Now that U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed that a surface-to-air missile shot Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from the sky over eastern Ukraine on Thursday afternoon, the region’s combatants are trading accusations about whose missile it was.
No one is so far willing to claim credit for the conflict’s first mass-casualty attack on international civilians. There were 295 people aboard the flight; Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that they included Dutch and British citizens, as well as Australians, Malaysians, Indonesians, Canadians, and Filipinos. (Update 7/18: the number is now being reported as 298.) So far, one American citizen, who also held Dutch citizenship, has been confirmed killed in the crash.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko called the crash “a terrorist act” and insisted that “the Ukraine armed forces did not fire at any targets in the sky.” Meanwhile, the official Russian news organization RIA Novosti quoted the head of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency as saying that “the responsibility [for flight safety] falls on the Ukrainian side.” (Bracketed insertion RIA Novosti’s.) Alexander Boordai, the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the self-declared breakaway region in eastern Ukraine, made a more explicit accusation: “It was either Ukrainian aviation or anti-missile defense” that downed the plane. Ukraine’s rebel militias, he said, simply didn’t have the capability to take down a civilian airliner flying at MH17’s altitude.