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New air disaster, same old post-Soviet approach

When, on July 17, I first heard about the tragic shooting-down of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 — and the death of the 298 passengers and crew members on board, over eastern Ukraine — I thought of the heart-wrenching anguish the families of the victims must be experiencing. Simultaneously, I felt a disconcerting sense of déjà vu. After all, there is a long list of shot-down aircraft and suspicious plane crashes associated with Moscow: to name only the downing by the Soviets of the Korea Airlines Flight 007 in 1983; or the Smolensk Plane Crash of April 2010 in post-Soviet Russia.

The latter case — which saw the death of the president of Poland and his entire entourage (96 members of Poland’s political and military elite in total) in highly suspicious circumstances — shares a striking amount of similarities with the shooting-down of MH 17 over Hrabove (near the Russian border) by Moscow-supported Russian separatists. The differences between the two aerial disasters (Smolensk and MH 17) notwithstanding, the post-Soviets behaved as if they were following the same script.

Thus, in both cases the Russians contaminated the crash site, moving the scattered aircraft parts and desecrating the remains of the victims, which were unceremoniously thrown onto trucks by separatist fighters. Adding insult to injury, the post-Soviets despoiled the bodies of the passengers and utilized their credit card information. Thus, even if we accept the explanation that the Malaysian aircraft was shot down by accident, we should still note that the cynical disregard for human life and dignity — implanted in Rus’ by the Mongols, and exacerbated to an unprecedented degree by the Soviet communists — has not changed.

In any case, I am convinced that an independent international investigation of the MH 17 disaster is absolutely necessary. As suggested by a former Interior Minister of Poland, such an investigation should be coupled with an independent international investigation of the Smolensk Crash of April 2010. After all, many questions remain, in spite of the passage of four years. Since the post-Soviets have now demonstrated clearly to the entire civilized world the level of barbarism they are capable of, it is worth reexamining Smolensk to ensure that similar tragedies do not reoccur in the future.

Paweł Styrna
Researcher, The Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies

Note: The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent the views of The Institute of World Politics. They are solely the author’s, and are based on more than a decade of intensive study of Russian and Soviet history.