The blood on Putin's hands... IAN BIRRELL on the ramifications of the shooting down of flight MH17
By IAN BIRRELL
PUBLISHED: 18:57 EST, 17 July 2014 | UPDATED: 19:02 EST, 17 July 2014
Meanwhile the Russian bear, still pretending to be an innocent party despite blood dripping from its paws, has begun stealthily rebuilding its forces on the border.
Not only will those 295 people flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur be victims of a civil war that could not have had less to do with them. But they would have been slaughtered by forces armed, funded, guided and possibly trained by Russia.
•'Hell to pay': Vladimir Putin warned he will face the consequences as rebels boast that they slaughtered 295 innocent victims of Flight MH17 by firing Russian missile at jet
•Black box from downed Malaysian Airlines jet is sent to MOSCOW by pro-Russian separatists amid fears of a cover-up
•'That was a blast - look at the smoke': Sick boast of the laughing rebels as they 'saw MH17 hit by missile' - hours after leader boasted: 'We warned you - do not fly in our sky'
It was used first to justify Moscow’s illegal seizure of Crimea, then to stir up open warfare in its weary neighboring state just as it stood on the threshold of finally shaking off the legacy of its Soviet past.
Alexander Borodai, pro-Russian separatist leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in Eastern Ukraine, said his forces did not have the means to destroy an airliner flying at an altitude of 33,000ft.
Instead, one interior ministry official in Kiev said the aircraft was hit by a rocket fired from a Buk launcher.
It was also reported that a second rebel leader bragged on social media about destroying another plane. Already this week, a Ukrainian military transporter has been downed with a missile, possibly fired from the Russian side of the Ukrainian border, along with two SU-25 fighter jets.
In recent days, Ukrainian officials have blamed Russia for assaults on their troops, alleging that the air force jet downed on Wednesday was hit by a missile fired from a Russian military aircraft.
Kiev has also accused Russian staff officers of openly taking part in military operations against their forces, while Nato said earlier this week that Moscow had boosted its forces on the border to about 12,000 troops.
General Philip Breedlove, Nato’s supreme allied commander in Europe, believes Moscow has been supplying the pro-Russian rebels with anti-aircraft weapons, and teaching them how to operate them in training sessions near the border.
All these events underline the tensions as Ukraine under its new president, Petro Poroshenko – an oligarch nicknamed the ‘Chocolate King’ after making a fortune from confectionery – seeks to quell a Russian-inspired insurgency that began four months ago.
Before yesterday’s crash, the United Nations said the conflict has caused more than 400 deaths and displaced tens of thousands of families.
+3The U.S. imposed sanctions on oil, gas and financial firms linked to Putin, along with eight arms manufacturers including the maker of Kalashnikov assault rifles (file picture)
Yet even while Putin spluttered with outrage in response, several of the targets of those sanctions responded by crowing that it was business as usual.
The big question is what happens if it is proved Putin’s friends in eastern Ukraine have shot down a civilian passenger jet filled with families, holiday makers and business travellers?
Will the West finally respond with the ruthless decisiveness required to put a power-crazy president back in his box, or will they continue to allow him to sow death and destruction as he acts out his Tsarist fantasies of restoring Russian hegemony over swathes of eastern Europe?
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