I’m too busy now on another story to get deep into the downing of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet over separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine, killing some 300 passengers… but here are a few things to keep in mind as today’s news develops:
1. This was a passenger plane flying over rebel territory despite the fact it was well known that pro-Russian rebels had fairly advanced anti-aircraft weaponry, and were using them with increasing success. Alec Luhn, one of the best reporters on the ground covering the conflict, tweeted out that Ukraine authorities allowed flights over the war zone if they were traveling above 7,800 meters; flight MH17 was reportedly shot down at 10,000 meters.
2. In just the past week, rebel antiaircraft missiles have struck at least three Ukrainian air force planes in the region — two Sukhoi-25 fighters, and an An-26 military transport plane. You can watch the video of the shooting down of the An-26 here, produced by cheering Russian-speaking villagers:
3. Almost as soon as the plane was downed today, Russian state news agency ITAR-Tass boasted “Donetsk People’s Republic militiamen shoot down Ukrainian Air Force An-26”. That makes it a little harder for Russian propagandists to turn around and blame it all on the Ukrainians.
4. The main twitter account of the Western-backed Maidan revolution that ousted Yanukovych in February tweeted at pro-Russians today: “Apes, you can’t hide. Soon you’ll all be wiped out.”
5. In 2001, Ukraine’s military accidentally shot down a Russian passenger airliner flying over the Black Sea from Tel Aviv to Novorossisk, killing 78 people onboard. After over a week of denials, Ukraine finally admitted responsibility. In 1988, the US Vincennes mistakenly shot down an Iranian passenger plane in the Persian Gulf, killing 290 passengers on board. The commanding officer in charge of the USS Vincennes not only wasn’t punished, but instead was awarded the Legion of Merit medal two years later by President George Bush.