Rutte is tiptoeing around the criminal role played by president Putin in the case of the downed MH17. In his comment on the conclusions of the fact-finding commission, the prime minister limits himself to a lame ‘appeal to the Russian government to help mount a criminal investigation into who is responsible’.
Now that the commission has finished its work it is even more evident that Rutte’s appeal is addressed to the perpetrators themselves, although he doesn’t let on that this is so. But it’s as plain as the nose on your face that MH17 was shot down as a consequence of Russian army war efforts led by the Kremlin. 1) The missile was launched from a Russian BUK system. 2) The missile was launched from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists. 3) The downing of MH17 forms the apotheosis of a series of attacks by ‘separatists’ (most likely Russians) on Ukrainian aircraft in the preceding weeks.
Flat Russian denial
Instead of cooperating, the Kremlin sabotaged the commission’s attempts at getting at the facts in every conceivable way. It circulated bogus versions of the deadly attack and, far from respecting the commission’s work, it tried to draw attention away from it before and after the publication of the report by flatly denying the facts and coming up with yet another made up story, this time from the BUK missile factory.
Of course Rutte knows this. And he knows Moscow knows. The Russian authorities are far from ‘convinced’ the plane was shot down by the Ukrainian army. The Dutch media keep repeating that the Kremlin is ‘convinced’ but in truth the only people in the world who really know what happened are a small number of Russian politicians and generals. Because they were the ones who sent the BUK system to Eastern Ukraine and they were the ones who ordered the missile attacks on the airplanes.
Their primary targets may have been the Ukrainian Antonovs that were flying in much-needed munitions and supplies to the border posts in a futile attempt to defend the border against the Russian might. But it was they who performed all the actions that led to the deadly attack on MH17.
Instead of admitting that all this was at least a catastrophic ‘mistake’, the Russians are doing everything in their power to shift the blame to the Ukrainians. Bizarrely enough, Moscow maintains that the Dutch commission presented a ‘biased’ view and likes nothing better than to point the finger at Russia when the truth is that The Hague would do anything to avoid a confrontation with the Russians. Rutte realises that Putin will never admit guilt because it would scupper the secrecy surrounding his secret campaign in Ukraine. How could Putin admit to supplying the BUK missiles after lying about a ‘civil war’ that he had no part in?
Even now Putin denies the presence of Russian soldiers in Ukraine. By admitting guilt, even if that guilt were based on a mistake, he would be shown up for all the world to see as a man denying any part in a war he’s involved in up to his neck. There is no reason to expect any help from the Russian authorities in finding and bringing to justice the people who brought down MH17, that much is clear. Is there any chance that the Russian government will ever admit guilt and cooperate, as happened ten years after Lockerbie? Not really. Unlike Gaddafi’s Libya, Russia is not a small rogue state but a very big one. It will continue to lie for the sake of its ‘patriotic honour´. And it can because it is so very important to other countries, including the Netherlands.
Rutte is aware of this terrible reality. That is why he shouldn’t dodge his responsibility by issuing a cowardly, so-called appeal that will fall on deaf ears anyway. What Rutte must do is publicly denounce Putin’s sabotage and his false propaganda on the international stage. Only then will he be a true champion for the families of the victims and for justice. He can’t let Putin get away with it.
Roel van Duijn is a political activist and writer. He was a founder of Provo and the Kabouter movements at the end of the 1960s. He was alderman for the Political Party of Radicals and later a city councillor for GroenLinks in Amsterdam.