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Cold War blinkers threaten MH17 truth

  • 20 July 2015

This terrible anniversary was marked by Friday’s National Memorial Service in the Great Hall of Parliament House Canberra, in the presence of politicians, dignitaries and, most importantly, the families of the bereaved. It included the unveiling of a plaque to be later mounted in the Parliament House gardens adjacent to that honouring the Bali Bombing victims.

The task of establishing accountability for the MH17 missile shoot down from a height of 33,000 feet continues to drag on. It occurred during bitter land and air fighting between Ukrainian centralist and separatist military forces in the battleground of Eastern Ukraine.

An early Western consensus view, underpinned by a firm and clear statement by US Secretary of State John Kerry, held that there was ‘overwhelming evidence’ that MH17 was downed by a Russian missile fired from Russian-supported insurgent territory. Kerry said this was based on both US satellite imagery, which he described as the most important source. Additionally there was ‘those chilling telephony intercepts’ published by Ukrainian sources shortly after the shootdown, of pro-Russian insurgent conversations.

At that time, I accepted that Kerry’s statement was factually correct. Soon afterwards, Moscow offered several counter-versions, claiming the the telephone intercepts were forgeries. It asserted that Ukrainian central government forces had the same kinds of surface-to-air missiles as Russia, and no one could know where such a missile might have been fired from.

Moscow accused Ukrainian land forces of an accidental or deliberate shoot down. It posited that MH17 could have been destroyed by an air-based missile, and that Ukrainian fighter planes equipped with such missiles were in the air nearby at the time of the shootdown. Moscow made unsuccessful demands to view the US satellite imagery that Kerry used to justify his conclusion.

An international investigation team that was led by the Dutch Safety Board and included both Russia and Ukraine and the victim countries, published an interim finding on 9 September. It said the crash had been caused by ’high energy objects ‘ striking the plane from the outside. This finding was important in that it ruled out aircraft failure or pilot error and indicated a missile explosion. But it left open the question of whether it had been an air-to-air or surface-to-air missile.  

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott was forceful in his continuing to argue for the Western version, confronting Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Beijing on 12 November. He told the Russian