Editorial: MH17 Tragedy Will Help End Russia's Support for the Rebels
Published: July 19, 2014 (Issue # 1820)
On the afternoon of June 17, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot out of the sky over the Ukrainian city of Donetsk. In the ensuing crash, none of the 298 passengers on board survived.
The Donetsk region, located near Ukraine's border with Russia, has been the scene of fierce fighting between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army for months. Likely one of these two sides is responsible for shooting down the plane.
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17's passage over Ukraine was a brief interval in a long voyage from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. A number of different nationalities were represented on board, including 154 Dutch citizens. Many were heading to an important AIDS conference in Australia. While some of those who died may have been familiar with the conflict raging 33,000 feet below, none of them could ever have thought it would impact their lives so tragically.
The Ukrainian crisis has already seen many tragedies, from the deaths of pro-EU protestors in February, which helped topple Ukraine's former pro-Russian government, to the many fighters on both sides who have died in combat, to the dozens of civilians caught in the cross-fire. Up until now, though, many of those involved in the crisis could still convince themselves that they were fighting for a cause worth dying for.
The Ukrainian Army, allied with activists from the country's west, believe they are fighting for their county's liberty from Russian influence. The separatists fighting against them, brainwashed by Russian propaganda and frightened by the ham-fisted nationalism of Kiev's new government, believe they are fighting against a fascist coup.
Unfortunately, even in the wake of this devastating loss of life, higher civilian casualties could be in the offing.
Prior to the downing of flight MH17, the Ukrainian Amy was preparing to besiege the rebels holed up in heavily populated Donetsk. As military forces, neither the Ukrainian army nor the rebels are of the highest calibre. And even the Israeli military, one of the most professional armed forces in the world, has been unable to avoid high civilian casualties in its recent attack on Palestine. An assault on Donetsk could lead to a massive loss of civilian life, as well as the destruction of one of Ukraine's major urban centers.
Sadly, neither the separatists in Donetsk nor the politicians in Kiev and Moscow have expressed interest so far in treating the plane's destruction as a launching point for reconciliation efforts.
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