NYTimes Oct 14. On Tuesday, the Dutch Safety Board issued its long-awaited report on what brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Speaking at Gilze-Rijen Air Base in the Netherlands, Tjibbe Joustra, the safety board’s chairman, announced that after meticulous study — including the plastering the charred scraps of the plane onto a skeleton model of the Boeing 777, which sat behind him as he spoke — the board concluded that the plane was brought down by a missile from the Russian-made 9M38 series, fired from a Buk surface-to-air missile system in eastern Ukraine. It exploded less than a yard from the left side of the plane’s cockpit. The high-energy fragments flung out by the missile perforated the plane’s nose and caused it to tear off, leading to the breakup and crash of the plane about a minute later, which killed all 298 passengers onboard.
The report didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know or strongly suspect: that the cause of the crash was a Russian-made missile fired from an area hotly contested between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian military, killing hundreds of people who had nothing to do with the conflict. Though the report didn’t specify who fired the missile, Joustra said it was launched from rebel-held territory. This was, again, what we already suspected — and a scenario for which independent outfits, like the citizen-journalism website Bellingcat, have rustled up much convincing evidence. MORE
NYTimes Oct 14. While the findings stop short of assigning responsibility for the crash, a task that has been left to Dutch prosecutors, they appear consistent with a theory widely promoted by the authorities in the United States and Ukraine: that the plane, a Boeing 777, was shot down by Russian-backed separatists armed with an SA-11, or Buk, surface-to-air missile launcher.
Russia has vehemently disputed that theory, and it continued to do so Tuesday with a competing presentation, saying that the missile must have been fired from Ukrainian-held territory, and that it was of a type that is no longer found in Russia’s arsenal.
The report on the July 17, 2014, crash was presented at the Gilze-Rijen Air Base in the Netherlands. The 283 passengers and 15 crew members on the flight, which was en route to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from Amsterdam, came from about a dozen countries; 193 of the passengers were Dutch.
The board was sharply critical of the Ukrainian authorities for failing to close the airspace above the conflict zone. It found that 160 civil aviation flights went through on the day of the crash before the airspace was closed. MORE
Telegraph October 6. President Petro Poroshenko has stressed Ukraine must regain control of its eastern border with Russia despite an apparent agreement to push back the implementation of a February peace deal into next year.
Ukrainian forces have begun a pullback from frontline positions, in the latest move designed to to bring the 18-month war in Donbass to an end. Ukrainian forces announced the withdrawal of tanks, artillery, and mortars with a calibre of less than 100 mm on Monday, following a 72-hour ceasefire that has brought fighting in the region to an almost complete standstill for the first time in a year and a half.
"Today at 11.00 (0800 GMT) in Luhansk region we began a simultaneous removal of T-64 and T-72 tanks and in some places anti-tank artillery D-48 and D-44 and ... mortars," Ruslan Tkachuk, a Ukrainian army spokesman, said on Facebook. According to data published in August, Ukraine has 360 tanks and 1,400 armoured personnel carriers currently deployed in the conflict zone.
Mr Tkachuk said the withdrawal of equipment to at least 8 miles from the line of contact should be completed within 14 days. MORE
CNN October 6. Did his experience in Ukraine tempt Vladimir Putin to begin Russia's Syrian expedition? Are they both examples of the Kremlin taking advantage of Western hesitation or caution? Or are they two episodes (with more to come) of Russia taking revenge for previous humiliations (Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, etc.) and reasserting itself as a Great Power?
Do we yet have any idea what the Russian President's endgame is? Is he a master strategist or a cunning magician disguising Russia's relative decline? Russia's sudden and forceful intervention in the four-year Syrian conflict poses plenty of questions.
Comparisons of events in Ukraine and Syria should not be overdone. The circumstances and the geography are different. In Syria, the Russians were invited in by a government; in Ukraine most certainly not. In Syria, Russia is projecting power and trying to influence the shape of the Middle East; in Ukraine, it is acting in its backyard. Last year, Putin even asserted of Ukraine: "We are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities."
In Syria, the intervention is overt and trumpeted as Russia deploys the best of its air force; in Ukraine, it is denied with a shrug as Moscow relies on surrogates with varying degrees of discipline. MORE
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