International reporters are calling it the biggest crime scene in the world this morning. And if anyone is expecting a normal, NTSB style investigation of the plane wreckage, that’s probably not going to happen.
Pro-Russia separatist groups in eastern Ukraine are hastily covering up all links to the Buk missile battery suspected to have been used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, according to western-based defence and intelligence specialists.
As the UN security council called for a “full, thorough independent international investigation” into the downing of the plane, concern that a cover-up was under way was fuelled by a standoff at part of the crash site between observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and rebel gunmen, which ended with a warning shot being fired.
Postings on rebel websites immediately after the crash boasted of having shot down what they claimed was an Antonov Ukrainian military transport plane, but these have since been deleted.
And in case Putin still wants to continue his innocent, “who me?” routine, the AP is throwing cold water on that one as well.
Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of assisting separatist rebels in destroying evidence at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines plane shot down with 298 people onboard.
The government in Kiev said militiamen have removed 38 bodies from the crash site and have taken them to the rebel-held city of Donetsk. It says the bodies were transported with the assistance of specialists with distinct Russian accents.
The rebels are also “seeking large transports to carry away plane fragments to Russia,” the Ukrainian government said in a statement.
This is on top of video being released showing the rocket launcher used in the attack allegedly being hustled back over the border into Mother Russia. To add insult to injury, CNN reports that the pro-Russian rebels have allegedly already been looting the dead. Just sitting and watching the live reports come in from the field it seems clear that there is a completely separate crime taking place apart from the initial horror of having the plane shot down. The miles long debris field where Flight 17 came down is, by current reports, still littered with hundreds of bodies. Other accounts indicate that some of the bodies have been removed with no clear idea where they are being taken, but they may have gone to Russia. None of the normal protocols are being followed at this point, and questions remain about where the plane’s black boxes are and if they will be turned over for proper processing.
This has already turned into an international outrage, but what will be done about it? I would hope that there is a limit as to how much pressure Putin thinks his country can sustain before he has to come to the table and behave decently. Following the unofficial war in Ukraine there didn’t seem to be enough unity around the world in terms of holding Russia accountable, possibly out of fear of their reprisal and military capability. This was probably aided by a general sense that this was a “local issue” to be sorted out between the Ukrainians and the Russians and a lack of interest in yet another global conflict. (Understandable to a degree.)
But this sort of humanitarian crisis – particularly the urgent need to recover the bodies of the victims and provide relief to their families – may bring enough pressure on Putin to force him into acting decently. At least we can hope so. Failing that, I’m not sure what other options are left. Sanctions certainly don’t seem to be impressing Putin, and I don’t think there are many sane people who actually want to see a shooting war erupt with Russia.