Note to readers: this post uses profanity that may offend some.
Four years after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine by a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile, families of the 298 victims are still waiting for Russian President Vladimir Putin to explain what happened.
Since July 17, 2014, when the Boeing 777 was destroyed over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, Russia has denied any involvement. The plane, bound to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, was carrying passengers from Malaysia, Australia and the vast majority from the Netherlands.
On this year’s anniversary of the tragic event, Putin was on a stage in Helsinki with the U.S. president who seemed to treat Russia’s misdeeds with skepticism and acquiescence, angering Australians Anthony Maslin and his partner, Rin Norris, who lost their three children, Mo, Evie and Otis, as well as Norris’ father in the crash.
Maslin took to Facebook, posting an open letter addressed to Trump that went viral, saying the MH17 tragedy “destroyed our life and many other lives in the process.”
“That this killed our 3 beautiful children and their grandfather, and destroyed our life and many other lives in the process, is an irrefutable fact,” Maslin wrote to the president.
“That the man whose arse you’ve just been kissing did this, and continues to lie about it, is an irrefutable fact,” he wrote, referring to Putin.
In a separate post on her own Facebook account, Norris called Putin and Trump “a couple of bullies.”
“The trauma of a loss so cataclysmic that it singled us out of all Australians, and made us different,” Norris wrote. “People stare. People say how do you go on?”
“I miss them I miss them I miss them underlies everything,” she wrote of her children. “I am Grief. This is me. Grief is me.”
A Dutch-led team of investigators has concluded that MH17 was shot down by a Russian made and supplied Buk surface-to-air missile operated by Moscow-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. In May, investigators from the Netherlands and Australia were able to tie the missile battery directly to the Russian military.
Wilbert Paulissen, the head of the crime squad of the Dutch National Police said investigators had concluded that the Buk that shot down MH17 came from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk.
Those finding mirror earlier conclusions from the British “citizen investigative journalist” group Bellingcat. As NPR’s Corey Flintoff reported in May 2016.
In an editorial published in The Sydney Morning Herald titled “Trump’s silence on MH17 betrays Australia,” the newspaper wrote that the country’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had asked for “U.S. help to persuade Mr. Putin to cooperate.”
“Mr Trump’s response to this plea for help from one of its closest allies? Silence. Senior American ministers are due here next week for their regular AUSMIN security conference. Perhaps they can explain why the White House is not willing even to mention politely an issue where Australia most needs US support. Australia deserves as much respect as Russia,” the Herald wrote.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday: “I certainly don’t trust President Putin when he says he wasn’t responsible for the shooting down of MH17.”
In Russia, The Moscow Times interviewed ordinary Russians to guage their opinion of the MH17 tragedy.
“I think Russia has nothing to do with it,” Sergei Tiushevsky, a 60-year-old manager told the newspaper. “One hundred percent — I’d bet my life on it. Because we don’t need it. What’s the point? For Russia to knock down a civilian plane, that’s beyond the scope of possibility. There’s no logic to it whatsoever.”
And, in another opinion, Doctor Larisa Gerasimova, 58, was reflective of several others with whom the newspaper spoke. “We have no real information. … [T]here’s no information source which is accurate. Maybe we would trust the international community if it had a better attitude toward Russia,” she said.