The Malaysia Airlines Crash in Ukraine Just Went From Bad to Worse


The news: First it was the crash itself and then it was the news that prominent AIDS researchers and advocates were among the body count. Now in another dark turn of events, pro-Russia separatist insurgents in the eastern Ukraine who likely shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 are apparently using the bodies of the 298 people killed as a bargaining chip.

What you need to know: The insurgents suspiciously arrived at the scene soon after MH17 hit the ground and quickly secured the flight's black box. They remain in full control of the site and have announced that international investigators will only be able to study the wreckage and the bodies if the Ukrainian government accedes to their demands.

"We declare that we will guarantee the safety of international experts on the scene as soon as Kiev concludes a ceasefire agreement," said senior leader Andrei Purgin of the Donetsk People's Republic, the self-declared sovereign entity the rebels claim to have established in eastern Ukraine. He further urged the Ukrainian government to "immediately conclude such an agreement" with the movement.

Image Credit: Getty

Why are they doing this? The growing consensus shared by the U.S. government is that the rebels indeed shot down the plane, probably using a Russian-made SA-11 missile platform. Whoever fired the missile likely believed that the flight was a Ukrainian military transport plane delivering supplies to a Ukrainian position.

If the rebels intend to continue fighting, a ceasefire would give them time to regroup for another stand. The separatists may also benefit from delaying access to the crash site and preventing more evidence of their involvement from emerging.

Mixed opinions: While the rebels do want a ceasefire, many in the international community also desire one. Bloomberg Views' Leonid Bershidsky writes that the "only solution is for professionals to intervene, separate the sides and oversee their disarmament." Both Obama and Putin have called for one as well, although many international leaders blame Russia for allegedly supporting the rebellion against the central government in Kiev.

A ceasefire could offer both sides an out from the conflict, but is increasingly unlikely after this week's catastrophe. Ukrainian leaders are out for blood and the rebels don't seem likely to put down their weapons permanently. Without a demobilization program, a ceasefire would unlikely provide more than a temporary window of peace.