At last there is confirmation that the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was a war crime. Pro Russian rebels, using a Russian supplied ground to air missile, shot down the commercial jet, probably believing it was a Ukrainian military aircraft.
The investigation found:
- The missile was fired from an arable field 6km south of the town of Snizhne, an area was under the control of pro-Russia fighters.
- The Buk came from Russian territory into eastern Ukraine and was later transported on a white Volvo truck. Witnesses, photographs and video show it escorted by several other vehicles and by “armed men in uniform”.
- Around 100 people have been identified who can be linked to the downing of MH17 or the transport of the Buk.
- Witnesses at the launch site near the village of Pervomaiskyi reported hearing “a very loud noise” and “a high whistling sound”. They also saw a plume of smoke.
As Russia slides from authoritarian to totalitarian, we can expect more crimes like these from the mafia state. We have got used to almost daily atrocities by Russia and its proxies in Syria. The world has effectively shrugged as Russia annexed Crimea against the wishes of the Ukrainian people and against the tenets of international law.
I see a grim irony here. Former British PM Tony Blair is accused of committing war crimes by misleading Parliament into backing the invasion of Iraq. It’s said that Britain had no right to go to war against Saddam Hussein because there are only two circumstances in which it is permissible to wage war under the UN Charter: in self-defence or with the explicit approval of the Security Council.
Blair can’t claim either was the case. But, then, Vladimir Putin cannot say that Ukraine was threatening Russia, not that the UN had granted a mandate for the invasion.
So why aren’t we hearing calls for the citizen’s arrest of Vladimir Putin?
Is it because Tony Blair is a soft target? A former democratically elected politician in a liberal country, now out of Parliament and coining it as an after dinner speaker and friend to despots worldwide, Blair is relatively accessible. Putin is not. He’s a crypto fascist, determined to reintroduce all the worst aspects of the Soviet era, while failing to deliver the better parts of socialism. Housing, healthcare, jobs and inflation are blighting the lives of the Russian people. But the massively wealthy Putin doesn’t care.
The Putinist oligarchy of ex KGB agents has privatised the economy and the Kremlin routinely silences any voices of opposition. Speak up in Russia and you are likely to end up jailed, beaten or killed.
Technically, Russia is a democracy. But elections are far from free and fair. The media is slavishly pro-Putin. Any serious candidate from outside Putin’s party is likely to suffer for their independent stand. Putin may have just seen his party re-elected in the Duma, but that parliament is now a pointless mechanism for the rubber stamping of whatever mad adventure Putin fancies.
Vlamir Putin will continue to coordinate the most awful war crimes. He’ll continue to use proxies to maintain deniability, He’ll continue to keep Russia on a war footing, because without the distraction of an appeal to Russian nationalism, the reality of just how bad life is in Russia would be laid bare.
Tony Blair may be many things; weak, vain, greedy, for example. But he isn’t a war criminal and while he didn’t have a security council mandate for the invasion of Iraq, the UN swiftly recognised the authority of the UK and the US to manage Iraq once the invasion was complete. Blair and Bush can claim some kind of retrospective endorsement. Putin cannot do the same.
So here’s my challenge. Arrest Putin. I’ll donate $500 to anyone who successfully performs a citizen’s arrest on Vladimir Putin. Anywhere, any time.