The bitter lessons of MH17

During the last four months, the people of Ukraine have been fighting for their freedom, independence and European path in a war started by Russia-backed terrorists and their accomplices.

Ukrainian military forces suffer heavy losses in battles against terrorists equipped with the newest Russian weaponry. We’ve seen reports of the pro-Russian thugs shooting women and children, cynically calling it a “protection of the Russian-speaking population.”

The price we are paying to bring peace back to the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine is too high. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proposed the decentralization of power as part of his peace plan. It means more freedom, more economic autonomy and more opportunities to use languages spoken in a particular community for every region.

Ukraine has also demonstrated its genuine willingness to resolve this crisis through negotiations and compromises. Our armed forces have shown exceptional restraint during their military operations in order to avoid casualties among peaceful civilians and prevent destruction of their towns and villages. Our unilateral cease-fire in the zone of the conflict had lasted from June 20 to June 30, during which 27 Ukrainian servicemen, from all over Ukraine, were killed by the bandits.

On July 17 we believe the terrorists fired at the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, cutting short the lives of almost 300 people. This was a tragic wake-up call to the whole world. From now on Russian exporters of terrorism bring tragedy and tears to people across the planet — from the Netherlands to Australia.

Ukrainians, knowing too well the bitterness of loss, sincerely share grief with the families of the deceased. Our government is conducting, together with a team of international experts, a thorough investigation of the circumstances of this heinous act of terrorism. There is already incontrovertible evidence that the airliner was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile system that had arrived from Russia.

For the first time since 1983, when a Soviet jet fighter deliberately shot down a South Korean Boeing 747, Russia stands entangled in such a horrendous tragedy. We remember that an objective investigation of that catastrophe was made possible only 10 years later, after the USSR collapsed. We would not like to have to wait that long to learn the truth about the tragedy of MH17.

Indeed, the guilty must be promptly punished.

We are encouraged with the growing understanding in both the West and the East of the nature of terrorism in eastern Ukraine. While U.S. senators and European Union ministers already consider designating the Donetsk People’s Republic and its Luhansk twin as terrorist organizations, we expect Russia to halt its support to terrorists. Since most of them are Russian citizens and “former” security service officers, we also urge Moscow to take them away from Ukraine. They must go home.

Russian sponsorship of terrorism in Ukraine amply demonstrates that in the 21st century any regional conflict invariably poses a threat to global security.

International and internal terrorism, as well as unbridled export of conventional and high-tech weaponry, have no regard for state borders, national sovereignty or human lives.

Ukraine has been consistently advocating not only international control of nuclear weapons, but today we also stand for the creation of a universal mechanism for international control of conventional arms.

We strive for a world based on the respect for international law and trust between nations.

Pavlo Klimkin is the Foreign Minister of Ukraine. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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