On 17 July 2014 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and traversing Ukrainian territory when it was shot down by a missile fired from within Ukraine. All 298 passengers and crew on board were killed. Dutch victims represented the largest single group, followed by Malaysians and Australian citizens and residents.
At that time of the tragedy the airline was passing over an area of Ukraine that was experiencing fighting between dissident residents of two Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine and forces of the Ukraine government. It is important in the context of this tragedy to bear in mind that the lawfully elected Ukraine government had been overthrown in an American organized and financed coup d’état in February of that year.
It is also crucial for the understanding of this tragedy that the territory of Crimea had declared its independence from Ukraine and following an overwhelming vote in favour, had applied to rejoin the Russian Federation. The word “rejoin” is used in advisedly because Crimea had been part of Russia for hundreds of years before the then Russian President Nikita Khrushchev himself a Ukrainian, had unilaterally gifted Crimea to Ukraine in 1954.
As both Ukraine and Russia were part of the then Soviet Union the transfer, despite it being a unilateral act on Khrushchev’s part, did not have a great practical consequence. Ethnically and linguistically however, Crimea was Russian. As such it was a materially different entity from the Ukrainian-speaking group that seized power in February 2014.
The Ukrainian government did not and has not ever accepted the return of Crimea to Russia. In this they are supported by western governments including notably the United States, the Netherlands and Australia.
The other fact relevant to have an understanding of this tragedy is that two Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine also declared their dissatisfaction with the coup d’état and declared unilateral independence. Since then a civil war has been raging in the Ukraine with government forces fighting against the Russian speaking regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The downing of MH 17 took place over the disputed regions.
In the normal course of events there would be an independent enquiry into the factors leading to the shooting down of MH 17 and the subsequent loss of life. In the Ukrainian case however, a multinational team was rapidly assembled to conduct the inquiry. The four nations forming the group were the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine.
There were a number of notable features about the composition of this inquiry grouping. The inclusion of the Netherlands was not surprising given that the flight had originated in that nation and its citizens constituted the largest group of fatalities. Australia’s inclusion was more surprising although Australian citizens and residents constituted the third largest group of fatalities. The aircraft was not destined to include in its flight any Australian destination.
The inclusion of Ukraine was a surprise. Even though the fatal flight had terminated on Ukrainian territory there were legitimate concerns about the potential role of Ukraine as a possible participant in the tragic events. The inclusion of Belgium was similarly surprising and in retrospect may be seen as fulfilling a proxy role for the United States, given that Belgium is the headquarters of NATO.
The notable exclusion from this investigating group was Malaysia, the owners and operators of the flight and whose citizens suffered the second largest group of fatalities after the Dutch. Thanks to the investigative work of Dutch researcher Max van der Werff and his colleagues, who have produced and broadcast this July 2019 a documentary recording the results of their five-year investigation into the tragedy, we now have a vastly better picture of what actually transpired.
Their documentary can be sourced at MH17: Call for Justice. It is probably a safe bet that this documentary will not be shown in the mainstream Australian media nor its conclusions reported in the same media. This is because the documentary discloses a disgraceful sequence of events that cast no credit on the Dutch, Ukrainian or Australian authorities.
For those unable to access the documentary an excellent and detailed summary is it to be found on John Helmer’s website.
What the documentary discloses, for the first time, are a number of factors about the crash and the early stages of the investigation that were not widely known. Despite token gestures of cooperation with the Malaysian authorities by the Ukrainians it was immediately obvious to the former that they were being excluded because the Ukrainians and their allies were pursuing an entirely different agenda.
The Malaysian investigative team, headed by Colonel Mohamad Sakri, nonetheless immediately made their way to the crash site, which was then being guarded by the so-called rebel forces. The object of Colonel Sakri’s trip was to recover the black boxes. These boxes contain vital information and the fact that the Ukrainians were desperate to gain custody of them and to prevent the Malaysian authorities from doing so was itself revealing.
The exclusion of the Malaysians from the initial inquiry team has never been satisfactorily explained. The reasons are now very obvious. According to the evidence presented in the van der Werff documentary, the initial plan was to use the tragedy as a reason for Ukrainian military forces and their allies including several thousand Australian troops, to forcibly retake Crimea and defeat the rebel groups in eastern Ukraine.
The real role of the Australian troops was never revealed to the Australian public by either the then Prime Minister Tony Abbott or his Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. The documentary reveals that the hair-brained scheme of the Ukrainians and their allies was to forcibly retake Crimea and the dissident Ukrainian region was vetoed by the Germans.
It is entirely possible that such a scheme could have led to a war with Russia. It is perhaps not surprising that the Australian government and the mainstream media have been careful to avoid giving an accurate account of actual events then and since. The extent and precise nature of the deceptions and outright lies perpetrated by the Ukrainians and their allies is set out in some detail in the van der Werff documentary.
Another relevant fact that was known relatively early in the proceedings was the signing of an agreement between the four countries represented in the initial inquiry team. This agreement provided, inter alia, that no reporting of the investigation into the tragedy would occur without the consent of all four parties. This effectively gave a veto to one of the prime suspects in the tragedy, the state of Ukraine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this clause in the agreement has been given no publicity in the Australian media.
The documentary discloses a catalogue of improper investigative behaviour, the suppression of vital evidence, the misreporting of other evidence, and the sustained effort to attribute blame to the Russians. This did not happen by chance. It is clear that the tragic shooting down of MH 17, which the evidence overwhelmingly establishes, was due to the actions of Ukrainian Government forces.
Instead of acknowledging the culpability in shooting down a civilian aircraft (not for the first time in Ukrainian history) the tragedy has instead been used as a vehicle to sanction and discredit the Russian government. As is obvious from the continued suppression of clearly established facts and the manifestly ridiculous attempted prosecution of three Russian and one Ukrainian individual by the Dutch authorities, that the cover up and deception by the Dutch, the Australians and the Ukrainians has not yet run its course.
The families of the innocent victims deserve to be treated with more respect and for the truth to be told, as uncomfortable as that may obviously be for those responsible.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.