The biggest news regarding the Ukrainian Crisis since the annexation of Ukraine has come today. A Malaysian passenger airliner was downed by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine, killing all 295 people aboard.
In a conflict that already has re-split Europe on Cold War lines, this news raises the stakes highly. The United States said that the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was “blown out of the sky” while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Ukrainian officials blame pro-Russian militants, with the aid of Russian military intelligence, of using a Soviet-era SA-11 Surface-To-Air missile to shoot down the plane carrying citizens of nations including the United States, the Netherlands, and Australia.
Though they deny any involvement with this attack, pro-Russian separatists bragged last month about obtaining this kind of Surface-To-Air, or SAM, system. This would enable them to pull off an attack like this, but they, along with Russian President Putin, pin the blame on Ukrainian forces. Putin called the attack a “tragedy,” but did not state or speculate who fired the missile.
The plane was legally allowed to fly above 32000 feet, as international air lanes are still open above that mark. This Boeing 777 was flying at least 1000 feet above that requirement when it was shot down.
Separatists have these kind of missiles , as they have used them in recent weeks. Last Monday, they used a SA-11 SAM to bring down a Ukrainian Antonov An-26 turboprop plane. They also downed a Sukhoi Su-25 fighter on Wednesday. Both of these losses have been confirmed by Ukraine.
One local man told Reuters, “”I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang. Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke.”
An emergency worker reported at least 100 bodies have been recovered, and a separatist leader has been quoted saying that the group has found one of the plane’s black boxes. Bodies and wreckage are spread for a 9 mile area, blanketing the Ukrainian steppes with grotesque destruction.
Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak demanded swift justice to those guilty and that the crash site must not be tampered with until international authorities can investigate the site. This is by far the most international this crisis has been since the shutdown of natural gas to Ukraine from Gazprom, and the annexation of Crimea.