It will be a while before the horror of the MH17 crash dies down. No one is able to say for sure who shot the Malaysian Airlines aircraft down, killing all 298 onboard, although most of the evidence points towards it being a job undertaken by the Ukrainian rebels.
Balázs Jarábik, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focuses on Ukraine and Eastern Europe, says preliminary and not direct evidence points suggests that the Ukrainian rebels shot down the plane. In this interview with Rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa, Jarábik says that it would not be right to call this an act of terror or a war crime as it appears to be a horrible mistake.
Who do you think shot down MH17?
Preliminary, and not direct, evidence and particularly their behaviour points to the rebels in east Ukraine. However, there is no smoking gun, ie, hard core evidence presented. Such would be a satellite or a NATO AWACS (airborne early warning and control) image. The United States government made several statements about irrefutable evidence but these were not presented yet.
Was this a targeted attack or do you think it was an operation that went horribly wrong?
Based on preliminary and not direct evidence this is likely to be a mistake on the rebels’ side. None of the sides (rebels, Ukraine or Russia) gain from such an escalation, although Ukraine’s position has somewhat strengthened as the world is now watching much more closely and blaming the rebels.
How do you think the international community should react against the people who have done this?
There should be an independent investigation keeping the United Nation Security Council resolution aside, and based on that any other action determined.
I am rather hesitant to call this as an act of terrorism as if this was a mistake, there was no deliberate intention to carry this attack out. It is also tricky to call this as war crime as there is no declared war between Ukraine and Russia.
Certainly, those responsible should be brought to justice.
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Are we going to witness more such incidents due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine?
Given there won’t be international civilian traffic over the territory, perhaps such incidents could be avoided. However, the rebels already shot down 14 planes and helicopters of the Ukrainian armed forces showing their capacity and I am certain this capacity won’t dissipate with this act.
What is the solution to the problem in Ukraine? Will we see peace in that region anytime soon?
Peace would require negotiations as well as restraint from both Ukraine and Russia toward the insurgency. However, both President Poroshenko (Ukraine) and Putin (Russia) have to walk a very thin line with their domestic audiences, both of them radicalised and polarised.
If the rebels are able to resume supplies (from Russia), the military conflict may continue for longer. A decisive attack from the Ukrainian side would likely increase the emotions in east Ukraine against the central government in Kiev. At this stage there is no or very little win-win possible.
Will the strengthening of the Ukraine-Russia border take place in the wake of the MH17 incident? Can there be talks now?
That is the key question. The international community is focusing too much on Putin and much less on what’s happening at the Russian-Ukrainian border. How many and what kind of Russian weapons have been passed through the border for the past months? How there can be monitors at least on Russia side (what was offered and promised by Moscow) at least? How many Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have been captured so far?
We should be treated with more facts instead of emotional statements. Thorough monitoring of the border as well as independent investigation of MH17 is a must for international community and should be for both sides.
Do you see the MH17 probe by international investigators yielding any result?
I am no expert on such cases, but there is no other chance. At the same time I don’t think the black boxes will tell us how the plane went down (if there is a missile) but could give us answers to disclose other scenarios raised by the separatists (for example, Ukrainian war plane shot it down) and by Moscow.
How does this incident impact the growth of Ukraine?
It will be another hit, albeit small, to the Ukraine economy as there will be less international travel throughout the country and the global reputation of “being in war” won’t help either.
As the country is “united” against Russia, the military option against the rebels will gain even more traction among the population. That will further widen the gap between the East and the rest of the country and deepen the conflict.
But it could also help to end the conflict (with an Ukrainian military victory over the separatists) and help Ukraine to re-gain control over its territory (minus Crimea) so the reforms and re-building can kick off.
Image: A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of MH17 in Donetsk region of Ukraine; (Inset) Balázs Jarábik.
Photo: Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters