Death in the sky in Ukraine

Jul. 18, 2014 @ 04:14 PM

This editorial appeared in the The Anniston (Alabama) Star (MCT)

With the firing of one surface-to-air missile Thursday, nearly 300 people -- all innocents -- died in the skies over Ukraine's eastern steppes. The world's collective shrug is now exposed. It's no longer acceptable.

First, the details: Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down by a missile, U.S. authorities confirmed Thursday afternoon, as it flew its normal route over Ukrainian airspace. Onboard were 295 passengers and crew; all were believed dead.

Reports and photographs from the scene showed grassland strewn with burning parts of the Boeing 777, bits and pieces of metal and fiberglass and plastic, and bodies of the deceased, some of them still buckled into their seats.

The Internet bloated with unconfirmed reports of the passengers' nationalities. As of Thursday afternoon, the U.S. State Department had not confirmed if any Americans were among the deceased.

Second, the blame: Since late winter, Russia's overt efforts to reclaim lands it says should be in its fold has birthed uprisings, some of them covered in blood. Russia President Vladimir Putin began his landgrab in the formerly Ukrainian-controlled Crimea, whose population is dominated by ethnic Russians and whose past includes centuries of links to the Russian mainland. Unrest following the Ukrainian revolution led to a Crimean crisis characterized by military intervention by pro-Russian forces.

Since the spring, Ukraine's eastern regions have bubbled in this stew of unrest, with three forces at work: Ukraine's military and government, pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, and Moscow. Worldwide, months upon months of ethnic killings in Syria and spikes of violence in Iraq and the Middle East have overshadowed the death toll in eastern Ukraine.

That dubious luxury is now gone, blasted from the sky on a July afternoon.

Thus far, the United States and its United Nations partners have largely chosen roles of diplomatic advisers in the Ukrainian affair. It was, and still is, a separatist movement between Slavic peoples wanting to control their personal destinies.

Thursday, however, changed the paradigm. Fingers are pointing -- toward separatists, toward Ukrainians, toward Putin and the hard-line Russian nationalists in Moscow. Blame, fueled by fact, will stick eventually in its rightful place.

In the end, the blood of Thursday's airline passengers is on all of their hands. This is their conflict, driven by their behaviors.

This regional affair is no longer regional. It has killed others: Malaysians, Dutch, people from many other European nations. The world now has an ironclad stake in seeing justice served and this conflict brought to an end in quick order. Saying this is merely a bloody tussle between an unreasonable Moscow dictator, stubborn Ukrainians and warring separatists is no longer a viable option. Everyone is now involved.