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International Affairs, Maryna Prykhodko, Opinion

A Ukrainian’s View of MH17

Today we feature a more personal account of MH17, from native Ukrainian Maryna Prykhodko. We would like to emphasize that her account is of her opinion only, and we fully understand its controversial nature.


What can I, a Ukrainian living in America, possibly have to say about the MH17 tragedy that hasn’t already been said? It was a barbaric act of mass murder, an unthinkable crime, and as President Barack Obama put it – “an outrage of epic proportions.” While those are all accurate ways of describing the unprecedented loss of 298 innocent lives in a passenger plane that was consciously shot down with a military-grade missile, the victims deserve more than just some ambiguously harsh words. They deserve justice.

As far as I’m concerned, we know exactly who is responsible for downing Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. From the beginning, even before any evidence was revealed, it was clear there were only two groups that could be at fault – the Ukrainian army or the Russian-aided terrorists that chaotically control the land and airspace areas of Eastern Ukraine. For me, the Ukrainian army was ruled out completely from the start. It is true that the Ukrainian army has the capability to launch a land-to-air missile because as an army they are indeed equipped with that kind of technology. However, as the Ukrainian army is involved in the Anti-Terrorist Operation in Eastern Ukraine, the only advantage they have over the terrorists is the fact they the army has jets and fighter planes and the terrorists do not. This is why the Ukrainian army has no use for having any sort of missile launch system in Eastern Ukraine – managing it would take manpower and energy that the army simply cannot waste in such critical times. The Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian government have announced officially that they do not have any anti-aircraft technology in Eastern Ukraine.

The evidence against the terrorists continues to pile up, however. Over the past four weeks, terrorists have shot down at least four Ukrainian military planes. Right after the downing of MH17, one of the terrorist leaders announced on a Russian social media website that his team had shot down another Ukrainian plane and included details such as location and time that matched the location and time of the MH17 disaster. They thought that they had shot down another Ukrainian plane, it’s become somewhat of a routine for them, but alas, it was actually a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane. A Russian news station even reported the “success” of the terrorists in downing another Ukrainian plane, showing footage and photos of MH17, but of course both the news report and announcement through social media were deleted. That’s nothing compared to the pictures that emerged soon after the incident of a Russian-made anti-aircraft system being moved across the border from Russia into Ukraine by terrorists right before MH17 was targeted. And then, the Russian-made anti-aircraft system was witnessed and photographed being transported back into Russia, with one of its three missiles missing. The Ukrainian security service has even intercepted and published a phone call made between terrorists discussing a plan to cover up the crime with the help of Russia.

I’m not sure what kind of evidence world leaders are looking for in order to call the terrorists and their sponsor country (Russia) responsible for the horrible act of shooting down a passenger plane. I’m not entirely sure there could be evidence more convincing than everything that has already been uncovered, especially since it took four days for international independent observers and investigators to get to the crash site, giving terrorists as much as 96 hours to tamper with and destroy evidence.

Luckily, the United Nations adopted a resolution on July 21st that would legally bind all involved countries into cooperating with an open international investigation. Once the investigation is concluded, there is no doubt the terrorists will be forced to face the consequences of their actions. It is important to keep in mind that in order to respect the victims of MH17, the tragedy should not be used simply as a pawn against Russia in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine which is why the international investigation will most likely punish a small group of terrorists and continue to largely ignore the fact that Russia is still training more terrorists to send to Ukraine along with more tanks and missiles. MH17 is, however, another strike against Russian President Vladimir Putin – a man to which the three strikes rule doesn’t apply, apparently, since he has at least twenty at this point.

Not only does an overwhelming percentage of the world not trust Vladimir Putin anymore (despite his riding horseback shirtless PR stunt), but world leaders practically voiced their contempt for the man in unison at the emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on July 18th.

Putin is obviously not a man that is easily scared off, otherwise he would have quit a long time ago when thousands of Russians protested in the streets of Moscow after Putin won the Russian presidential election in 2012 with 103% of the vote. Instead, he is quite reassured by the slow and delayed response of world leaders and organizations – the UN and NATO in particular. There is no doubt he was involved in the shooting of MH17, but he does not seem to be too worried about any retribution or showing remorse.

But Maryna, you may be asking, Putin’s popularity amongst Russians has only risen in the past months – this must mean something! Yes, it means Russians are scared. They are being injected with fear and paranoia every time they turn on their televisions or read a newspaper. All they see and hear is how the world is out to destroy Russia. As a relatively new democracy, Russians have not yet gotten used to separating their country from their government which leads them to think that in order to support their country they must support their government, their president. Putin knows this better than anyone, and uses it to his advantage. He makes sure all news is state-owned and his opposition is kept behind bars where they cannot poison the public’s minds with thoughts of separation of powers (and separation of church and state, but that’s a whole other problem). Putin is not only waging war on Ukraine, but he is waging war on Russians, as well.

How can one man cause so much suffering? And most importantly, why does one man cause so much suffering? I do not have the answers to these difficult questions but I know that Putin will meet his end soon enough as the paranoia and hatred he has made Russian citizens adopt will come back to, for lack of a better phrase, bite him in the butt. Right now, we see Putin actively denying any involvement in the violence in Ukraine and even more fervently denying involvement in the downing of MH17, but this is only because the second he stops lying he will crumble like a house of cards. I believe that Putin’s defeat will come at the same time as the end of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, brilliantly broke it down for everyone present at the emergency United Nations Security Council meeting, “This war can be ended. Russia can end this war. Russia must end this war.”

– Maryna Prykhodko



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