels in Ukraine accepted the blame, says DW's Barbara Wesel.

It took crash investigators over a year to cobble together the wreckage of the airplane in the fields of eastern Ukraine, transport them to the Netherlands and then, to painstakingly reconstruct the plane with the found parts. Dutch authorities wanted to do a thorough job and provide an accordingly sound report. But the process took too long for the victims' bereaved family members, who were left alone with their grief and many unanswered questions.

Airspace over war zones must be closed off

One of the most important conclusions that will contribute to future flight safety is: countries affected by armed conflict must take responsibility for their airspace. Ukraine considers its airspace to be safe in commercial flight altitudes, even though some of its own fighter jets have been shot down. On July 17 last year, 160 flights flew the same air route over eastern Ukraine as the MH17; three other airplanes were near the Malaysian Airlines jet at the time of the crash. Any one of them could have been hit by a deadly missile.

Barbara Wesel Kommentarbild App *PROVISORISCH*

DW's Barbara Wesel

Airspace over Syria and parts of Iraq also poses risks for air travel. Commercial flights still fly over this region but airspace should be closed off for passenger travel.

And if the affected countries refuse to do so of their own accord, then aviation safety authorities and airlines should take this task upon themselves.

Airspace must be closed off in regions of armed conflict – no ifs or buts. The skies are no longer safe, as a broad range of long-range missile systems can easily end up in the wrong hands.

Perpetual denial is disrespectful

Flight crash experts have, however, determined that a Russian BUK-type surface-to-air missile caused the disaster. They have also stated that the deadly missile came from a part of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian rebels in July 2014. What the technical investigators cannot do is point their finger at a suspect or ask questions that are useful in a prosecution. Who was in eastern Ukraine when the airplane flew by? Who fired the missile? Who gave orders to fire? Intelligence officers and prosecutors are in the process of evaluating the material: All clues point to a pro-Russian rebel group.

Putin should accept responsibility

Moscow repeatedly denies having played any part in the crash. Despite overwhelming evidence that proves the opposite, Russian investigators will not admit that a Buk missile was involved.

President Putin surely did not give the decisive command, but continues to behave as though he has nothing to do with the situation in eastern Ukraine. He wants to be taken seriously on the international stage as a key player and has pictures taken of himself wrestling tigers and bears. But he reveals himself to be small-minded and cowardly when the issue turns to accepting responsibility for his political and military decisions.

It was his weapons in the hands of rebels supported by him that caused the disaster. Though not ultimately proved, everything points in that direction.

The Russian president should finally have the courage to admit that a terrible mistake was made last year in eastern Ukraine. That, at least, would earn the respect that he always demands people give him.

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