U.N. aviation body to help with Ukraine probe

Why didn’t Kiev stop all flights over the conflict region, ask officials

Updated - November 16, 2021 06:16 pm IST

Published - July 19, 2014 11:57 pm IST - New Delhi:

Flowers are placed on a plane engine at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines jet MH17, near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, on Saturday.

Flowers are placed on a plane engine at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines jet MH17, near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, on Saturday.

Officials of ICAO, the U.N. body in charge of civil aviation based in Montreal are being dispatched to assist the Ukrainian investigative team to ascertain just what led to the tragic crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine. “ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organisation] strongly condemns the use of weapons against international civil aviation,” said ICAO Council President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu in a statement announcing that a team of experts would be sent “in response to an official request from Ukraine’s government.”

On Friday, after several countries demanded it, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced there would be an “open enquiry” into the crash. Ukraine’s Ambassador to India Oleksandr Shevchenko had told The Hindu , “We have welcomed an international inquiry, and will allow American experts, Dutch experts, Malaysian officials who want to help with the investigation.”

The Ukrainian government has blamed pro-Russian separatist rebels operating in Eastern Ukraine for shooting down MH17 with an SA-11/17 BuK missile. Ukraine and Russia have since traded charges on who operated the complex anti-aircraft system which is available to both the Ukrainian military as well as the Russian army. Ukraine has accused Russia of arming rebels of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, who have also denied shooting down the plane. It is unclear if the ICAO team will be able to ascertain the exact origins of the missile, however.

Speaking to The Hindu , an ICAO official said that some of the blame must be apportioned to the Ukrainian government for allowing the air corridor open over a part of the country under rebel control which is an active zone of conflict. “It is the responsibility of the Ukrainian government and its ATC [Air Traffic Control] to have directed commercial planes over a safe part of the Lviv air corridor, or have directed them over the Black Sea.”

Questions are also being raised about why airlines themselves hadn’t shifted to a safer route around Ukraine once the conflict intensified. Sources say in March this year, the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) in New Delhi had instructed Indian airlines to move to flying 50 nautical miles above the current flight path, but that still remained over Ukraine. As a result, Air India, Singapore Air, and Lufthansa were among those who were operating flights in the vicinity of the area at the same time as the Malaysian plane was shot down. After the MH 17 crash, another DGCA advisory has shifted the suggested flight path 100 nautical miles further north. “Why didn’t Ukraine shut down its airspace altogether?” asked an aviation official, “During the Kargil war for example, India closed all overflights in that region, and flights were altogether directed around Pakistan.”

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