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War Comes to Ukraine
The Consequences of the Crash in Donetsk
ALEXANDER J. MOTYL is Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University–Newark.See more by this author
Yesterday afternoon, by most accounts, pro-Russian separatists shot down Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over eastern Ukraine. The attackers ostensibly thought that the Boeing 777 was a Ukrainian plane about to enter Russian airspace. Soon after the attack, Igor Girkin, the self-styled commander of the Donetsk People’s Army, bragged on his website that “We just shot down an AN-26 plane near Torez; it’s scattered somewhere around the Progress mine. We warned them not to fly in ‘our sky’.” Soon after, RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency, seconded Girkin’s claim.
After it became apparent that the plane was not Ukrainian, Girkin erased his post and Aleksandr Borodai, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, tried to put the blame for the attack, which killed 295, on Ukrainian authorities. Later in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that it was “unquestionable that the state over whose territory this took place is responsible for this terrible tragedy.”
The atrocity comes three days after Russian militants shot down a Ukrainian transport plane flying over Krasnodon district in Luhansk province and one day after a missile -- which Ukrainian authorities believe was fired by Russia -- brought down a Ukrainian SU-25 jet over Donetsk province.