Rescuers at the edge of the crash site in east Ukraine. Photo: The Independent.
Rescuers at the edge of the crash site in east Ukraine. Photo: The Independent.

Initial investigations into the circumstances of the MH17 tragedy suggested that the flight was shot down by pro-Russian rebels in the Eastern part of Ukraine, a claim supported as “likely” by the US government.

Why are Ukraine and Russia in conflict?

It has been a tumultuous year for Ukraine. Earlier this year, protests in Ukraine led to the ousting of their pro-Russia president. Following the new administration, there was a crisis in Crimea, a peninsula which has been part of Ukraine since 1991. Russia claimed sovereignty over Crimea and ordered troops into Crimea. Crimea’s regional government voted to become part of Russian Federation.

But Crimea isn’t where the plane was shot down. Why is there fighting in eastern Ukraine?

Following the Crimea crisis, pro-Russian armed groups seized certain government buildings and police infrastructure in eastern and southern parts of Ukraine. A group n favour of separating from Ukraine established the Donestk People’s Republic (DPR) in April 2014.

Is DPR a rebel group or a government?

DPR is a self-proclaimed state with Alexander Borodai, a Russian citizen, as Prime Minister. There has been an ongoing civil war between the recognised government of Ukraine and DPR. DPR has not been recognised by any foreign country as a government.

So is DPR responsible for shooting down MH17?

That is the accusation of Ukraine’s government, yes. Ukraine has also claimed that DPR used a Russian-made missile to do so. A Ukrainian news daily released a transcript of a conversation that allegedly took place between Russian intelligence and a DPR commander in which say they have shot down a plane. However, DPR is denying all claims of responsibility for the incident, stating that they do not have the sophisticated weaponry capable of targeting a plane from such heights.

What was Russia’s response?

President Vladimir Putin has directed the blame towards Ukraine. “And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy,” said Putin while giving his opening speech at a meeting with top economic advisers in Moscow.

Why was MH17 flying over conflict zone?

The airway which MH17 was travelling on from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was closed by Ukrainian authorities from ground level up to 32000 feet. Anywhere above that is permissible and the plane was flying at an altitude of 33000 feet. A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued only mentioned avoiding Crimea and parts of Southern Ukraine. Civilian aircraft routinely fly over conflicted zones and the airway MH17 took was a regular one.

What’s next for this conflict?

It was reported that the DPR has agreed to a temporary ceasefire. The day before the plane disaster, the US and the EU had announced more sanctions against Russia.The UN is calling for an urgent resolution of the conflict in Ukraine. The UN Security Council met in the wake of MH17, a meeting where Russia apparently faced condemnation for their support of the separatists.

What’s next for the MH17 investigation?

Malaysia has demanded an international and independent investigation. However, the crash site is being guarded by armed men, and it’s reportedly difficult for international monitors to gain access. 181 bodies have been recovered, but there have been conflicting reports of the whereabouts of the two black boxes from the plane.

Poskod.MY team