It is important enough to not allow that John Sweeney’s report for BBC Panorama should pass unnoticed or unmentioned. Then again, neither is it such bad news that we should panic.
Three eyewitnesses, all civilians, separately told Panorama that they saw a missile-launcher in rebel-held territory a few hours before the Boeing jet was hit.
One eyewitness saw the missile-launcher roll off a low-loader at Snezhnoye, around ten miles from the crash site, at around 13:30 local time (10:30 GMT).
“We just saw it being offloaded and when the BUK started its engine the exhaust smoke filled the whole town square,” he said.
The eyewitness told the BBC that the crew struck him as Russian soldiers: “Well-disciplined, unlike the rebels, and not wearing the standard Ukrainian camouflage uniform sported by government and rebel troops alike.”
“They had pure Russian accents. They say the letter ‘g’ differently to us,” he said.
In eastern Ukraine, most people speak Russian but the BUK crew did not speak Russian with a local accent.
Sweeney also reports that the testimony has been corroborated by a second witness “who added that an officer in a military jeep escorting the BUK spoke with a Muscovite accent.”
It seems beyond question that Vladimir Putin wants a war; a really, really big war. What remains unanswered, though, is why.
Meanwhile, there really is no point in panicking. Indeed, mere daily fretting might be overkill. This isn’t the sort of thing, like bad groundwater or poor nuclear safety, that the politicians can overlook. And, plus, wars are spectacular, whereas bringing nuclear plant safety up to par isn’t; it’s the nuclear accidents that are spectacular. That is to say, war will come or else it won’t, and if Putin intends to light up the sky, it would seem reasonable to suggest that he won’t give much immediate warning. In the question of why, it seems more and more evident that Vladimir Putin has simply lost his mind. At this point, expecting the ordinary geopolitical jousting would be the extraordinary expectation.
But the line of the day goes to Mikhail Khordokovsky, the former oligarch and present staunch foe of the Putin regime, who asserted:
“The prospect of democratic change of power in Russia does not exist anymore. There will be more blood in the future.”
Sweeney, John. “MH17 disaster: Russians ‘controlled BUK missile system'”. BBC. 8 September 2014.