It has been over a month since a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 298 people was shot down above eastern Ukraine on July 17, but little progress has been made in getting to the bottom of what really happened. The situation is cause for grave concern.
Early this month, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte withdrew an international investigation team the Netherlands leads from Ukraine, saying it was impossible to ensure the team’s safety.
Fierce fighting continues to rage between armed pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian military forces around the rebel-controlled crash site and the nearby cities of Donetsk and Lugansk. The death toll, including civilians, is now greater than 2,000.
Malaysian authorities say an investigation into the downing is less than halfway completed. Many bodies have yet to be recovered, and many of the recovered bodies have yet to be identified, according to reports.
The results of investigations, including an analysis of the black boxes recovered from the wreckage of the aircraft, will be released no sooner than early September. However, there is serious concern over how much will be revealed regarding the matter.
In order to resume the investigations and stop the further killings of civilians, the Ukrainian military and the armed rebels should try to bring about a ceasefire as quickly as possible.
However, there is deep-rooted mutual distrust between two camps: the United States and European countries, on which the Ukrainian government relies, and Russia, which provides support to the armed rebels.
The United States and other countries said the civilian plane was mistakenly attacked by rebels with a surface-to-air missile, presenting satellite photos and other materials as evidence. Russia, for its part, has been adamant that the passenger plane was accidentally shot down by Ukrainian military aircraft.
The crux of the distrust the United States and European countries have toward Russia is the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government — which unilaterally annexed the Crimean Peninsula this spring — has continued behind-the-scenes military interventions in eastern Ukraine, jolting the pro-Europe government of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
A senior leader of the rebel group has announced they were joined by 1,200 fighters who were trained in Russia for extended periods, as well as many tanks and armored vehicles.
Russia has sent massive amounts of food, medicine, generators and other humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine, a move believed to be aimed at expanding its sphere of influence.
"We are going to do everything within our power to end the military conflict as soon as possible," Putin said last week, referring to a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
If he really believes that, Putin should put his words into action. The Russian president must make earnest efforts to persuade the rebels into agreeing to a ceasefire and cooperating with the international investigation team.
The impact of sanctions the United States and European nations imposed in late July has been steadily spreading in the Russian energy and financial sectors.
While maintaining this pressure on Russia, countries concerned should hold repeated talks with Moscow to bring about a breakthrough toward realizing a stabilized Ukraine.
—The Yomiuri Shimbun