Putin can't avoid responsibility

00:00, Jul 21 2014

One of the saddest realities of war is that innocent people get caught in the crossfire.

It was unexpected, however, that this would extend to the shooting down of a commercial airliner over eastern Ukraine, with 298 people losing their lives.

United States President Barack Obama and Russia President Vladimir Putin have had superficially similar things to say about what led to this.

"This will be a wake-up call to the world, that there are consequences of an escalating conflict in east Ukraine," Obama said.

Putin said the tragedy would not have happened if military hostilities had not resumed there.

Putin's point is, of course, that Ukraine is to blame.


Obama's point is more subtle, that the crisis is an international one and Europe needs to play its part in applying pressure on Russia to stop destabilising the region. The concern is that Russia has been helping pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine by supplying them with equipment and training.

There is now much rhetoric and propaganda about the plane crash and the conflict in general.

As experts commented on CNN, air crash investigations are difficult enough in peaceful conditions because the stakes are inevitably high and factions want particular conclusions to be reached. New Zealand knows enough about that from the 1979 Erebus disaster.

A big worry concerning last week's disaster is the truth will be difficult to get at because the integrity of the crash scene has been compromised.

There is widespread agreement the investigation should be be carried out by an international team but the early signs about proper access have not been promising.

Even so, the picture that has emerged so far seems clear enough.

Malaysia Airlines' MH17 was almost certainly shot down by a surface-to-air missile. There is a high degree of confidence in the West the missile was launched from territory held by pro-Russia separatists.

The evidence so far appears unhelpful to Russian loyalists and to Russia itself.

The Russian response has included lectures about jumping to conclusions while blaming Ukraine at the same time.

Obfuscation may work at home but it won't wash the world.

There is now a chorus of calls for Putin to use his influence to do what he can to make sure a proper investigation can be carried out. At the very least, that means bringing the separatists to heel, allowing investigators to do their work.

Manawatu Standard