Ukraine had no reason to close its airspace above 10 000 m before MH17 disaster | Infographic



Article by: Nicole Gallina

The Dutch Safety Board, legal representatives of victims and journalists have accused Ukraine that its authorities failed to close its airspace – and implicitly argued the disaster would have not happened if they would have done so. Here we present eight reasons why that accusation is not so justified.

Design by Ganna Naronina

Design by Ganna Naronina

One. Before the shot-down of MH-17 there had been not a single indication that there had been any danger to any airplanes flying above 10 000 meters (i.e. the height passenger planes had been using). No airplane had been shot down at this height, and no adequate weapons systems – for example the Buk-system – had been used prior to the 17 July 2014.

Two. The two Ukrainian military airplanes that were shot down at a considerable height on 14 and 16 July were still flying under 10 000 meters, also in order not to endanger civil aviation, and there was no need of using a Buk (the Pantsir-system probably used in one case is most effective under 10 000 meters).

Three. Ukraine had only three days to assess the situation, and no reason to believe that passenger jets would be targeted as only surface-to-air systems effective under 10 000 meters had been used.

Four. The exclusive target of Russian air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles had been the Ukrainian military, and no Ukrainian civilian flights were targeted; the last two military jets that were shot-down being targeted from Russian territory.

Five. Practically no country closes its airspace, even if there is war (see the example of Libya). If there is no obvious threat to passenger flights, the airspace remains open.  We can also take the recent example of Russian cruise missiles flying over Iran and posing a threat to civilian aviation – nobody has closed civilian airspace.

Six. Also international authorities are very reluctant to close airspaces, the recent case of the Russian cruise missiles launched from the Caspian See, targeted at Syria (and four of them landing in Iran) has not led to specific measure. The European Aviation Safety Agency for example gave no specific recommendation to avoid the airspace between the Caspian Sea and Syria, and some airlines – such as the Australian Quantas – continued to fly over Iran.

Seven. There had been no reason to use a fairly complicated surface-to-air missile system (such as the Buk that normally requires professional – Russian – staff and a target acquisition radar, plus the launcher vehicle), just because Ukrainian jets could be targeted with other systems more effectively.

Eight. In fact the problem is not that the Ukrainian airspace had not been closed, but the presence of a Russian Buk on occupied Ukrainian territory without a reason. Why would someone transport this sophisticated system into enemy territory, not needed in order to shoot down military jets? And here we see, there is only one answer to this question: Russia’s Buk being present in Snizhne on 17 July 2014 was part of a “special operation” and has to be seen as being out of context with actual warfare against the Ukrainian military.


Dear readers! Since you’ ve made it to this point, we have a favor to ask. Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine is ongoing, but major news agencies have gone away, which is why it's extra important to provide news about Ukraine in English. We are a small independent journalist team on a shoestring budget, have no political or state affiliation, and depend on our readers to keep going (using the chanсe - a big thank you to our generous supporters, we couldn't make it without you.)  If you like what you see, please help keep us online with a donation

Tags: , , ,


  1. Avatar No_War_In_Ukraine says:

    It can be claimed that Ukraine bears some INDIRECT responsibly for the MH17 disaster, if:

    1) Ukraine ACTUALLY FORESAW the consequence of allowing its airspace to remain open;

    and, to a lesser degree, if;

    2) Ukraine SHOULD HAVE FORESEEN the consequence of allowing its airspace to remain open.

    As the article states, prior to the MH17 disaster, no planes had been shot down at a height above 10,000 feet, and, Ukraine was not aware of any weapons in the region capable of shooting down planes at that height.

    Ukraine, therefore, could not have ACTUALLY FORESEEN the disaster.

    However, can a case be made that Ukraine SHOULD HAVE FORESEEN the disaster?

    Should Ukraine have anticipated the likelihood of powerful weapons, such as the BUK, being brought into the conflict, thereby endangering aircraft flying above 10,000 feet?

    Clearly, if it’s claimed that Ukraine should have anticipated the likelihood of powerful weapons being brought into the conflict, then it can also be claimed that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Malaysia Airlines should also have anticipated this likelihood, and prevented planes flying over the conflict area.

    The ICAO and Malaysia Airlines would therefore bear equal INDIRECT responsibility for the disaster.

    The only country that could have both ACTUALLY FORESEEN and SHOULD HAVE FORESEEN the MH17 disaster, is the country that supplied the weapon, knowing that it was capable of shooting down a plane above 10,000 feet.

    That country, namely Russia, bears the greatest INDIRECT responsibility for the MH17 disaster.

    If that country also foresaw the likelihood that the weapon they supplied could be operated in a reckless manner, endangering civilian aircraft above 10,000 feet, then, that country, namely Russia, also bears full DIRECT responsibility for the disaster.

    1. Avatar JD says:

      Sure, contact Ukraine’s government and suggest a good oracle for them to foresee events.

      btw, Russia bears direct responsibility, not indirect.

  2. Avatar sandy miller says:

    This entire conversation is disgusting the Dutch board should be ashamed putting any blame on Ukraine. Russia continues to get away with murder because all the chicken hearts are shaking in their boots with fear of Putin. Shameless cowards disgust me.

  3. Avatar MichalRedel says:

    The article is severely flawed, it’s basically a piece of propaganda. Ukraine SHOULD HAVE closed the airspace, instead of betting the safety of MH17 on the lack of knowledge about what kind of weapons the separatists might have.

    Also, the author claims that the BUK and it’s crew was Russian. But it might be an Ukrainian BUK captured by the rebels – and since BUK is used by the Ukrainian armed forces, there could be people able to operate it among the separatists, people who received BUK training in the Ukrainian army.

    BTW As usual in wars, both sides have their own propaganda – both Russian and Ukrainian one. And people rooting for one of the sides of this conflict often forget that.