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MH17 report – The how, but not the who

September 10, 2014

Today saw the release of the preliminary findings of the downing of the MH17 flight over eastern Ukraine.

To be blunt, these preliminary findings confirming very much what everybody suspected – no crew error, no mechanical failure, no flying in unauthorised airspace etc.

“Based on the preliminary findings to date, no indications of any technical or operational issues were found with the aircraft or crew prior to the ending of the CVR and FDR recording at 13.20:03 hrs.

The damage observed to the forward section of the aircraft appears to indicate that the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft.  It’s likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up.”

Nothing that any reasonable person would not have drawn as a conclusion from existing evidence in the public domain – and a professional report such as this, in a preliminary stage, cannot be expected to say much more than it does.

Thus confirmation of the “how”, if not confirmation of the “with what” or the “who”.

And the “who” is more important than the “with what” with regard to culpability, the “why” and mens rea behind this heinous act.

So to the who? – The BUK system is not the simplest of systems to use.

The Russian army 53rd Zrbr BUK based in Kursk?

The Ukrainian military?

The separatists/rebels/terrorists/insurgents/mercenaries? (Delete as you feel appropriate).  If so it would require members within to have a degree of weapon familiarity.  Veterans?  Ukrainian military that swapped sides when Crimea was illegally annexed and felt like an adventure in eastern Ukraine?

Whomever actually fired any weapon, upon whose orders was it fired?

These questions and more, remain unanswered – as you would expect from a preliminary report.  The next report may definitively answer the “with what” question – though nobody will be surprised if a confirmation of a BUK missile is the result.

The “who”, however, unless there is some very good detective work and more than a stroke of luck with evidence beyond the circumstantial, may take a very long time to surface (if ever) for the purposes of criminal prosecution.

Nevertheless, today’s report does put pay to some of the more far-fetched theories that abound.  It also brings back into focus a tragedy that surpasses the attention span of most media audiences – and will continue to do jolt memories when the next report is released, whenever that may be.

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