RBTH presents a selection of views from leading Russian media on the latest developments surrounding the July 17 Boeing 777 catastrophe in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, in which Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was apparently shot down near the town of Shakhtarsk in an area controlled by pro-autonomy militias.
The Kommersant daily points out that the Malaysia Airlines disaster has not stopped the fighting between government troops and pro-autonomy militias in the east of Ukraine: A ceasefire is in place only in a small area at and in the vicinity of the crash site. A complete ceasefire covering the whole of the east of the country could not be agreed, the paper writes. Experts polled by Kommersant say that the military operation by Ukrainian troops is “not proceeding as successfully as commanders’ reports would indicate.” The main difficulties, according to the paper, have arisen along the southern section of the front, “where Kiev hopes to achieve the final victory.”
As a result of actions by the pro-autonomy militias, the Ukrainian force that tried to cut the self-proclaimed republics off from the border with Russia has itself been surrounded, Kommersant continues. The surrounded troops could be saved by a ceasefire along all sections of the front, which the militia commanders also realize. “That is probably why they have so far rejected all appeals for a lasting and comprehensive ceasefire voiced by the Ukrainian side and international mediators,” the paper concludes. Nezavisimaya Gazeta “The world is on the brink of the largest political crisis of recent decades,” reads an editorial in the centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. The paper describes the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet as “a prelude to the start of a new cold war.”
The paper points out that the facts available so far indicate that there are Buk surface-to-air missile systems in the conflict zone on both sides of the Ukrainian-Russian border. However, these systems are capable of hitting air targets only within a range of 50 km. “Since the downed Boeing fell on Ukrainian territory 50 km from the Ukrainian-Russian border, one can rule out that it was hit from Russian territory,” the paper says. It goes on to add that Kiev does not deny that Ukrainian Buk systems have been deployed on the Ukrainian-Russian border: The Ukrainian air defense systems were probably intended to counter possible aerial reconnaissance from the Russian side. Therefore the Malaysian Boeing may have been mistaken for a Russian Air Force aircraft, writes Nezavisimaya Gazeta. In addition, the paper continues, it is unlikely that pro-autonomy militants could have operated a Buk system as it requires specialist training and experience.
Most of the experts polled by NG conclude that the airliner was downed by mistake. “It is likely that this attack was not agreed with the senior leadership, who are now being caused immense stress by the possibility that the truth may be established. Support for those who murder civilians leaves no political chances for a reputation on an international scale,” the paper concludes. Expert The Expert magazine gives a detailed account of the search operation at the crash site. It also points out that the UN Security Council is expected to vote in the near future on a draft resolution condemning the destruction of the Boeing 777.
The draft resolution, Expert continues, does not only call for “a comprehensive, thorough and independent international investigation in compliance with civil aviation standards” but also lists requirements for the pro-autonomy militias, urging them “to refrain from any actions that could jeopardize the crash site”. For their part, the magazine adds, the militiamen of the Donetsk People’s Republic have for three days now been guarding the crash scene and ensuring the safety of the OSCE observers working at the site. Vzglyad Experts polled by the Vzglyad newspaper claim that “senior figures in Ukraine and the West are using pseudo-facts surrounding the Malaysian Boeing crash.” The investigation into the downing of the Malaysian airliner is not yet over, the paper continues, but the alleged intercepted phone calls between pro-autonomy militiamen that have been posted on the internet have given the leadership of Ukraine and other countries cause to blame what happened on the militias and Russia.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that “the White House, demanding an inquiry into the tragedy, is criticizing Moscow, which, in its view, has continuously aggravated the conflict in southeast Ukraine, supported the separatists, training and arming them.” According to the newspaper, the general opinion in the U.S. is that the missile was fired either by the militias or by Russian soldiers. The newspaper notes that America is not blaming Kiev, and that Ukraine has announced that in the entire conflict it has not fired any missiles capable of hitting a plane at a 33,000-foot altitude.
Gazeta.ru says that the most likely explanation for the airplane crash in eastern Ukraine was the BUK anti-aircraft missile, which is the most powerful means of anti-aircraft defense, one that Ukraine inherited from the USSR and that has recently come into the militia’s possession. The newspaper analyzes the weapon’s technical characteristics in depth: The BUK anti-aircraft missile is one of Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport’s most popular products. Gazeta.ru says that the missiles are sold in all CIS countries that used them in Soviet times.
Today the missiles are also used in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. According to the publication, the missile system’s technical specifics allow it to hit a target at an altitude of up to 82,000 feet. Moreover, the system is mobile: It can be packed up in five minutes. “Qualified specialists are required to take aim with this system. In their hands the BUK can hit a target even at a distance of 40 kilometers [130,000 feet],” says Gazeta.ru. While the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk has been saying that it lacks the weapons needed to shoot down a plane at such a high altitude, officials from the neighboring “People’s Republic” of Lugansk proposed another theory: the Malaysian Boeing 777 was shot down by the Ukrainian SU-25 jet, which was later shot down by the militias. However, the maximum altitude of the SU-25 is 16,500 feet, which makes this an unlikely version of events, says Gazeta.ru. Vzglyad Vzglyad newspaper emphasizes that the “airplane fell precisely in the area of the most intense fighting between the Donetsk militias and the Ukrainian Army.
The Ukrainian government blames the militias for the anti-aircraft tragedy. However, arguments blaming the Ukrainian soldiers are more convincing, says the publication. Vzglyad notes that the Ukrainian press has already blamed the Donbass militias for the crash, saying that recently they have shot down two Ukrainian Air Force transportation planes. Moreover, the newspaper says that the BUK is a semiautomatic system, and human participation is minimal. “Therefore the militias could have easily mastered the technology, since they have people who worked with this system while serving in the Soviet and then the Ukrainian army,” Vzglyad suggests.
Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in Donetsk Region If it is so, then it is no longer the militias fighting the Ukrainian Air Force with anti-aircraft missiles that are the cause of the event, but rather “the western governments, who are encouraging Kiev to ‘establish order’ in eastern Ukraine, the newspaper believes. Military expert and editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine Igor Korotchenko suggests that “due to the personnel’s low qualification and miscalculations, the operator either accidentally or unintentionally launched the missile that shot down the Boeing.” Furthermore, Vzglyad’s expert says that earlier there was information of the militias having captured several BUK anti-aircraft missile launchers, yet officially the Ukrainian government announced that they were faulty and therefore had been intentionally removed from combat by the Ukrainian soldiers.
Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines – http://rbth.com/international/2014/07/18/press_digest_reaction_to_the_malaysia_airlines_disaster_in_ukra_38325.html)