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Malaysia Airlines flight 17

The families of the victims of MH17 deserve full disclosure

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 October, 2015, 1:34am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 October, 2015, 1:34am

The families of the 298 people who died when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over eastern Ukraine 15 months ago, want answers. They have been given some solace with the final report by the Dutch safety board, which determined that a Russian-made Buk missile brought the plane down. But who gave the orders is what they most want to know and that remains in the hands of criminal investigators. The squabbling over responsibility among Russian, Ukrainian and Western officials augurs poorly for them finding closure soon.

There is no doubt, though, that the tragedy could have been avoided had international aviation organisations, airline operators and governments been paying attention to the fighting in Ukraine between soldiers and pro-Russian separatists. The safety report highlighted this, wondering why airspace over the area had not been closed. Despite both sides using heavy weapons, including missiles, no warnings were issued about the popular air route between Europe and Asia; 61 commercial airlines regularly traversed it and on July 17, the day of the crash, 160 flights passed over the region. The lesson about flying over conflict zones was learned too late and the long-needed diversions put in place.

Russia blames Ukrainian forces for bringing down the Boeing 777, while Ukraine and the West fault the Russian-backed rebels. Both sides were using Russian-made missiles and launchers, so the findings of the Dutch experts can be disputed. Even though the report concludes the missile came from rebel territory, the lack of cooperation, removal of evidence and the politicisation of the incident through Russia claiming the report is biased in favour of the West show a callous disregard for those who died and their families. An appalling crime has been committed and bringing the perpetrators to justice has to be the priority. All involved, no matter what their political agenda, owe that to the victims. They need to work with, not against, one another.