MH17 • Brendan Hoffman
Since protests in Kyiv drove President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February 2014, Eastern Ukraine has been convulsed by a rebel insurgency, inflamed by Russia, that has evolved into a full-fledged war centered in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk – an industrial region known as Donbass.
At heart is a desire among the rebels for greater autonomy, out of widespread fear—justified or not—that Russian-speaking Ukrainians are at risk of political repression by the government in Kyiv. Russian propaganda has carried this storyline further, implying that the Ukrainian government is comprised of fascists and neo-Nazi Ukrainian nationalists. Russia itself has been widely accused of backing the rebels with weapons, cash, training, and fighters, prompting the deepest divide between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.
Ukraine’s economy has taken a massive blow. Huge expenditures on the war effort, combined with the loss of Crimea and much of the industrial output of Donbass, mean that international bailouts intended to stave off default may yet prove insufficient. Political reforms are inching along, corruption remains rampant, and the overall atmosphere of instability has kept away foreign investment.
Meanwhile, as always, civilians are falling victim to the indiscriminate effects of uncaring weapons. According to the United Nations, nearly 10,000 people have died in the conflict as of March 2017.
By Brendan Hoffman
On July 17, 2014 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile as it passed over eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board. Immediate suspicion, backed up by on-the-ground evidence and analysis from Western intelligence agencies and international investigators, implicated the pro-Russian rebels currently fighting a war in the region, who seemingly received the weapon directly from Russia. While it is most likely that the commercial passenger jet was mistaken for a military plane, the immediate effect is to make clear the global consequences of this conflict.
The crash site of flight MH17 - first hand account, BBC Radio 4