MH17 Memorial at AMS
© Roman Boed/Wikipedia Commons
A makeshift memorial at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, Netherlands for victims of flight MH17.
On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board and spawning an ongoing political battle.

The aircraft, a Boeing 777, was traveling between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, when it was shot out of the sky by a Russian-made missile over Donetsk, a territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists who want to take the region out of Ukraine.

It took almost five years for anyone to be formally accused of the attack, and the suspects have not been apprehended.

The incident only increased tensions between Ukraine and Russia, with each nation repeatedly contradicting the other's account. As Kiev and Moscow squabble, families continue to call for justice, and criticism that the US hasn't stood up to Russia over the incident remains.

Here's what happened, what the political fallout has been, and why no one has yet been formally held to account for the deaths.

In an 'outrage of unspeakable proportions,' the plane was shot out of the sky

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 took off from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport at 12:31 p.m. local time on Thursday, July 17, 2014, bound for Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

At 1:20 p.m., it lost contact with air-traffic controllers, who spent the next two minutes frantically trying to contact the plane with no success, investigators said. The plane was about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Russia-Ukraine border and had sent no distress signals.

Its emergency locator signal was used to find the wreckage, where, Dutch investigators said, the aircraft was destroyed, with wreckage spread far enough to cover two towns 10 kilometers apart.

The 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board were dead: 193 were from the Netherlands, 43 were from Malaysia, 27 were from Australia, 12 were from Indonesia, 10 were British, and the rest were from Germany, Belgium, the Philippines, Canada, and New Zealand.

The joint investigation team, made up of countries including the Netherlands and Australia, said the passengers were most likely killed — or at least knocked unconscious — instantly.

A preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board said that "fuselage pieces, cargo and baggage" were scattered over the site, leading investigators to believe the plane broke up in the air. It said parts of the plane were pierced with holes.
MH17 cockpit bullet holes detail

MH17 cockpit bullet holes detail
A notice had been issued to prevent airlines from flying low over the area because of "hostilities between armed groups and Ukrainian armed forces," but MH17 was flying at a safe height and in unrestricted airspace, the Dutch investigators said.

Three other planes flew through the area at the same time but were unharmed, the investigators said.

Comment: Not mentioned is the fact that Ukraine's air traffic control directed this particular MH17 flight to lower its altitude going into a corridor leading right over the conflict zone in Donbass.

Historian: 'Ukrainian authorities deliberately sent MH17 airliner into warzone'
mh17 flight path

Is this proof that MH17 change course into a war zone? A route map compiled by Twitter user Vagelis Karmiros using data from flight-tracking website Flightaware claims to show how the doomed Malaysia Airlines plane took a different flightpath to the ones taken by the previous ten MH17 flights

Recordings included in the report suggested that air-traffic controllers at Russia's Rostov airport and Ukraine's Dnipropetrovsk International Airport were confused as they spoke when the plane stopped responding.

"Well, it's not responding for our calls too," a controller in Ukraine said.

Later, they said, "Yes, it's disappeared."

The countries whose citizens were killed were contacted. One day after the incident,US President Barack Obama said it was an "outrage of unspeakable proportions" and a "global tragedy."
MH17 crash reconstruction
© Sputnik / Maksim Blinov
The reconstructed wreckage of the plane.
He said that the moment was a "wake-up call for Europe and the world that there are consequences to an escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine."

Blame went to Russia, but it had a different explanation

Politicians around the world immediately pointed the finger at Russia, arguing that the actions of pro-Russian separatists wouldn't be far removed from those of the government.

And pro-Russian separatists had already shot down other aircraft in the region.

Comment: Pretty damning, unless one bothers to check the link. All targets were UA military craft.
"At least 10 other Ukrainian aircraft — all of them significantly lower-flying than a Boeing 777 — have been shot down since the rebels started using MANPADS according to a count kept by military aviation expert David Cenciotti, including five Mi-24 Hinds, two Mi-8 helicopters, one An-2, one An-30, and the Ukrainian transport plane."

The theory, backed by US intelligence, was that separatists could have shot down the plane believing it belonged to the Ukrainian military.

Ukraine's president called the incident a "terrorist attack," while Russian media argued that Ukrainian defense systems were operating in the area.

Former US Rep. Ron Paul said that the crash was the fault of the US for destabilizing the Donetsk region and that reporting on the crash without the context of the conflict was "government propaganda."

World leaders issued warnings to Russian President Vladimir Putin, while the US, the United Nations, and the UK called for a full, independent investigation. Some leaders also alleged that the evidence from the crash site was being tampered with.

"Twelve aviation experts from Malaysia have safely arrived in Donetsk," Andrey Kavtaradze, a member of the DNR Security Council, said on Monday.

The experts are to investigate the causes of the catastrophe of the MH17 flight that crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday. The self-defense forces said that they will assist them and could hand over the evidence they found at the scene - the aircraft parts looking like flight data recorders.

They urged a cease-fire among Russia, Ukraine, and separatists so that the crash site could be properly investigated, but clashes in the region escalated as experts came to examine the scene.

Authorities from the Netherlands and Australia, as well as the international team of investigators, struggled to access the crash site as fighting continued.

Putin said the blame for the tragedy lay with Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine have denied any involvement in the crash.

Russian state media produced what it said were satellite photos showing a Ukrainian fighter jet shooting down the plane, but the US State Department said the idea was "preposterous."

Comment: What else would the US say? But faking evidence seems to be more a Ukraine thing:

Russia slams Kiev satellite images of MH17 that carry altered time stamps

MH17 bodies removal
© Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated Press
Ukrainian emergency workers carry a body as pro-Russian fighters stand guard at the crash site in July 2014.
In October 2015, investigators said they had evidence that the plane was shot down by a Russian-built Buk missile and that the pilots were killed instantly. Almaz-Antey, the manufacturer of Buk anti-aircraft systems, pushed back on the findings, saying the version of the missile was used by Ukrainian forces.

Comment: For which Russia produced copious proof. The Soviets kept meticulous military records. They actually declassified the chain-of-custody record for that particular missile (the serial numbers of component parts were recovered) showing that once the missile had been transferred to Ukraine, it was never returned.

In May 2018, investigators concluded that a Russian military missile was responsible for bringing down the plane, showing photo and video evidence.

Comment: See above.

Australia and the Netherlands then formally blamed Russia for the crash, saying the missile system was most likely brought to the region to support the separatists.

Comment: Again, see above. If anyone had possession of the BUK, it was the Ukrainian military. And there is this:

Dutch report says MH17 cockpit was riddled with "multiple holes from high-energy objects", ie bullets from mid-air cannon-fire

Cannon fire?

Politicians promised 'hell to pay' — but no one has been formally held to account

International appetite to confront Putin was initially strong, but five years later the crash appears to have little bearing on countries' relationship with Russia, the war in eastern Ukraine is ongoing, and no one has been prosecuted over the deaths.

The UN said this year that 13,000 people had been killed in the Donetsk crisis since it began in 2014.

In October 2014, Australia's prime minister at the time, Tony Abbott, promised to "shirtfront" Putin, an Australian term for running at an opponent's chest and trying to knock them over. The next month, Abbott referred to "robust discussions" and told Putin that he should consider apologizing and compensating victims' families.

Comment: Vassal Australia trying to impress its master.

US Sen. John McCain, who died last year, said in July 2014 that there would be "hell to pay" if Russian forces or pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine shot down the plane. Hillary Clinton said it would be time to put Putin "on notice."

Comment: Two warmongering blowhards who are now irrelevant.

MH 17 memorial Donbass
© Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
People gather near a monument in Donbass for the victims of the crash in July 2018 to mark the fourth anniversary. Reuters
As families of the victims continued to demand the truth, the crash dropped further down the international agenda amid a lack of answers.

Five countries, including the Netherlands and Malaysia, have called for a UN tribunal to investigate the crash, though Russia has rejected the idea.

Comment: Probably because none of the truly relevant questions would be addressed.

10 questions the Russians have for Ukraine after crash of MH17

What had for a time colored Putin's interactions with other world leaders paled in response to other concerns like US election meddling, propaganda, and Russia's human-rights record.

US President Donald Trump has shown little interest in what role Russia may have played in the crash. The Australian parents of three children killed in the crash accused Trump in July 2018 of refusing to hold Putin to account.

In a Facebook post addressed to Trump about his relationship with Putin, Anthony Maslin wrote, "That the man whose arse you've just been kissing did this, and continues to lie about it, is an irrefutable fact."

Maslin added: "It's not anger that I feel towards the two of you, its something much, much worse. It's pity. You have no empathy for your fellow man, and you clearly have no idea what love is. So you have nothing."

International investigators have accused Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, Oleg Pulatov, and Leonid Kharchenko of helping to bring down the flight. Dutch national police/YouTube

In June, four people were accused of being behind the attack — the first time anyone was named in connection with the deaths.

Investigators charged three Russian nationals — Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, and Oleg Pulatov — and a Ukrainian national, Leonid Kharchenko.
MH 17 suspects
© Dutch national police/YouTube
The fall guys: International investigators have accused Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, Oleg Pulatov, and Leonid Kharchenko of helping to bring down the flight.
They said that Girkin was the minister of defense for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and that Dubinsky, Pulatov, and Kharchenko had worked for its military intelligence agency.

Dubinsky and Pulatov had also worked for Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, and Girkin had worked for its domestic security agency, the FSB, they said.

The investigators intend to try the four suspects in the Netherlands in March on murder charges, though the men have not been apprehended.

Russia has described the investigation as baseless and said the accusations were "aimed at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the international community."

Comment: Not only that, Russia found a far more credible suspect: Sadly, the pilot implicated committed suicide. Whether from the pressure of the accusation or from a sense of guilt, or perhaps the elimination of participant in the crime, we will never know.

Pilot suspected of shooting down MH17 commits suicide
Ukrainian pilot Vladislav Voloshin, whom his colleague Yevgeny Agapov accused of involvement in the shooting down of Boeing 777 flight MH17, has committed suicide in Nikolaev.

Please note that Western mainstream media are specifically running the story as "Pilot, who was accused by Russia..." The allegations came from his colleague, who then was forced to leave Ukraine for Russia.

Two days after the MH17 disaster, Voloshin was awarded the Order of Courage of the Ukrainian air force. According to the testimony of Evgeny Agapov, who escaped to Russia, the Boeing 777 aircraft was allegedly shot down by an Su-25 of the Ukrainian Air Force, piloted by the aforementioned pilot: "A combat mission was carried out from an airfield in the city of Dnipropetrovsk." According to his testimony, he personally saw how Voloshin's aircraft was equipped with air-to-air missiles of the R-60 type before departure, which the Su-25 is not normally equipped with.

The UK's foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said on Wednesday that the UK was financially supporting the court that would hear the trial and urged Russia to take responsibility.

"We continue to support Australia and the Netherlands in their call on the Russian government to accept state responsibility for the downing of flight MH17," Hunt said.

While Russia seeks to distance itself from the suspects, Malaysia has condemned the charges against the men. Its prime minister said the investigation had become a "political issue" amid the accusations against Russia and that Malaysia wanted "proof of guilt."

As the trial date approaches, families of the victims are anxiously awaiting more answers and closure.