Australia Says 'Industrial Scale' Tampering of Evidence at MH17 Site
by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 08:57
Evidence has been tampered with on an "industrial scale" at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday, calling it "a cover-up".
Abbott, whose government was behind a U.N. Security Council resolution that Monday unanimously demanded full access to the site in rebel-held east Ukraine, admitted progress had been made but said more needed to be done.
"There is still a long, long way to go," he told a press conference of the quest to repatriate the bodies of the dead Australians and bring those responsible for the 298 killed to justice.
"After the crime comes the cover-up," he added.
"What we have seen is evidence tampering on an industrial scale. That has to stop."
His comments came as pro-Russian separatists, who are accused of shooting down the plane, finally conceded to a furious international clamor for the bodies and the jet's black boxes to be handed over to international investigators.
It followed days of bitter wrangling in which rebels hampered experts from gaining access to the site and were accused of tampering with evidence.
"This site has been trampled from the beginning and we haven't just seen all sorts of random individuals roaming around the site, picking over the remains, picking over the wreckage. We've seen heavy equipment coming onto the site," Abbott said.
"The more recent footage suggests it's more like a building demolition. And this again is unacceptable."
He said the crash site must be secured and suggested it should be policed by those countries whose citizens had been killed in the disaster.
"Obviously there does need to be security for the site and I would think that the security for the site would best be provided by the countries that have been so wronged here," he said.
In recent days Abbott had been particularly scathing in his criticism of shit stain Pig Putin for failing to intervene, but admitted he now appeared to be acting following intense international pressure.
"The point I made 24 hours ago is that Pig Putin had said all the right things. I then went on to say the challenge is to hold him to his word," he said.
"And to the Pig's credit, he has thus far been as good as his word. I give him credit for being as good as his word over the last 24 hours."
A train carrying the remains of 280 people killed in the disaster was finally allowed to leave a rebel-held region in eastern Ukraine Tuesday as the militants declared a truce around the crash site.
The corpses are due in the Ukrainian government-controlled city of Kharkiv before being put on planes, including an Australian C-17 Globemaster, to the Netherlands, where the doomed flight to Kuala Lumpur originated.
Abbott said the "painstaking and methodical process" of identifying the victims could take weeks, a process he acknowledged would be frustrating but important to get right.
Ukraine Rebels Hand over MH17 Black Boxes, Call Ceasefire
by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 07:06
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday handed over two black boxes recovered from the crash site of the MH17 jet to Malaysian officials at a press conference.
They also announced a ceasefire within a 10 kilometre (six mile) radius around the crash site to allow international investigators to safely access the vast area where the Malaysia Airlines flight was downed Thursday.
"We have decided to hand the black boxes over to Malaysian experts," the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai, told journalists.
The Malaysian team of experts and representatives of the separatist group then signed a protocol before the bright orange boxes were handed over.
"On behalf of the Malaysian government I thank the government of the Donetsk Republic for handing us the two black boxes which are the property of Malaysia," said a member of the Malaysian team.
"We have not found the black boxes from flight MH370 (disappeared over the Indian Ocean in March), so are happy to be able to recover these.
"I see that the black boxes are intact with only minor damage."
One of the boxes will contain all conversation in the cockpit and another all flight data.
However, it is unclear how useful this will be in determining what happened to the flight, which is believed by Kiev and world leaders to have been shot down by a surface-to-air-missile.
The Russia-backed separatist rebels who control the area where the plane went down are suspected of having fired the missile, however they blame the Ukrainian military.
There has been an outpouring of global outrage over lack of access to the site, and fears the rebels have tampered with evidence.
Borodai gave in to demands for a ceasefire to allow investigators full access to the site.
"We will order a ceasefire in a area of 10 kilometres around" the site of the disaster, which left 298 people dead, he said.
Malaysian officials were accompanying a refrigerated train transporting the remains of the passengers to the town of Kharkiv, controlled by the government in Kiev.
Ukrainian Military and Rebel Fighters Clash in Donetsk
By SABRINA TAVERNISE and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
JULY 21, 2014
DONETSK, Ukraine — A thick plume of dark smoke could be seen rising into the bright blue afternoon sky here on Monday. One man, a passenger in a blue car that was stopped at a red light, said two people in his building were killed in the day’s fighting. He said he ran out of his house in nothing but his slippers.
A woman in the Kuibysheva neighborhood, which was hit Monday morning, was killed as she walked through a courtyard near a small playground. Two men were found dead nearby. A grocery discount card was on the ground near the bloody outline where the woman’s body had been.
“They are trying to push the D.N.R. back, but they end up hitting us,” said Yevgeny Zhitnikov, a 17-year-old resident of Donetsk, using an abbreviation for the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. “Victory is more important to them than human life.”
His father, who was arranging bags on the ground for the family to leave to a nearby bomb shelter, added, “Animals.”
While the world was watching the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Ukraine stepped up its fight against the separatists, firing on rebel positions in areas of the northwest of the city. Ukraine denied it had hit civilian areas. But at least three of the approximately seven blast sites had trajectories and impact damage consistent with a rocket’s being fired from the northwest, where the Ukrainians are based.
A current visual survey of the continuing dispute, with maps showing rebel and military movement, sites of recent violence, as well as political, cultural and economic factors in the crisis.
“I hate them all,” said an elderly woman, whose front yard had been swallowed up by a large crater. She was sweeping glass off her windowsill in orange gloves, and trying to salvage some old photographs that had been torn. “I don’t know who did this. But let him come, and have his child and his loved ones end up in this situation.”
A Ukrainian military spokesman, Vladislav Seleznyov, would not provide details, citing military secrecy, but confirmed the fighting, calling it “an active phase of the antiterrorist operation.”
A spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Andriy Lysenko, confirmed that government forces were closing in on Donetsk and Horlivka, another rebel stronghold.
Mr. Lysenko denied, however, that government troops had fired any mortars at Donetsk — the government’s standard position — even though heavy fighting in the city cast doubt on his assertion.
The attack, which local rebels said was from a Grad rocket, though the source was unconfirmed, struck near the main train station, a dentist office building, a library, a music school and a basketball court.
Ukraine has continued to press its military campaign against the rebels, who seized control here this spring, shelling and bombing rebel positions, including on the morning after the downing of the Malaysian jet. At least 16 civilians died in fighting in Luhansk that day.
The rocket that killed the woman in Kuibysheva had punched a deep hole into the courtyard. Angry residents had gathered. “Why are people suffering, for what?” said Galina Afrina, a 60-year-old retired financial worker who was holding homemade compote. “We are being told to evacuate.”
B.y 2:30 p.m., residents were leaving the neighborhood. A woman carrying a large gray cat rushed by. A man carrying a kitten walked a bicycle.
A series of booms thumped through the courtyard. It was unclear from which direction the sound came. When asked where the rockets were being fired from, a rebel who identified himself as Yenot gave a long, slow shrug. “They can come from five to 40 kilometers,” he said. “Who knows?”
In a leafy courtyard down the street from where shells landed at School No. 51, residents gathered around park benches. They had been told to evacuate, but few had anywhere to go, or any way to get there.
Dima, a timid boy of 7, stood with his mother.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” his mother, Marta, answered, stroking his head. “We’ll see.”
MH17 victims' bodies are finally moved out of conflict zone
Train carrying bodies of victims leaves Torez as plane's black box recorders were due to be handed to Malaysian delegation
Harriet Salem in Torez and Shaun Walker in Donetsk
The Guardian, Monday 21 July 2014 20.03 BST
Four days after MH17 came crashing down into the fields of eastern Ukraine, a train of refrigerated carriages finally rolled out of the station in the rebel-controlled city of Torez on Monday night carrying the bodies of 282 of the victims.
Bound for the city of Kharkiv, the train's departure from the crash site is likely to bring a small amount of respite to relatives, after a chaotic and controversial clear-up mission complicated by a military conflict rumbling nearby, the summer heat and what at times has appeared to be deliberate obstruction.
The plane's black box recorders were also due to be passed over to a Malaysian delegation in Donetsk late on Monday evening. However, much remained unclear. Fighting broke out in Donetsk during the day on Monday and the train left without three Dutch experts who were meant to be travelling with the bodies.
Earlier in the day, the trio of experts, the first to reach the train holding the bodies, paused, hands clasped together and heads bowed, before clambering up to the grey train carriages to inspect the interior. One of the three, Peter Van Vliet, said the experience had given him goosebumps, despite the sweltering heat.
In a whispered conversation on the station platform, observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) urged the rebels to do everything in their power to speed up the process of moving the bodies out of the conflict zone.
"This train must move today, it cannot wait any longer. It will not be good for anyone – not the experts, not the families, not you," Alexander Hug, deputy of the special monitoring mission to Ukraine, was overheard saying to the rebels.
At 7pm local time, the train did indeed pull out of the station. According to an official statement from the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, it was due to travel to Kharkiv, a major city fully under Kiev's control, where a large team of international experts have gathered.
It is expected that the bodies of the victims will be loaded on to a transport plane and flown back to the Netherlands as soon as possible.
There is much work still to be done in Donetsk and at the crash site itself, but renewed fighting near the city's train station between pro-government forces and rebels, which left several civilians dead on Monday , provides an additional obstacle for any international experts attempting to reach the site.
Nevertheless, a delegation of about a dozen Malaysians arrived on Monday , and had negotiations with Alexander Borodai, the self-styled prime minister of the "Donetsk People's Republic". The talks, on the top floor of the occupied regional administration building in Donetsk, were guarded by armed rebels, and a number of the Malaysians seen exiting the talks refused to comment.
"Forget about it," said one, when asked what they had been discussing. However, talks over the fate of the plane's black box recorders were clearly part of the meeting, as the Malaysian prime minister later announced that the separatists would hand over the recorders to a Malaysian delegation in Donetsk.
Borodai arrived at the Park Inn hotel to meet the Malaysians shortly before 10pm local time but it was unclear if he had the black box recorders with him. Ukraine's security services had previously released recordings of what it said were rebel leaders coordinating a ground search for the black boxes and insisting that they not be given to international leaders, as Moscow wanted to get them first. The rebels denied that the recordings were genuine.
Getting appropriate permissions for international experts to enter the war-torn region has proved problematic. Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE, called the process a logistical nightmare. The three Dutch specialists, who travelled from Kharkiv, said that they had been accompanied part of the way by the Ukrainian army before being passed over to an escort of rebels.
Monday's violence made Donetsk an even more daunting venue to travel for international experts hoping to examine the MH17 crash site. The city's mayor advised all residents to stay indoors, the streets were largely deserted and there were reports that damage to infrastructure meant that the city would run out of water in a matter of days.
While the rebels have been heavily criticised for blocking access to the crash site, it was the Ukrainian army that seemed intent on disrupting expert work on Monday, as they apparently launched an offensive against rebel positions close to Donetsk railway station, as well as in other towns across the region.
The Ukrainian authorities said they were not targeting residential areas. "We are coming to the city, special assault groups are working there," Vladislav Seleznev, spokesman of the anti-terrorist operation, told the Guardian. "Within city boundaries we are not using heavy artillery."
However, there were a number of cases where what appeared to be Grad rocket fire had landed in residential areas. At one school building near the railway station, terrified locals hid in the basement all morning and two men were killed by shrapnel in the playground. A local named Sergei, who lives near the school, said he had helped to load dead bodies on to a truck provided by the rebels.
Adding to the sense of chaos, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's national security council in Kiev, denied that the Ukrainian army was responsible for explosions in central Donetsk but said small groups of partisans could be engaging the rebels. "We have strict orders not to use air strikes and artillery in the city. If there is fighting in the city, we have information that there is a small self-organised group who are fighting with the terrorists," he said.
The Ukrainian president ordered a ceasefire across a 40km (24-mile) radius from the crash site, but this does not include Donetsk, which is further out.
The fighting near the station was an "added complication" for moving the train with the bodies, said the OSCE. They also said the body bags inside the train were tagged using a numbering system and stored at a temperature between 0C and -5C. Experts from several countries including the UK are in Kharkiv.
The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said at a news conference that the swift return of the bodies was his "number one priority".
With most of the bodies now removed from the site, attention will turn to the other tasks of the crash investigation, most importantly attempting to find some proof of what brought the plane down.
David Gleave, a former aviation safety investigator, corroborated pictures that appeared to show shrapnel damage from a missile to a section of fuselage from the stricken aircraft. "The markings are consistent with something external hitting the aeroplane," he said, describing the indentations as indicative of a missile strike.
"It looks like there are markings on the external to the internal of the aircraft, meaning it's not a bomb blowing outwards. That's not the main bit where the missile hit, it's the periphery of the explosion. It looks like secondary damage."
In spite of the delay in investigators arriving at the crash site, Gleave said it would still be possible to trace the manufacturer of the missile by forensically examining bits of wreckage and human remains for chemical traces.
"I'm not convinced [the contamination of the crash site] is quite as bad as people say. If it's a missile, then all the conventional stuff we need for data-gathering goes out of the window. A black box isn't going to tell you it was a missile," he said.
The cleanup operation, which has been roundly criticised by the international community who fear pro-Russia rebels are contaminating the site to cover up signs of their involvement, was cautiously praised by Van Vliet, at least when it came to the collection of the bodies.
Given the hot weather, the size of the crash site and the military operations going on in the vicinity, the operation was "very difficult" and he was impressed with the efforts of local emergency workers and volunteers, who have spent three days sifting corpses and body parts from the crash site. He added though, that the area needed a "full, forensic sweep" by proper experts.
07/22/2014 12:01 PM
US Loses Patience with Europe: Washington Wants Tough Russia Sanctions
By Gregor Peter Schmitz in Brussels
Following the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine, calls are growing in Washington for tough sanctions against Moscow. Many European governments are still hesitating, paving the way for the next big trans-Atlantic row.
Usually, it takes quite an effort for the ambassador of a European Union member state in Washington to raise the attention of the American government. But lately, it hasn't been difficult at all. "The calls and requests just don't stop," said one European diplomat in the US capital.
The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 over eastern Ukraine, presumably by pro-Russian separatists, is considered to be a game changer in Washington -- an event of such magnitude that the status quo is no longer possible. All 298 passengers on board the Boeing 777 perished in the crash.
Washington officials have been clear with the Europeans about the lessons it has learned from the disaster, namely that EU members needs to adopt a tougher stance in its dealings with Russian President Shit Stain Pig Putin. Even prior to the Flight MH 17 disaster, pressure for additional sanctions in Washington had been growing. Bloomberg reported that Deputy National Security Advisor Anthony Blinken held a closed-door meeting a week ago with EU ambassadors to inform them of the actions Washington would like to see Europe take.
The Americans are proposing an end to EU weapons deliveries to Russia. With orders on the books for two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships for Russia worth €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion), that move could hit France particularly hard. The White House also says it would like to see further restrictions placed on Russia's access to money and capital markets.
Washington Doesn't Want Further Excuses
The US government's message is clear: Impatience is growing over the constant excuse given by the Europeans that they can't afford to isolate Russia for economic and energy policy reasons. Public statements given by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are getting brisker, with both speaking in unison of a "wakeup call for Europe."
On Sunday, Kerry told ABC News there was "powerful" evidence suggesting that the Russians had provided both training and weapons to the rebels.
In US government circles, many believe the Europeans will go along with sanctions this time. "This tragedy is so enormous, and above all so palpable for European countries like the Netherlands, that the Europeans will finally have to move decisively against shit stain Pig Putin," says Jack Janes of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington. Some 189 of the passengers who perished on board Flight MH 17 were Dutch citizens.
Will the Europeans be swayed this time? Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and his Polish colleague Radoslaw Sikorski have both called for tougher sanctions against Moscow. And British Defense Minister Michael Fallon has accused Russia of "sponsored terrorism".
Although they threatened there would be "consequences" for Moscow over the weekend, EU members Italy, Germany and France have remained hesitant about applying further sanctions.
Many EU leaders believe that sufficient action was taken at a summit last week in which they expanded current sanctions that are largely focused on banning travel and blocking the foreign bank accounts of oligarch billionaires who support Russian decision-makers.
Hesitance in Europe
It remains uncertain whether EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday will go beyond a general discussion of the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight to actually agree on further punitive measures. The French government is also opposed to British calls to penalize the entire Russian defense sector.
Cameron is now considering an alternative embargo applying only to new weapons deals with Russia, which would exclude the French Mistral sale. That deal was approved by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011.
His successor, François Hollande, said earlier this week that the first helicopter carrier is nearly complete and would be delivered as planned in October. However, he said delivery of a second ship would depend on Russia's attitude in the Ukraine crisis.
Obama's government is expected to wait until after the EU foreign ministers meet on Tuesday, but administration officials are already preparing the next steps, with measures aimed at Russia's financial sector. Officials are also considering an export ban on dual-use technologies that can be used for both civil or military applications.
Heather Conley, a Europe expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, believes trans-Atlantic relations could be put to the test again if the United States and Europe don't pull together. "The Americans know that sanctions again Russia will only work if the Europeans take part," she says. "After all, the EU has far greater trade with Russia than the Americans do."
Trans-Atlantic policy expert Janes says that expectations are accordingly high. "People here are following very closely just how prepared EU member states are for sanctions -- especially Germany, which is so strong economically," he says.
07/21/2014 03:36 PM
The Tragedy of MH17: Attack Could Mark Turning Point in Ukraine Conflict
By SPIEGEL Staff
The shooting down of a jet carrying 298 people on Thursday could mark the turning point in the conflict between Russia, Ukraine and the West. With evidence suggesting pro-Russian separatists fired the missile, pressure is mounting on Vladimir Putin.
A travel guide titled "Bali and Lombok" could be seen lying in the middle of the field of smoking wreckage, a nightmarish landscape of ash, twisted metal and body parts. For the passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17, the prospect of a vacation in the tropics ended in death, near a poultry farm on the outskirts of the village of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine.
On Thursday, armed rebels combed through the wreckage of the aircraft, which had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile while traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The men in camouflage held up Dutch passports for the cameras, while one used his mobile phone to take pictures of the horrific scene.
After hearing a loud explosion on Thursday afternoon, residents of the neighboring village, Sjeverne, initially remained in their homes. They initially thought they were coming under fire from the Ukrainian army, says a local journalist who calls himself Sergei. "The explosion was so powerful that a friend even threw himself onto the ground."
Then the young men from the town got on their mopeds and drove to the accident site, three kilometers (2 miles) away. They saw a dead body on the side of the road, says Sergei. They walked gingerly across the scorched earth, wearing sandals and shorts. There were bodies with twisted limbs lying on the ground. The mouth of one dead woman was still open in a scream.
It was almost surreal, the way the human suffering of an aviation disaster had collided with the war in eastern Ukraine, on territory held by pro-Russian separatist on the eastern edge of Europe.
All 298 people on board the Boeing 777 died in the crash. Many were on their way to exotic travel destinations in Asia. There were young couples on board, and there were 80 children, including three infants. Entire families perished, as evidenced by the children's drawings and comic books that now lie scattered in a Ukrainian wasteland.
There were also four Germans among the casualties: Wilhelmina B., who was sitting in seat 36F; Fatima D., a 24-year-old student in seat 20D, who was going to Australia to visit her parents; Gabriele L., in 21E, who worked as a teacher at a German school in Sydney; and, in 41E, 24-year-old student Olga I., who was traveling with her Ukrainian boyfriend.
Holland in a State of Mourning
Some 189 of the passengers were from the Netherlands, where the entire country has been in a state of mourning since Thursday. A sympathy card attached to a bouquet of white lilies in front of Terminal 2 at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam reads: "Holland is in mourning. The world is in a state of shock. This should never have happened." There was a condolence book on a table next to the bouquet, in which someone had written: "This was a crime against humanity." Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who had ordered flags to be flown at half-mast, said: "This beautiful summer day has ended in the blackest possible way." Rutte and the king and queen of the Netherlands were to meet with family members of the deceased on Monday.
Until last week, most in Western Europe perceived the civil war in Ukraine as a foreign and faraway conflict, dominated by bearded men in strange uniforms. The downing of flight MH 17 has suddenly brought the conflict much closer.
Indeed, the missile that shot down the airliner could have struck anyone traveling to a vacation destination in Asia. The route over eastern Ukraine is part of one of the busiest flight paths in the world, known to pilots as "L980." Anyone who has ever flown from Frankfurt, Amsterdam or London to Singapore, Hong Kong or Mumbai has most likely traveled along that route.
At the time of the incident, flights operated by Singapore Airlines and Air India were in the air space over the rebel-held territory, only a few kilometers away. Lufthansa flight LH 797, en route from Hong Kong to Frankfurt, was also scheduled to fly over the region a few hours later, but after the accident the pilots were instructed to program a new route into their flight computer. It is only since then that all commercial flights have made a wide berth around the region.
A Turning Point?
The downing of MH 17 could go down in history as a turning point in the Ukraine conflict. If it does, it wouldn't be the first time that a civil aviation disaster has had enormous political consequences.
Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov characterized the downing of the Malaysian airliner near the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk as being the equivalent of an Eastern European 9/11. While this may not be the best comparison, the July 17 disaster certainly does mark an important turning point -- for Russia and President Vladimir Putin, and for Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko, inaugurated only two months ago. It also represents a watershed moment for the West, and the Europeans in particular, because it could force them to begin taking a more decisive approach in the Ukraine conflict.
Russia's claims that this is a purely a regional conflict that does not concern the rest of the world can no longer be allowed to stand unchallenged.
The official investigations will continue for a long time, and it seems unlikely that all parties will recognize the conclusions reached by the experts. But it is already clear who the main suspects are in the downing of the airliner: the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine who had received substantial weaponry from Russia in recent weeks, and may have unintentionally struck a commercial airliner with a surface-to-air missile. They apparently believed it was a Ukrainian military aircraft.
Last Friday, US President Barack Obama, echoing the sentiments of his ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said that the rebels were likely to blame for this "global tragedy." According to reports in the US media, images recorded by US spy satellites support his contention. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was more cautious, although many diplomats in the German Foreign Ministry also consider this version of the events to be plausible.
Obama: 'We Don't Have Time for Propaganda'
Who should be held accountable for shooting down a Boeing jet filled with innocent people? If it turns out that the pro-Russian rebels he helped arm are to blame, the Russian Pig will also face serious criticism, which will likely translate into further Western sanctions that could be very damaging to Russia. Is this why the separatists initially prevented independent observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from gaining access to the crash site?
"We don't have time for propaganda," Obama said. "We don't have time for games." Oleksandr Turchynov, the chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, even called upon the West to begin sending weapons to his country.
In Europe, many leaders have expressed outrage by the shooting down of the flight. In an editorial printed by the Sunday Times newspaper, British Prime Minister David Cameron called the attack a "direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them. ... We must turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action." He also called on other European leaders, to "respond robustly" with new sanctions. "For too long, there has been a reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine," Cameron wrote.
After telephone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande on Sunday, Cameron's office issued a statement saying that the leaders agreed that the immediate priority is to secure access to the crash site and ensure that specialist teams are able to recover the victims and return them home. They said "the shit stain called Pig Putin has an important role to play by persuading the separatists to grant access and to work with the international community." They also agreed the EU must "reconsider its approach to Russia," and that EU foreign ministers would impose further sanctions if full access to the site wasn't provided to accident investigators.
"Moscow has perhaps its last chance to show that it is seriously interested in a solution," Steinmeier told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
In Germany, so far, an atmosphere of reserve has prevailed. Neither Chancellor Merkel nor Foreign Minister Steinmeier has publicly blamed Putin for the incident. Speaking on Friday, the chancellor stated, "These events have once again shown us that what is required is a political solution and above all that it is also Russia that is responsible for what is happening in Ukraine at the moment."
On Monday, a Dutch forensics team arrived in Torez, where a train with refrigerator cars is holding the remains of the victims retrieved so far. Meanwhile, international pressure is growing, with the UN expected to vote later in the day on a resolution demanding international access to the crash site and a cease-fire around the area.
Victims from all Walks of Life
The 298 people who died over Ukraine had nothing to do with the conflict that their deaths could now influence. They probably didn't even know that they were flying through the air 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) above it.
There were 298 tragedies.
There was British citizen Glenn Thomas, 49, a media officer with the World Health Organization. There were Roger Guard, a pathologist, and his wife Jill, both Australians. There were the Smallenburgs, a couple from Hilversum near Amsterdam, traveling with their two children. And there was Nick Norris, 68, a management consultant from Perth, Australia. He had boarded the flight in Amsterdam with his three grandchildren, Mo, Evie and Matis, aged eight to 12.
The passengers also included at least seven attendees of one of the most important global conferences on HIV, which is taking place in Melbourne, Australia, this week. Initially, it had been reported that as many as 100 attendees died in the crash, but conference organizers confirmed Monday that figure had been far lower than originally thought.
The victims included Joepe Lange, a professor of medicine at the University of Amsterdam, who had long been a pioneer in AIDS research and had specialized in HIV therapies.
Even worse, all of these stories will revive memories of another Malaysia Airlines flight, MH 370, which disappeared from the sky in March.
One Australian family now faces the incomprehensible fate of having lost some of its members on both flights. In March, Kaylene Mann lost her brother Rodney Burrows and his wife Mary on board MH 370. And now her stepdaughter and her husband were on their way back to Australia after a vacation in Europe. The two had wanted to take a different flight, but they were unable to change their tickets.
It took the Pig several hours to make a statement after the crash. Finally, it snorted: "Certainly the government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy." He also pointed out that if Ukraine hadn't launched a military offensive against the separatists, the accident would never have happened. It's a claim he repeated on Monday. "We can say with confidence that if fighting in eastern Ukraine had not been renewed on June 28, this tragedy would not have happened," Putin said. "Nobody should or does have a right to use this tragedy for such mercenary objectives."
Meanwhile, as of Friday, Russian state media reported around the clock that the Ukrainian forces probably shot down the aircraft. The majority of Russians believe the repeated claims of experts who insist that the pro-Russian rebels didn't even have the kinds of weapons used in the incident. The height of the propaganda offensive was probably a report from the Russian news agency Interfax, which claimed that the attack was in fact aimed at the Pig itself, who was returning from a trip to Latin America.
Did Rebels Get Russian Training?
Nevertheless, there are many indications that the separatists were likely responsible. The United States presented over the weekend what it called "powerful" evidence the rebels shot down the jet. On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN Russia had directed large quantities of heavy weapons to Ukrainian separatists and even trained them on the use of SA-11 (Buk) anti-aircraft missiles of the type believed to have been used in the attack on Flight MH 17. "We know for certain that the separatists have a proficiency that they've gained from training from Russians as to how to use these sophisticated SA-11 systems," Kerry said.
A commercial airliner traveling at 33,000 feet can only be shot down by a radar-guided anti-aircraft missile system, such as the Soviet-made Buk-M1. In late June, the rebels boasted that they had gained control over two of the systems from the Ukrainian army. In NATO terminology, the Buk system is referred to as a "gadfly." It can capture six targets at the same time, and it can shoot them down from a distance of up to 25 kilometers.
UN Ambassador Samantha Power told the UN Security Council that rebels had already shot down Ukrainian military transport planes in the past. Besides, she said, they had been spotted with a Buk system on Thursday. The interior minister in Kiev issued a video showing a missile system being transported to the Russian border. The video was supposedly recorded at 4:50 a.m. last Friday, or about 12 hours after the crash of MH 17.
'We Warned Them Not To Fly through Our Airspace'
The Ukrainians also released conversations they had allegedly recorded. In one, a separatist officer named Igor Besler proudly tells a Russian intelligence officer about the downing of an aircraft. In a later conversation, he sounds horrified as he reports that it was a civilian aircraft, and he says that he suspects the dead passengers were spies. In another recording made shortly before the aircraft was shot down, rebels are allegedly discussing a battery of Buk missiles from Russia. However, the authenticity of the recordings has yet to be confirmed.
Ironically, Igor Strelkov, a colonel with the Ukrainian separatists and former Russian intelligence officer, provided another clue on the social network VKontakte. On Thursday, he posted: "We have just shot down an An-26. We warned them not to fly through our airspace." He also wrote that he had "information about a second aircraft that was shot down, reportedly an Su." At that point, he was unaware that the downed airliner was a Boeing, and he later deleted the posting. In a bizarre interview, Strelkov later claimed that the passengers on board the flight had already been dead when it was shot down.
Miners, Truck Drivers and Daredevils
It would be no surprise if the rebels, with almost no trained military personnel, had mistaken the passenger jet for a Ukrainian military aircraft. The separatist leaders are in command of a force consisting of miners, truck drivers, daredevils and the jobless. Professional soldiers, such as the commander of the so-called Vostok battalion, Alexander Khodakovsky, also consider the untrained soldiers a scourge within their own ranks.
MH 17 had only been shot down 15 hours earlier when, early Friday morning, a spokesman from the rebel headquarters, quoting top rebel commander Igor Strelkov, reported that combat operations would continue in the Donetsk region, except in the area where the plane had crashed. According to Strelkov, a "humanitarian cease-fire" to allow aviation experts to investigate the crash site was unnecessary, because the site was "well within the territory held by the people's militia of the Donetsk People's Republic." Suspending combat operations at this point, he said, was "not practical."
For Kiev, things did not go very well militarily last week. The Ukrainian military had reported major military successes until then. It had captured the rebel stronghold of Sloviansk and closed on the regional capital. The rebels in Donetsk were becoming increasingly restless.
But then several hundred Ukrainian Army troops came under heavy fire. Towns they had already captured near the Russian border had to be abandoned again. Then the rebels shot down a Russian An-26 transport aircraft and an Su-25 fighter jet. The rebels had apparently received new weapons -- from Russia.
The Russian state TV channel Rossiya 1, one of the most important propaganda tools for the Kremlin, aired a telling report on Wednesday evening. A correspondent, reporting from a "secret militia base in the combat zone," said that there had been "military successes" that were partly the result of new weapons. The journalist pointed to a row of tanks that looked brand new parked in a small forest used as camouflage. Unfortunately, the separatists, who had "only driven long-distance buses so far," had little experience with tanks.
Operating antiaircraft missiles is much more difficult. To be operated properly, even simpler models like the Buk system require at least three soldiers who "must be trained on the weapon for at least a month," says Moscow military expert Alexander Golz. And Doug Richardson, a missiles expert with trade magazine Jane's Defence," says: "The systems may have been operated by amateurs and were in semi-automatic mode."
In the standard configuration, a Buk battery consists of three elements: an armored vehicle with a large radar device for target acquisition; the command vehicle, where there are monitors from which the battery is controlled; and, finally, one or more mobile launching pads with four missiles each. It's possible that someone simply started firing from a missile-launching vehicle.
Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, had already warned Pentagon officials in late June that Russia was training separatists in the use of anti-aircraft systems on the Russian side of the border, and that these missile batteries would later be driven to the Ukrainian side.
A Case for NATO?
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has long pointed to the threat posed by the "green men" in eastern Ukraine, as the rebels are known within NATO. A few weeks ago, Rasmussen presented a classified document titled "Hybrid Warfare," in which he reportedly discussed whether the military activities of these men dressed in uniforms without any insignia were a case for the Western military alliance. Rasmussen apparently asked his legal experts to examine whether attacks by the separatists could trigger the application of NATO's mutual defense clause.
The document was rejected by the NATO Council, where most member states, including Germany, reportedly felt that it was too alarmist. But the downing of the passenger jet is likely to push the issue to the top of the agenda once again.
A discussion of the consequences has also erupted in foreign policy and security policy circles in Berlin. Economic sanctions against Russia are no longer the only issue on the table. The German Foreign Ministry and the Chancellery want to use the situation to push for talks between Russia and the separatists, as well as with the Ukrainian government. "In this way, perhaps something good can emerge from the tragedy," said Foreign Ministry officials.
Some now consider a UN peace mission to be the right approach in Ukraine. A few officials in the German Defense Ministry support this solution, as does the chairman of the defense committee in the German parliament, Hans-Peter Bartels. "A UN peacekeeping force is certainly a possibility to supervise a jointly negotiated solution," says Bartels, a member of Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Clearly it will not be easy to gain approval for the idea of a peace mission. Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has a veto and influence on all relevant decisions. It is difficult to imagine Putin allowing a UN force to prevent him from playing his dangerous games across the border.
Ukrainian President Poroshenko, on the other hand, seems to favor such a solution. He declared that restoring order in eastern Ukraine is now the rest of the world's business. But this is also potentially dangerous for Poroshenko, because a peacekeeping force would freeze the status quo in the region, which is not in Kiev's interest. Once observers and peacekeeping troops are on the ground, it will legitimize those currently in power in Donetsk to a certain extent. The UN would have to negotiate with them, and Poroshenko could no longer take military action against the rebels.
Flying over a War Zone
The question many people are now asking is why airliners are even flying over a war zone. The route across Ukraine is the most economical and, therefore, the most popular connection among airlines between major European and Asian cities. As recently as early last week, aviation regulators still viewed the skies over Ukraine as a safe flying route.
Neither the American FAA nor Eurocontrol in Europe had issued any warnings, nor had the airline umbrella organization IATA or the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Without such a warning, an air route remains "in use," says a Lufthansa spokeswoman. In addition to the airlines, which save fuel, use of the route benefits Ukraine, which collects overflight fees.
No matter how fierce the fighting is below, civil aircraft flying high above a war zone are not at any risk, because they are outside the range of most weapons. That, at least, was the official stance until now.
But for the risk analysts at most airlines, the situation in Ukraine still seemed too precarious. Carriers like Korean Air, Asiana and Qantas decided weeks ago to avoid Ukraine altogether. British Airways consistently flew around the troubled country on its flights between London and Bangkok, as did Air France.
Nevertheless, three-quarters of flights, including those operated by Lufthansa, KLM and Malaysia Airlines, continued to fly over Ukrainian territory -- until the crash.
Now German pilots are calling for a review of air routes worldwide. Is flying over crisis zones like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan still justifiable?
A Malaysian Tragedy
It is especially tragic that this accident struck Malaysia Airlines. The carrier was already in financial trouble in early March, and then came flight MH 370 -- the aircraft that vanished into thin air. Only four months later, another Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 has crashed. It is questionable whether the airline can survive these two major blows.
In this sense, the conflict in Ukraine has also affected a country halfway around the world: Malaysia.
Last Friday marked the 21st day in the fasting month of Ramadan. The pilot of the downed Boeing, Wan Amran Wan Hussin, 50, had recently told his family that he wanted to attend the Hajj in Mecca this year. "We all became weak when we learned that Wan Amran was flying the plane," says his nephew.
Shortly before departure, a passenger named Mohammed Ali Mohammed Salim posted a video to his Instagram account that has since been forwarded thousands of times. It depicts a scene familiar to anyone beginning a trip by air. As the passengers put away their bags, the pilot announces: "We are in the process of loading the last few pieces of luggage. Please ensure that your mobile phones are switched off before we depart for…"
The video ends. "Wish me luck, in the name of God," Salim wrote. "My heart feels nervous."
By Marco Evers, Matthias Gebauer, Christian Neef, Gordon Repinski, Mathieu von Rohr, Matthias Schepp, Christoph Scheuermann, Hilmar Schmundt, Christoph Schult, Luzia Tschirky and Bernhard Zand
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
07/21/2014 05:11 PM
The Boomerang Effect: Sanctions on Russia Hit German Economy Hard
By Matthias Schepp and Cornelia Schmergal
The United States and Europe last week announced the imposition of stronger sanctions against Russia in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. German industry may be among the losers.
It wasn't that long ago that Kremlin officials could hardly avoid laughing when asked about the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West. As long as every NATO member state jealously sought to protect its own business interests, things "weren't all that bad," they gloated.
But since last week, their moods have darkened. For months, the European Union in particular had been reluctant to enact effective penalties against Moscow. Last Wednesday, though, the 28 EU heads of state and government cleared a psychological hurdle: For the first time, they opted go beyond sanctions targeting individual political leaders in Moscow, adding prohibitions against doing business with specific Russian companies that contribute to the destabilization of the situation in Ukraine. A concrete list is to be presented by the end of the month. European development banks have also been banned from providing loans to Russian companies.
The US, for its part, penalized a dozen leading Russian conglomerates, including oil giant Rosneft, natural gas producer Novatek, Gazprombank and the weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov. From now on, they are forbidden from borrowing money from American monetary institutions and from issuing medium- and long-term debt to investors with ties to the US.
For the companies involved, the penalties are a significant blow. It has become difficult to acquire capital in Russia itself, with both domestic and foreign investors withdrawing their money from the country in recent months. It is hardly surprising, then, that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke of a return to the Cold War and President Vladimir Putin warned that sanctions "usually have a boomerang effect."
Even prior to the sanctions, the Russian economy had been struggling. Now, though, the Ukraine crisis is beginning to make itself felt in Germany as well. German industry's Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations believes that the crisis could endanger up to 25,000 jobs in Germany. Were a broad recession to befall Russia, German growth could sink by 0.5 percent, according to a Deutsche Bank study.
The most recent US sanctions, warns Eckhard Cordes, head of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, have placed an additional strain "on the general investment climate." Particularly, he adds, because European companies have to conform to the American penalties.
By last Thursday, just a day after the US sanctions were announced, the German-Russian Foreign Trade Office in Moscow was besieged by phone calls from concerned German companies who do business with both the US and Russia. The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimate that up to a quarter of German companies that do business abroad could be affected. And the risks are significant, with large fines threatening those who violate the American sanctions, whether knowingly or not.
Stefan Fittkau, who heads the Moscow office of EagleBurgmann, the Bavaria-based industrial sealing specialists, says company sales have already plunged by 30 percent. "Orders have been cancelled or delayed -- or we simply don't receive them anymore," he says. Novatek, Russia's second largest natural gas company, for example, had hired EagleBurgmann to take care of seals at a vast liquefied natural gas facility on the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. Now, though, doing business with Novatek is no longer allowed.
The inclusion of Rosneft on the list also affects more than a dozen German companies: The construction firm Bilfinger maintains facilities for Rosneft, for example, while Siemens received a €90 million contract to supply turbines and generators. "In the end, both sides, the Russians and the Europeans, will lose," says Frank Schauff, head of the Association of European Businesses in Moscow.
Already, the uneasiness can be seen in the Ifo Business Climate Index. One in three of the companies surveyed at the end of June said it expected adverse effects. "Russian customers have begun looking for suppliers outside of Europe," says Ulrich Ackermann, a foreign trade expert with the German engineering association VDMA. "They are concerned that European companies, because of the threat of increased sanctions, won't be able to deliver."
Even prior to the latest sanctions, business has been slowing in almost all sectors. The Düsseldorf-based energy giant E.on, for example, recently built power stations in Russia worth €9 billion. Most of the generators are already online, but because the economy in Russia is suffering, the returns are much lower than forecast. Volkswagen is a further example. The carmaker's sales figures for 2014 are 10 percent lower than they were last year. Opel's figures dropped by 12 percent during the first five months of the year.
Already, Opel has been forced to take a radical step. In St. Petersburg, where the Astra is manufactured, the company shut down the assembly lines recently for several weeks.
Lithuania Slams French Warship Deal with Russia during Ukraine Crisis
by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 11:21
Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite said Tuesday the European Union was compromising its values to protect trade ties with Russia, pointing to a French warship agreement with Moscow.
"We see the Mistralisation of European policy," Grybauskaite said, referring to a 1.2 billion euro ($1.6 billion) deal to supply Russia with two French Mistral warships.
"Values and security are undermined for the sake of business, when 'buy and rule' is being applied" the president told public broadcaster LRT, suggesting Moscow is using its purchasing power to divide opinion within the EU.
"The sale of military technology to Russia the under current circumstances cannot be tolerated," said the outspoken Baltic leader, a former EU budget commissioner.
EU foreign ministers meet on Tuesday to decide whether to ratchet up sanctions on Russia over the Malaysian plane disaster.
Britain is calling for tougher measures but France and Germany, who each have important trade ties to Moscow, are seen as more reluctant.
Grybauskaite warned "indecisive" EU policy would mean "a direct invitation for the aggressor to be more aggressive and go further".
The Western powers ratcheted up the pressure on Moscow for failing to rein in pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, and accuse it of supplying the sophisticated weaponry.
Having anchored their security in the EU and NATO following the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Baltic states and Poland are wary of the impact of Russia's actions in Ukraine on their security.
"Nazism was not stopped in the 1930s, and we now we see great-Russia chauvinism which leads to things like an attack against a civilian airliner", said Grybauskaite.
"Those who organized, ordered and supplied weapons must be held responsible, before the Hague Tribunal," she added.
Russia’s Message on Jet: Conciliation and Bluster
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
JULY 21, 2014
MOSCOW — Russia presented a combination of conciliation and bluster on Monday over its handling of the downed Malaysia Airlines jet, with President Pig V. Putin seemingly probing for a way out of the crisis without appearing to compromise with the West.
On one hand, he offered conciliatory words in a video statement, oddly released in the middle of the night, while the separatists allied with Moscow in southeastern Ukraine released the bodies of the victims and turned over the black box flight recorders from the doomed aircraft to Malaysian officials.
However, two senior military officers forcefully demanded that the United States show publicly any proof that rebels fired the fatal missile, and again suggested that the Ukrainian military shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet despite the fact that Ukraine has not used antiaircraft weapons in the fight along its eastern border.
The snorting Pig seemed to respond to the outraged international demands growing daily that he intervene personally to rein in the rebels — particularly to halt the degrading chaos surrounding the recovery of the remains. But at the same time, Moscow did not concede that it was at fault.
“Pig Putin is trying to find his own variation of a twin-track decision, because he does not have a clear exit,” said Gleb O. Pavlovsky, a political consultant who once worked for the Kremlin.
The pressure continued to expand. President Obama delivered yet another personal rebuke to the evil Pig from the White House lawn over the intransigence of the rebels toward the international investigation, hours before they agreed to more cooperation. In addition, an initial expert analysis of photographs of the airplane’s fuselage found that the damage was consistent with being struck by the type of missile that U.S. officials said was used.
On Tuesday, Russia faces the threat of far more serious sanctions from its main trading partners in Western Europe.
“Of course this is a strong blow to him, a strong blow to his strategy,” said Mr. Pavlovsky, referring to the fact that Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine have been discredited globally, due to suspicions that they shot down the aircraft and their handling of the crash site.
“It touches him too,” Mr. Pavlovsky said, “He wants to get out, but to get out without having lost.”
Mr. Obama called for the evil Pig to “pivot away” from the rebels, linking him directly to their abuse of the crash site.
“Russia, and President Pig Putin in particular, has direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation,” he said in brief remarks. “The Pig snorts that he supports a full and fair investigation and I appreciate those words, but they have to be supported by actions.”
The lying Pig's snorts were issued on the Kremlin website at 1:40 a.m. Monday on video, with analysts suggesting the timing was aimed more at Washington than Russia.
His usual swagger seemed absent; instead he looked pasty and unsure, avoiding talking into the camera directly and leaning on a desk.
The statement did not break new ground, either. The Russian leader repeated his support for a thorough international investigation, and said Russia would pursue its efforts to move the fight over the future of southeastern Ukraine from the battlefield to the negotiating table. The Pig did not address directly any accusations of Russian complicity in downing the aircraft.
By the end of the day there was one small diplomatic victory. The Malaysian government dealt directly with the leadership of the Russian-supported Donetsk People’s Republic, the breakaway faction in southeastern Ukraine, in negotiating the release of the bodies and the flight recorders.
Amid all the negotiating, the Ukrainian government pressed its attack on Donetsk, firing on rebel positions in the northwest of the city and killing at least three civilians. Ukraine denied that it hit civilian areas, but heavy damage in the city cast doubt on that assertion.
In his snorts, the stinking Pig also warned that he was suspicious of all the criticism directed at the Kremlin. “No one should and no one has the right to use this tragedy to pursue their own political goals,” he said.
The evil Pig often seethes with distrust and anger that the United States seeks to exploit any opening to weaken Russia, a widespread sentiment in Russia reflected in his high approval ratings. The entire Ukraine confrontation is rooted in his determination to stop the West from wresting Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit.
Russians, too, exhibited a certain defensive anger about the current accusations, convinced that the West leapt to condemn them no matter what the issue.
Anastasia Lukina, 30, a sales manager in Moscow, said either side might have shot down the plane. “So the West says it wants a full investigation, but they’ve already accused us of killing those people?” she said. “We all know what the conclusion to that investigation will be. So why even bother pretending? Russia is the world’s scapegoat.”
That is the theme of much of coverage on state-run television, which has also aired all manner of theories lifted from the dark corners of the web.
An updated summary of what is known and not known about the crash.
The Kremlin actually spent months using state-run television to build the case that the Kiev government are a pack of “fascists,” bent on killing the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. It has softened that message somewhat in recent weeks, but not abandoned it.
Hence two senior Russian military commanders, sitting in a vast briefing room and dwarfed by the giant electronic screens overhead, used various satellite images and charts to raise a series of rhetorical questions that suggested that Ukraine and the United States deliberately plotted to shoot down the passenger jet. The unusual bilingual briefing was broadcast live on state-run television.
“According to U.S. declarations, they have satellite images that confirm that the missile was launched by the rebels, said Lt. Gen. Andrei Kartopolov, of the Russian General Staff. “But nobody has seen these images.”
He called for them to be released, hinting that they were taken by an experimental military satellite that was orbiting over eastern Ukraine on Thursday because Washington knew what it would photograph.
Among other accusations, the Russians said a Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet that was airborne at