July Crisis: Ukraine alleges a Russian military officer pulled the trigger on MH17
posted at 12:41 pm on July 22, 2014 by Noah Rothman
100 years ago this month, a series of accidents and miscalculations set Europe on the path to war. History repeats.
The “July Crisis” which preceded the commencement of World War I was a diplomatic calamity springing from the assassination of the presumptive heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The present July Crisis is also a diplomatic one, for now, resulting from a miscalculation on a remote Ukrainian battlefield where Russia’s project of reassembling its Soviet-era sphere of influence has taken on a military dimension.
The likely accidental attack on a civilian transport on July 17 has, to date, been blamed on pro-Russian separatists with itchy trigger fingers. To the extent that Moscow has been accused of culpability in that atrocity, it is due to their financial and material support for those rebel factions. At worst, it has thus far been alleged, Russia is partially to blame for providing rebels with sophisticated weaponry which resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 civilians.
According to Ukrainian sources, Russia bears more responsibility for this act of barbarism than the West has conceded.
Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Vitaly Nayda, Ukraine’s director of informational security, said that it was “absolutely” a Russian officer who targeted and attacked that passenger plane filled mostly with citizens of NATO allied nations.
“A Russian-trained, well-equipped, well-educated officer … who pushed that button… deliberately,” Nayda said. He added that Ukrainian intelligence supports his claim.
Nayda, speaking to CNN on Tuesday, referred to audio recordings captured by Ukrainian intelligence. “We taped conversations” between a Russian officer and his office in Moscow, Nayda said. “We know for sure that several minutes before the missile was launched, there was a report” to a Russian officer that the plane was coming, Nayda said.
Russia, meanwhile, denies the charge that even pro-Russian militants shot down that Malaysian airliner. Sources in Moscow claim that a Ukrainian military jet was in the vicinity of that plane and have implied that forces loyal to Kiev are responsible for the deaths of nearly 300 civilians.
Even if Russia was not directly responsible for that attack, experts say that Moscow’s actions are indirectly to blame for this miscalculation and are urging policy makers to hold the Kremlin to account.
“Russia bears responsibility for what they’ve been doing to support, enable, arm these rebels,” Juan Zarate, CBS News national security analyst, said on Monday. “The Russians at a minimum…have enabled this… and, to the extent that we draw ourselves into the details of the investigation and don’t deal with the consequences on the geopolitical side, it’s a retreat from making hard choices.”