Trouble in Ukraine

After a passenger jet is struck down over eastern Ukraine, worldwide tension builds

Jul 21, 2014 | By Brenda Iasevoli with reporting from AP
SERGEI SUPINSKY—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A Ukrainian woman kneels down during a flowers-laying ceremony at the Netherlands embassy in Kiev on July 21, 2014.

A missile shot down a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine on Thursday. Armed rebels who control the area had kept investigators away for days. They are suspected of hiding evidence about the attack.

The jet was on its way from Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia. There were 298 passengers on board. More than half were Dutch—citizens of the Netherlands.

President Barack Obama answers questions after delivering a statement on the Malaysia Airlines crash over eastern Ukraine, on July 18, 2014, in Washington, DC.
WIN MCNAMEE—GETTY IMAGES
President Barack Obama answers questions after delivering a statement on the Malaysia Airlines crash over eastern Ukraine, on July 18, 2014, in Washington, DC.

The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels have accused each other of bringing down the jet by firing the missile at it. Many analysts believe Russia is supporting the rebels, and may have even fired the missile. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin denies both charges.

According to one U.S. official, however, Russians likely provided more than one missile system to the rebels in the last week or so. The official asked to remain anonymous.

A Growing Conflict

The conflict in Ukraine has been simmering since early this year. Tensions arose over whether or not the country would have closer cultural and economic ties with Europe or with Russia. The rebels, who want closer ties with Russia, are fighting for control of eastern Ukraine. In March, Putin declared Crimea, another part of Ukraine, to be a part of Russia.

President Barack Obama has sharply condemned the rebels. “The separatists are removing evidence from the crash site. All of which begs the question: What exactly are they trying to hide?” he said.

Rebel leader Alexander Borodai has denied that his group has interfered with the work of investigators. He said he encouraged the involvement of the international community in assisting with the cleanup.

Ukraine has called on Moscow to insist that the rebels grant international experts the ability to conduct a thorough investigation into the crash. President Obama issued the same demand.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a recording of a nationwide TV address outside Moscow early Monday, July 21, 2014
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV—PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/RIA NOVOSTI KREMLIN/AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a recording of a nationwide TV address outside Moscow early Monday, July 21, 2014

Investigation Into the Crash

Finally, on Monday, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia said his government had reached an agreement with the rebels. They agreed to hand over the victims’ bodies and the jet’s black boxes. These devices hold voice recordings from the cockpit, as well as data—including time, altitude, and speed—about the jet. The black boxes help investigators discover what happened before a crash. Dutch investigators arrived at the crash site, and rebels allowed them to search the wreckage.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans has demanded that the culprits be found and held accountable for the attack. “Once we have the proof, we will not stop until the people are brought to justice,” he said.

Russia has “a key role to play” through its influence on the rebels, said British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. “The world's eyes will be on Russia to see that she delivers on her obligations.”