Crucial questions abound about the tragic apparent shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. Of them, who and why are the most important, but the conflict raging between the Ukrainian military and Russian-backed rebels in the area where the plane came down mean that neither side can be trusted to carry out an investigation. An international, independent inquiry has to be conducted as a matter of urgency. The UN should take the lead; only with a neutral probe can the perpetrator be determined and punished and measures taken to protect future air safety.
For a second time this year, Malaysian Airlines has suffered a catastrophe; our sympathy goes to the relatives of the 298 people on board the plane who were killed. But unlike the mystery involving the still-missing flight MH370, with 239 passengers and crew, there is a greater certainty that what happened over Ukraine will be determined. The plane crashed in separatist-held territory where fighting has raged for months. If a missile did indeed bring it down, it is simply a matter of determining who fired it and holding them accountable.
The flight path the doomed airliner followed is one of the most popular between Asia and Europe. That it was either over or near a conflict zone in which missiles were being used - they had recently brought down two military planes - had prompted some airlines to reroute flights, though the route was listed as safe by some international aviation authorities. Malaysian Airlines was among the carriers that had not changed routes.
Ever-improving technology means that ranges are increasing and tracking systems are more sophisticated; the commercial aviation industry needs to be fully aware of developments and to ensure passenger safety.
Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly accused each other of causing the tragedy. Their eagerness to apportion blame at a time of grieving shows a callous lack of regard for circumstances. Admitting guilt, not finger-pointing, is what is needed at such a time. The brief ceasefire to allow an investigation highlights the need for greater outside pressure for negotiations to end the crisis.
Malaysian Airlines' future is in doubt, but the latest tragedy has also raised concerns about the safety of flight in general. A thorough investigation of the crash of MH17 is a matter of urgency. Preventing civilian aircraft from being put at risk by extremists and political instability has to also be a priority.