Pressure Grows on Putin as Forensics Experts Reach Crash Victims in Ukraine

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, SABRINA TAVERNISE and NEIL MacFARQUHAR
New York Times
July 21, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine — Dutch forensics experts gained access on Monday to the remains of the victims from the downed Malaysia Airlines jet in eastern Ukraine after days of standoffs over access to the site and growing pressure on President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to clear the way for a full international investigation.

European leaders threatened new sanctions on Russia as soon as Tuesday, suggesting they were increasingly open to the harder line being taken against Moscow by the United States, which has accused Russia of providing the surface-to-air missile system that brought down the jetliner, training rebels in how to use it, and perhaps even supplying experts who helped to fire it.

Mr. Putin issued a brief statement early on Monday saying that Russia would work to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moved from the battlefield to the negotiating table. He said that a robust international investigating team must have secure access to the crash site, but also accused unspecified nations of exploiting the disaster in pursuit of “mercenary political goals.”

The slow pace at which the bodies have been recovered and the destruction or removal of potential evidence of what happened has generated growing anger at the separatist rebels and at Mr. Putin.

Even as the Dutch experts arrived on Monday in the town of Torez in eastern Ukraine, where the bodies of the victims have been collected in refrigerated rail cars, the Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, said that pro-Russian rebels who control the area were preventing the train from leaving. Read the rest of this entry »

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MH17: Obama gains over Putin as US pushes EU on sanctions

Terry Atlas and Jonathan Allen
Brisbane Times
July 21, 2014

Washington: President Barack Obama’s response to the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine reflects the conclusion of US officials that time, evidence, and world opinion are increasingly on his side as he takes on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Secretary of State John Kerry cited the tragedy on Sunday in an effort to prod Europeans into increasing sanctions against Russia, even at some peril to their own economies, in an effort to break Mr Putin’s support for pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists. “We are trying to encourage our European friends to realise this is a wake-up call,” Kerry said on Fox News Sunday, invoking a phrase used last week by Mr Obama.

US officials, some speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss administration strategy, said the shooting down of the civilian jetliner — blamed by the US on pro-Russian separatists armed by Russia — should ignite anti-Putin sentiment and push reluctant EU countries to catch up to the more stringent sanctions the US had imposed last week. Dutch and other European citizens were among the 298 passengers and crew that perished. Read the rest of this entry »

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Should Malaysia jet have flown over Ukraine?

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
July 21, 2014

(CNN) — Why was Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 flying over war-torn eastern Ukraine?

“We, along with hundreds of other airlines, have flown that route safely for quite some time,” Hugh Dunleavy, commercial director for Malaysia Airlines, told CNN’s Saima Mohsin over the weekend. “Primarily we flew that route because we were advised that this was a safe corridor and there would be no incidents.”

Dunleavy said the plane, which was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, adjusted its altitude on its way across Europe under the direction of air traffic control.

Now, he said the airline is reassessing the route it uses for that flight. And since Thursday’s crash, commercial airlines that usually cross eastern Ukraine on their flights to Europe, Asia and elsewhere have been detouring away from the volatile region.

But far beyond Ukraine’s borders, analysts say the incident could pave the way for new guidelines for how close planes can fly to conflict zones. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bodies From Malaysia Airlines Flight Are Stuck in Ukraine, Held Hostage Over Distrust

By SABRINA TAVERNISE and NOAH SNEIDER
New York Times
JULY 20, 2014

TOREZ, Ukraine — Three wrenching days after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the bodies of most of those aboard have ended up here, in a fly-infested railway station in a rough coal-mining town in eastern Ukraine.

For now, they are stuck, lying in five gray refrigerated train cars in this rebel-controlled war zone, hostages to high politics and mutual distrust.

The government in Kiev has accused the Russian-backed rebels who control the area of blocking access to the bodies and the crash site and delaying what is already a very painful process for the families of the dead.

The rebels insist they are cooperating, and say they want to turn the 247 bodies they had recovered as of Sunday over to international representatives. But they say those officials have not arrived; the rebels accuse the Ukrainian government of scaring the officials off, though European officials have disputed that claim.

Neither of the conflicting story lines fully reflects the chaos at the scene, where an incoherent recovery effort is being carried out by motley groups of mostly untrained people. On Sunday, they included miners straight from their shifts; local residents who arrive on run-down motorbikes; and poorly equipped emergency service workers who sleep in the field, amid the stench of decay, in sagging orange and blue tents. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia Airlines crash: How can we hold Putin to account?

By Charles Crawford
Telegraph
July 20th, 2014

The hours drift into days following the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine. Yet there is no difficulty in identifying those responsible for this outrage. Russian military intelligence (GRU) operatives and technicians are swarming over eastern Ukraine and probably much of the rest of the country, monitoring in real time what is happening. Some are Russian troops operating illegally in Ukraine. Others are Ukrainians (or motley mercenaries from Serbia and elsewhere) on the GRU payroll.

The cause of the attack on the plane will have been known immediately to the Russian side. Missiles capable of hitting aircraft at that altitude cannot be fired without complex codes and technical support. The Russians know everything about the attack, down to the serial number of the missile and the names and breakfast rations of the people who ordered the attack. The Russians also know exactly what links there are (if any) between the people who fired the missile and their own GRU command structures.

The Americans will know a lot of this, too. We may not like global IT surveillance, but it resolves situations like this. Washington is doubtless poring through myriad satellite images and thousands of conversations in Russian military slang to establish in minute detail what happened when the missile was fired and who ordered it. Likewise, the Ukrainians know plenty – they do not have the GRU’s resources, but they are highly motivated to follow what the “rebels” and “separatists” are doing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Separatists Said to Have Seized Control of Crash Victims’ Remains

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
New York Times
JULY 20, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine — Pro-Russian separatist militiamen have seized custody of the bodies of about 200 victims of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday, and rebels continued to limit access to the crash site in eastern Ukraine, blocking the work of experts even as hundreds of untrained local volunteers were picking through the wreckage with sticks.

World leaders have voiced a growing chorus of outrage over the delay in recovering remains of victims, and over the refusal by rebels to cede authority over the disaster site, where Flight 17, a Boeing 777 carrying 298 passengers and crew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed and burned on Thursday afternoon.

Ukrainian emergency responders, working under the watchful eyes of armed rebels, had recovered 196 bodies but were forced to turn them over to the separatists, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, said at a briefing in Kiev on Sunday. Mr. Lysenko said officials believed that 38 of those bodies were taken to the morgue in Donetsk, a regional capital that is controlled by separatists.

Michael Bociurkiw, the leader of an observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said that most of the bodies had been placed in three refrigerated railroad cars located in the town of Torez, not far from the crash site. He said that monitors were told that 167 bodies were in the cars, which were locked but under the control of rebels from the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, one of the main separatist groups.

Monitors were permitted to make a brief inspection, Mr. Bociurkiw said, speaking by phone from eastern Ukraine, and the body bags all appeared to have tags on them. “We were escorted to the railway station by heavily armed guards of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” he said. “They are the ones in charge of that area.”

The chaos and potential mishandling of evidence at the crash site, near the village of Grabovo, and the uncertainty over when relatives would be able to reclaim the remains of their loved ones, added a frustrating and emotionally wrenching dimension to the looming geopolitical confrontation over Russia’s possible role in the downing of the aircraft. Read the rest of this entry »

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How the three MACC officers implicated in TBH’s death could be cleared of indiscipline by the MACC special investigation team without having to suffer any penalty whatsoever?

This forum on the fifth anniversary of the mysterious death, in fact murder, of Teoh Beng Hock at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) premises in Shah Alam on July 16, 2009 is held under the shadow of another great tragedy and injustice, the MH 17 disaster on 17th July where 298 innocent lives from some 10 nations were snuffed out in an instant when the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 jetliner was blown out of Ukraine airspace by a surface-to-air missile.

On that fateful Thursday night, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak promised that “no stone would be left unturned” to investigate the MH 17 tragedy and that the perpetrators of the crime against humanity must be swiftly brought to justice.

I had given full support to Najib’s statement calling on all Malaysians to stand united as one with the Prime Minister in seeking “swift justice” against the perpetrators of the heinous crime against humanity in causing the MH 17 tragedy.

As I said at the candlelight vigil and prayer for MH 17 a short while ago outside this hall, Malaysians have prided themselves of being blessed in a land without natural disasters like earthquakes, typhoons or volcanic eruptions, but we have recently been reminded that Malaysians are vulnerable to many man-made disasters – two of which hit Malaysia in the form of unprecedented air disasters MH 370 and MH 17 in less than five months, claiming 537 innocent lives. Read the rest of this entry »

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MH17: Malaysia Airlines crash victims robbed of their dignity by rebels

Robert Mendick By Robert Mendick, Patrick Sawer and Tim Ross
Telegraph
19 Jul 2014

Moscow-backed rebels accused of removing some of the corpses, taking their possessions and destroying evidence

International anger was intensifying on Saturday night over the treatment of victims of Flight MH17, amid claims that bodies had been left to rot among the wreckage, at the mercy of looters.

As Moscow-backed rebels were accused of removing some of the corpses, taking their possessions and destroying evidence, Philip Hammond, the new Foreign Secretary, said the “world’s eyes” were on Russia and demanded that the victims be treated with “proper dignity and respect”.

The plane was shot down on Thursday, apparently by pro-Moscow separatists backed by the Russian president Vladimir Putin. It emerged on Saturday that two British fathers and five of their children were killed in the attack as the last of the 10 British victims was named.

On Saturday, independent investigators were again denied proper access to the scene by masked and armed separatists, who control the crash site in eastern Ukraine. One source suggested some of the rebels were “intoxicated”.

It emerged that bodies were being left to rot amid the wreckage in temperatures of 85F (29.4C), and Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for the investigators at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said after being given partial and temporary access: “Some of the body bags are open and the damage to the corpses is very, very bad – it is very difficult to look at. Read the rest of this entry »

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Parlimen akan bincang MH17, juga perlu lihat kes MH370

KOMENTAR THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
20 July 2014

Penggubal undang-undang di Malaysia dari kedua belah pihak akan berpeluang pada Rabu ini membincangkan dan mengutuk serangan peluru berpandu yang meletupkan kapal terbang MAS MH17 bersama 298 penumpangnya Khamis lalu.

Amat berbesar hati apabila ahli politik sudi mengenepikan perbalahan mereka dan bersatu menentang sesuatu yang boleh dikatakan pembunuhan beramai-ramai manusia tidak berdosa di zon perang Ukraine. Tetapi bagaimana pula dengan pesawat MH370?

Sementara Malaysia menumpukan kepada tragedi kedua menimpa negara dan syarikat penerbangan negara Malaysia Airlines dalam jarak tempoh empat bulan, adakah kita lupa tragedi pertama itu masih menjadi misteri hingga sekarang?

Kita akan jadi sebuah negara yang lalai kiranya kita buang jauh MH370 dari ingatan hanya kerana pesawat Boeing 777-200ER dengan nombor pendaftaran 9M-MRO bersama 239 penumpangnya itu tidak dapat dijejaki. Read the rest of this entry »

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Experts: Whoever brought down Malaysian jet had extensive training

By David Willman
Los Angeles Times
July 19, 2014

Whoever fired the surface-to-air missile that brought down a passenger jet over eastern Ukraine would have needed extensive training to execute the mission, according to military experts.

Taking down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, traveling about 600 mph at an altitude of 33,000 feet, required vastly more expertise than, say, firing a shoulder-braced rocket-propelled grenade at a slow-moving helicopter. A crew of at least four would have been needed to accurately fire the truck-mounted Russian-made SA-11 missile, also known as a Buk missile system.

“You’ve got to have people who are technically competent,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Stephen V. Reeves, who served as an intelligence officer in Western Europe.

The SA-11 is a 1972-era weapon system, and is not as technologically advanced or easy to operate as more modern weaponry. Read the rest of this entry »

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Parliament to discuss MH17, also needs to look into MH370

COMMENTARY BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
20 July 2014

Malaysian lawmakers from both sides of the political divide will have a chance this coming Wednesday to discuss and condemn the missile attack that blew flight MH17 with 298 people on board out of the sky last Thursday.

It is heartening that the politicians are leaving aside their quarrel to unite against what is essentially a massacre of innocent people over the Ukrainian war zone. But what about flight MH370?

While Malaysia focuses on the second tragedy for the country and flag carrier Malaysia Airlines in four months, are we forgetting about the first one that still remains a mystery until today.

We would be remiss as a country if we file away MH370 to some distant memory just because there is no trace of the Boeing 777-200ER and the 239 people on board. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ukraine, rebels agree on security zone at crash site

Filip Warwick and Doug Stanglin
USA TODAY
19.7.14

HRABOVE, Ukraine — Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists agreed Saturday to set up a security zone around the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet to allow the orderly removal of the bodies of the 298 people killed in the shootdown of MH17 over eastern Ukraine two days ago.

The Malaysian airliner — en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 183 passengers and 15 crew members — crashed into rebel-held territory on Thursday after being hit by what U.S. officials say was a SA-11 surface-to-air missile. There were no survivors.

Ukrainian Security Service head Valentyn Nalyvaychenko said in televised remarks Saturday that trilateral talks, involving Russia, had agreed on a 7-square-mile security zone “so that Ukraine could fulfill the most important thing — identify the bodies (and) hand them over to relatives,” Ukrinform reports.

The announcement of an agreement followed charges by Ukraine that local militia in the restive eastern Ukraine region near the Russian border had removed at least 38 bodies from the crash site near the village of Hrabove. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ukraine rebels ‘destroy MH17 clues’

BBC News
19.7.14

Ukraine has accused pro-Russian rebels of trying to destroy evidence of “international crimes” at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines plane.

The government said the rebels led by Russia were preventing international representatives and its own experts from starting their investigation.

It is believed flight MH17 crashed after being hit by a surface-to-air missile fired from a rebel-held area in east Ukraine on Thursday.

All 298 people on board died. Read the rest of this entry »

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MH17 air crash: Battle for control of disaster inquiry

BBC News
19 July 2014

The investigation into the MH17 air disaster is fraught with difficulties.

The crash site is in territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Jurisdiction and control over what emerges as the full account of what happened will be contested fiercely. Even beyond the human tragedy, the stakes could scarcely be higher, with the future direction of the Ukraine crisis seemingly in the balance.

As global anger and shock mounts over the apparent shooting down of the passenger aircraft, here are some of the key issues surrounding what could be a highly contentious air crash investigation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Emergency Parliament on Wednesday should have two separate motions to discuss not only Thursday’s MH 17 disaster which costs 298 lives but also the MH 370 disappearance 133 days ago with 239 lives on board

Members of Parliament have received the notice for an emergency meeting of Parliament on Wednesday, 17th July 2014, by the Parliament Secretary Datuk Roosme binti Hamzah by email timed 5.40 am to debate the MH 17 tragedy.

Malaysians are still reeling from the unspeakable and indescribable horror of a second air disaster in less than five months to hit the country and the national airline Malaysian Airlines, claiming a total of 537 lives from over 10 different countries.

There are great differences between the MH 370 disaster of March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board and the MH 17 disaster of July 17 with 298 passengers and crew on board, firstly, the latter is an atrocious crime against humanity representing inexcusable and unpardonable war crimes while the cause of the latter remains a great mystery despite the largest and longest (and continuing) multi-national land, sea and under-sea search in history; and secondly, the bereaved families, relative and friends of the victims of the MH 17 disaster can have closure although still demanding for justice against the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity in downing the civilian aircraft from the skies while the bereaved families, relatives and friends of the victims of MH 370 disaster are still looking for a closure, as the announcement by the Prime Minister on March 24 that the Malaysian airline “ended it journey in the South Indian Ocean” proved to be “a closure without closure”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Stop blaming Malaysia Airlines for downed MH17

by Jahabar Sadiq
Editor
The Malaysian Insider
19 July 2014

No words can take away the great pain that all of us feel for flight MH17. Nothing could have prepared us for what happened on July 17 as much as nothing had prepared us for flight MH370′s mysterious disappearance on March 8.

No country, no airline and no one deserves a single or double tragedy that has struck Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia and Malaysians. And those who died or vanished in either MH17 or MH370.

It goes without saying then that we should not add words to deepen the pain in our hearts for these two tragedies. Malaysia Airlines – one of the world’s safest carrier – lost 510 passengers, 27 crew member and two planes in the space of 131 days. Read the rest of this entry »

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Downing of Jet Exposes Defects of Flight Precautions Over Ukraine

By KEITH BRADSHER, C. J. CHIVERS and NICOLA CLARK
New York Times
JULY 18, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — As this Southeast Asian nation mourned the loss of scores of passengers aboard another lost Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, the precautions instituted by the aviation authorities and flight planners to protect commercial aviation along the Russian-Ukrainian border have been shown to be catastrophically insufficient.

The downing of the passenger plane over eastern Ukraine on Thursday occurred shortly after the authorities in Russia and Ukraine, citing dangers presented by the conflict around the city of Donetsk, Ukraine, closed air space up to 32,000 feet along the passenger jet’s planned route. Ukraine made the changes on Monday, the same day a Ukrainian AN-26 military cargo plane was destroyed by a missile while flying at 21,000 feet. Russia followed with similar restrictions effective at midnight on Wednesday, hours before Flight 17 took off from Amsterdam.

The decision by government officials to restrict the airspace, rather than close it completely, raised unanswered questions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pressure mounts on Putin as British death toll from shot plane rises to 10

Michael Settle
Herald, Scotland
19 July 2014

PRESSURE is mounting on Russia over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 as it was confirmed the British death toll among the 298 victims, who included 80 ­children, has risen to 10.

US President Barack Obama described Thursday’s crash, from which there were no survivors, as “a global tragedy.”

Circumstantial evidence ­indicated Thursday’s flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine from 33,000ft by a surface-to-air missile fired from near the mining city of Torez, which lies in territory controlled by rebels seeking closer ties to Moscow.

Mr Obama stressed it was not the first time the rebels had shot down planes in the region, adding that a “steady flow of support from Russia” had included heavy weapons and anti-aircraft weapons. Read the rest of this entry »

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Twin Disasters Turn 2014 Into the Year of Flying Dangerously

Clive Irving
The Daily Beast
7.19.14

A missile attack over Ukraine and a ghostly disappearance over the Indian Ocean have cast a pall over the whole experience of airline travel.

Was there ever such a luckless airline as Malaysian Airlines? As a human tragedy, the double blow can barely be measured in its horror. As a statistic, it’s unparalleled in aviation history: nearly 600 people lost on one airline in less than five months. And for the airline industry the two disasters, one still inexplicable and the other brutally terminal, cast a pall over the whole experience of flying.

Right now one has to cast aside all the reservations about how the airline and Malaysian officials handled the disappearance of Flight 370. The sheer improbability of the dice rolling against the airline again in the form of a missile strike over Ukraine just heightens the agony.

Of all the airplanes in the sky over Europe that morning, Malaysia Flight 17 happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If another airliner from another nation had been in the crosshairs of whoever controlled that missile battery the result would have been equally appalling, but there it is, lying in a Ukrainian meadow, that familiar Malaysian decal on a shattered tailfin. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: Fateful Errors, Fatal Decisions

Mark Thompson
TIME
July 17, 2014

Common thread in shootdowns is multiple mistakes

It’s looking increasingly likely that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine Thursday by a Russian-built Buk missile, killing all 298 people on board. While that’s yet unconfirmed, U.S. officials, reviewing satellite data and other intelligence, believe a missile downed the airplane, and that pro-Russian separatists inside Ukraine are the most likely to have fired the killer shot.

We have seen this horror movie before.

It began with a Soviet warplane shooting down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 on September 1, 1983. The Soviets initially denied any involvement, but ultimately conceded one of its Su-15 interceptors had shot down the plane, killing all 269 aboard. Read the rest of this entry »

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