New evidence appears to confirm that pro-Russian separatists were involved in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. A man, known only as Vasilijus, stepped forward a little over a week ago to inform a Lithuanian news site that he is the owner of the Volvo truck identified as having transported the Buk missile system that is thought to have brought down the passenger jet. He claims that pro-Russian separatists took control of the truck and his base of business operations late last month. He has stated that the white Volvo truck cab shown in footage of the missile system’s movement is unique to his truck and thus ties the Buk launcher to the separatist band that stole it from him.
Progress in the actual investigation of the crash site in rebel-held territory continues to be slow, as efforts to finish gathering the remains and belongings of the crash victims are disrupted by fighting between government forces and separatists. While investigators have expressed willingness to continue as long as it takes to find answers, they are also, cautious of being caught in the crossfire, quick to defer activities when impeded.
An additional worry has arisen in the guise of Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border, prompting concern that Putin may intervene much the same way he did in Crimea, CNN reports. The network cites a NATO official as stating that Russia now has some 20,000 soldiers just across the national line. Moreover, the Russian military is engaged in a series of exercises emphasizing aerial assault and missile defense.
The potential revelations regarding the truck bearing the Buk missiles do little to change current international attitude toward the pro-Russian separatists and Vladimir Putin, merely confirming what people seemed to have believed already. President Obama has already referenced the missile strike on MH17 as being launched by separatists, without qualifying the statement. The ratcheting up of American and EU sanctions against Russia last week puts action behind Western rhetoric.
Beyond concluding the recovery of the dead and their belongings, it seems likely that the investigation will merely confirm the theory that pro-Russian separatists downed the passenger plane by accident, mistaking it for an Ukrainian transport jet, the theory that much of the West seems to already be operating based on. But even if new information is uncovered that dramatically alters the world’s understanding of the tragedy, it might be that the die has already been cast. Should fighting escalate, and should Russia move those troops across the border on which they are camping, it will matter far less what actually happened to flight MH17 than what world leaders thought took place.