Ukraine suspended all military flights from 14/07/2014 following the downing of a military transport plane at 6,000 meters. Unfortunately this did not lead to a similar closing of airspace to civilian air traffic.
According to an official release on 15/07/2014:
Due to the ongoing investigation regarding AN-26 plane downed in Lugansk region yesterday starting from 14 July ATO aircraft flights have been suspended until a special order is issued, informed Vladyslav Seleznyov, ATO spokesman at a briefing in the Ukraine Crisis Media Center. According to Vladyslav Seleznyov: “All planes are at their permanent dislocation points. It is necessary to make the circumstances clear who and in what way downed the Ukrainian plane as the terrorists are not in possession of the weapons capable of hitting a plane at the height AN-26 was flying yesterday.” In addition to that search and rescue operation for crew members of the downed AN-26 plane continues.
The information emerged in a media briefing on 15/7 by Vladyslav Selezniov, ATO spokesman.
This information suggests criminal negligence by the Ukrainian authorities in not closing their airspace to civil aviation.
It may well have been the rebels who brought the MH17 jet liner down, mistakenly believing it to be a military transport, (as has been suggested by the USA).
However, that is not the end of the story. The rebels were acting in a context in which the Kiev authorities and assorted militia have been launching indiscriminate attacks in the Eastern areas of the country. (For details of one deadly raid on Luhansk click here).
War crimes such as the bombing of civilian areas, which the international community fails to condemn, to which nations turn a blind eye and which are even supported and encouraged by war mongers, arms traders and governments in their pockets, naturally lead to attempts at self-defence – which in this case may have been the cause of a catastrophic tragedy.
The precise extent of the responsibility of all the parties to the downing of MH17, from the arms companies, to politicians, oligarchs, militaries, pro-Kiev and anti-Kiev forces remains to be investigated fully.
One thing is for sure. Using this tragedy to spread hate-filled propaganda, intolerance, hatred and violence, rather than attempting to resolve disputes peacefully, is an insult to the memory of all the victims.
According to Reuters the families of German victims will be suing Ukraine and President Petro Poroshenko for negligent manslaughter in the European Court of Human Rights. The families will be represented by Aviation Law Professor Elmar Giemulla, who is author of the Handbook of Aviation Law.
According to Giemulla, under international law Ukraine should have closed its air space if it could not guarantee the safety of flights.
“Each state is responsible for the security of its air space,” Giemulla told Reuters. “If it is not able to do so temporarily, it must close its air space. As that did not happen, Ukraine is liable for the damage.”
Giemulla will be pushing for compensation of up to one million euros ($1.3 million) per victim, according to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
Update 13/10/2015: The Dutch Safety Board investigation report confirms Ukraine should have closed down the area over Eastern Ukraine to civilian air traffic.