The War in Ukraine: The Aftermath of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17

On 17 July 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17/MAS17) flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed after being shot down over the separatist-controlled Donetsk region. All 283 passengers and 15 crew members were killed. The Boeing 777-200ER airliner crashed near Torez, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, 40 km (25 mi) from the border with Russia in the area controlled by the Russian-backed militants. Eurocontrol, a European air safety organization, claimed that the plane was flying at approximately 10,000 metres. Both American and Ukrainian officials declared that a surface-to-air missile strike is the most likely cause, and if so, then the missile was fired from a mobile Soviet-designed BUK missile system (NATO reporting name: SA-11 “Gadfly”) as this is the only surface-to-air missile system in the region capable of reaching the altitude of commercial air traffic.


Almost immediately after the Boeing was shot down, Igor Strelkov, the commander of the Russia-backed combatants wrote the following on his social network page at 17:50 Moscow time:

“In the Torez area, the plane AN-26 was shot down just now. It’s lying around somewhere behind the “Progress” coal mine. Well, we warned them not to fly in “our sky”

And here is the video confirming this yet another “birdfall”. The bird fell behind the spoil pit, and did not touch the residential sector. Fortunately, civilians were not harmed. There’s also information about a second plane shot down, possibly an SU.


Soon after information began to spread on the missing Malaysian Boeing airplane over Ukrainian territory, Strelkov deleted this message. However, it was already screenshot by numerous internet users or saved in cache.

Russia-backed militants are searching through the victims’ possessions at the crash site.


On July 17, 2014 along the road N21, connecting Donetsk and Luhansk, and at the time controlled by the Russia-backed militants, the same BUK was spotted moving from Donetsk to Snizhne, from the area of which (Snizhne) the missile was fired.


In an interview, which was published on 23 July, 2014 to a Reuters reporter, Anton Zverev, Russia-backed militant leader Alexander Khodakovsky stated that the militants possessed a BUK missile system. To Russian media, however, he later denied his own words concerning the separatists’ possession of a BUK.


(Tjibbe Joustra, Chairman of the Dutch Safety Board presenting the report on October 13, 2015.)

On October 13, 2015,  the Dutch Safety Board presented its report of the 15-month investigation of the causes of the crash of the MH17 Boeing over the Donbass region. After analyzing the evidence, and reconstructing parts of the aircraft, the report was determined. It was concluded that the Boeing was shot down by a surface-to-air warhead, and that the missile was launched from a BUK system.


Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed in articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NATO Association of Canada.

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