Monthly Archives: March 2015

When Crimea called, nobody was listening. Crimea’s peaceful struggle for independence

What started after the Crimean War was concluded after World War I and the Russian Revolutions. Countries were created after the default of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the transformation of the Ottoman Empire into modern Turkey. Drawn up borders and created countries started to exist in the former borders of fallen empires without respecting the desires of the population and ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia are examples which were created in 1918 and less than a century later stopped to exist.

Yugoslavia ceased to exist by the hand of violence, a brutal civil war between those members seeking independence and those opposing it and murderous attempts of land grabbing even between those seeking to depart from Yugoslavia. At the height of the civil war, the West intervened with even more brutal violence against the violent Serbian efforts to maintain Yugoslavia as a state or at least extend the territory of Serbia. Both Serbia and Bosnia paid a high price. The first for their struggle against the break up of Yugoslavia, the later for their independence from Yugoslavia and the ruling Serbian power base.Croatia, victim and perpetrator in its attempts to free itself from Yugoslavian and Serbian dominance and at the same time pushing to extend its borders into Bosnian territory, played a dubious role and in the end gained independence into the republic it is today. When Kosovo developed its desire for unilateral declaration of independence, the West stretched all its might and military capabilities to ensure this would take place as requested by the majority of the now independent republic.

Czechoslovakia showed the world another path to break the unwanted union which was created in the vacuum at the beginning of the 20th Century. Negotiations as equal partners, acting and reacting to every hurdle on the path of independence, the former Republic was dismantled into 2 proud and independent republics with a strong bond. Not a bullet was fired! This all was possible, good and bad, in the vacuum which was created by the default of the Soviet Union.

During this process of default, former Soviet Republics had the opportunity and took that opportunity. Ukraine and Belarus, founding members of the United Nations, were greeted into their independence by Western powers. Other former Soviet Republics like Georgia and Uzbekistan followed the same path and declared independence under their own constitutional powers. The Baltic states, disputed Soviet States since they were absorbed under the German-Russian pact, were supported in their strive for independence by the same Western powers and obtained this independence. All implemented treaties, preliminary and ratified constitutions came into force and Western powers and the Russian Federation cooperated to ensure the transitions were done peaceful, ensuring that legislation and will of the people were aligned.

One former Soviet Republic was deprived of this process: Crimea!

Continue reading When Crimea called, nobody was listening. Crimea’s peaceful struggle for independence

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Flight MH17, the aftermath

A close friend wrote a series of booklets with practical guidelines for managers in various topics. One of these is very applicable to Flight MH17: Safety Management and Incident Handling. Although orientated on factories and manufacturing, there is a list of questions recommended for safety incidents which are very valid for this case:

  1. What was done to prevent this incident?
  2. What will be changed since the prevention was not effective?
  3. How was the incident handled after it occurred?

All in charge of the different authorities involved should work according to these points and set priorities accordingly.

Continue reading Flight MH17, the aftermath

Flight MH17, the unanswered questions raised by Russian Authorities

On 18/07/2014, high ranking officers of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation stated the first 10 questions about the attack on Flight MH17. This was the day after the downing of Flight MH17 and in response to the statements by the USA that they were “confident that Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile launched by militia’s which was supplied by the Russian Federation.

  1. Immediately after the tragedy, the Ukrainian authorities, naturally, blamed it on the self-defense forces. What are these accusations based on?
  2. Can Kiev explain in detail how it uses Buk missile launchers in the conflict zone? And why were these systems deployed there in the first place, seeing as the self-defense forces don’t have any planes?
  3. Why are the Ukrainian authorities not doing anything to set up an international commission? When will such a commission begin its work?
  4. Would the Ukrainian Armed Forces be willing to let international investigators see the inventory of their air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, including those used in SAM launchers?
  5. Will the international commission have access to tracking data from reliable sources regarding the movements of Ukrainian warplanes on the day of the tragedy?
  6. Why did Ukrainian air traffic controllers allow the plane to deviate from the regular route to the north, towards “the anti-terrorist operation zone”?
  7. Why was airspace over the warzone not closed for civilian flights, especially since the area was not entirely covered by radar navigation systems?
  8. How can official Kiev comment on reports in the social media, allegedly by a Spanish air traffic controller who works in Ukraine, that there were two Ukrainian military planes flying alongside the Boeing 777 over Ukrainian territory?
  9. Why did Ukraine’s Security Service start working with the recordings of communications between Ukrainian air traffic controllers and the Boeing crew and with the data storage systems from Ukrainian radars without waiting for international investigators.
  10. What lessons has Ukraine learned from a similar incident in 2001, when a Russian Tu-154 crashed into the Black Sea? Back then, the Ukrainian authorities denied any involvement on the part of Ukraine’s Armed Forces until irrefutable evidence proved official Kiev to be guilty.

3 days later, on 21/07/2014, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation issued 10 more (and partially redundant) questions to Ukraine, and the USA about the attack on Flight MH17:

  1. Why did the MH17 plane leave the international corridor?
  2. Was MH17 leaving the route a navigation mistake or was the crew following instructions by Ukrainian air traffic controllers in Dnepropetrovsk?
  3. Why was a large group of air defense systems deployed to the militia-held area if the self-defense forces have no planes?
  4. Why did Kiev deploy BUK missile systems on the edge of militia-controlled zones directly before the tragedy?
  5. On the day of the crash Kiev intensified Kupol-M1 9S18 radar activity, key BUK system components. Why?
  6. What was a military plane doing on the route intended for civilian flights?
  7. Why was the military jet flying at so close to a passenger plane?
  8. Where did the launcher – from the video circulated by Western media and showing a Buk system being moved allegedly from Ukraine to Russia – come from? As the video was made on the territory controlled by Kiev, where was the launcher being transported?
  9. Where is it right now? Why are some of the missiles missing on the launcher? When was the last time a missile was launched from it?
  10. Why haven’t US officials revealed the evidence supporting claims that the MH17 was shot down by a missile launched by the militia?

These questions, and many more, are the kind of questions every investigator involved in the case of Flight MH17 should ask and pursue obtaining answers and data with the highest possible priority. Let us have a closer look at these questions and the possible answers.

Continue reading Flight MH17, the unanswered questions raised by Russian Authorities

Flight MH17, the unanswered questions (Part 3)

The USA and Russia have developed advanced technologies for surveillance from the ground, the air and the orbital atmosphere. Satellites, airborne early warning systems, radar and radio monitoring are common technologies which both countries deploy at will. With the conflict raging in Eastern Ukraine, it is safe to assume and naive not to assume that both countries have deployed their intelligent electronic eyes and ears in the region.

Both countries have made statements about having data related to Flight MH17 without actually revealing the details and sources of this data. This data might provide conclusive evidence about the downing of Flight MH17 in which all 298 innocent civilians on board the commercial aircraft were killed.

Criminal investigators have a rule of thumb:

Don’t expect the information to be delivered to you, you have to search for it especially when this information can incriminate the owner of the information or their partners.

The question to which there is no answer is which efforts did the Government of The Netherlands undertake to obtain information even when this could incriminate the owner of the information or their partners. Determining which weapon was used and who owned this weapon at the time of the crime is among the highest priority in every criminal investigation.

Continue reading Flight MH17, the unanswered questions (Part 3)

On the subject of evidence and opinions

The conflict in Ukraine and the downing of Flight MH17 is covered by 24/7 attention in media and online platforms. The amount of information coming through all channels in an incredible pace is overwhelming. Opinions and interpretations are formed and shared with the speed of light, presented under the cover of information and evidence. In all this, it becomes difficult to identify truth, facts and fiction.

Most concerning is the amount of unsubstantiated opinions which are presented as facts and evidence, and are carried by crowds of online users and mass media. If that would not be enough, there is a growing amount of fabricated hoaxes which are mixed in with information.

Here are some simple facts about evidence:

  • Evidence that a suspect has the capability to commit a crime does not provide evidence that the suspect committed the crime.
  • Evidence that a suspect has a possible motive to commit a crime does not provide evidence that the suspect committed the crime.
  • Evidence that a suspect was at the scene of the crime at the moment of the crime does not provide evidence that the subject committed the crime, unless evidence is available the the subject and only the subject was at the scene of the crime at the moment of the crime.
  • The above do however substantiate the suspicion of committing the crime and the need to continue to treat the suspect as suspect.
  • Eyewitness testimony is not direct evidence, neither in confirming that the suspect committed the crime, nor in denying that the suspect committed the crime. Eyewitnesses can of course be influenced up to being paid to testify.Honest eyewitnesses can be influenced by their own believes, by information by others, by fear and most of all by time. The longer the time frame between the event and the testimony is, the higher the risk that the memories of the eyewitness have been influenced by external information and personal considerations of the eyewitness.
  • Pictures and videos are not direct evidence. The first challenge is to confirm that these were made at the time and location of which they are stated to be made. The next challenge is to determine if these have not been manipulated. And thirdly, quality, angle, range, etc. of the picture or video can have influence on the information provided.

Continue reading On the subject of evidence and opinions

Flight MH17, the unanswered questions (Part 2)

In attempting to find answers to questions about Flight MH17, the first thing one notices is the total information blackout from official channels in The Netherlands, Belgium and Australia. Russia at first provided the information available to them and after that urged others to do the same. The USA made a statement about detecting the launch of a missile and from thereon reverted back to sanctions. Ukraine made many statements on this and other topics of which some can be qualified as incorrect to put it mildly.

In the midst of this total information blackout are the families and friends of the victims on board of Flight MH17. 15 crew members and 283 passengers, the majority of which were citizens of the Netherlands, left a group of devastated people behind who just want to know and want to be informed by their government about the progress, about the actions, about efforts. None of that is happening!

The only way to gets answers is by asking questions. My father.

After the first part of unanswered questions about Flight MH17, this is the second and most certainly not the last part of unanswered questions.

Continue reading Flight MH17, the unanswered questions (Part 2)

Flight MH17, the unanswered questions (Part 1)

Hours after the crash of Flight MH17 which killed all passengers and crew members on board, the tabloids and hordes of self-proclaimed experts on Social Media already had all the answers. The who, how and what was already known even before the rest of the world started to comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy. Who needs facts when all that matters are sales numbers and online attention?

Facts are what the families and friends who lost their loved ones on Flight MH17 are looking for, and every human being will understand that facts about the events will be a significant part of the mourning process and and step forward towards being able to handle life after the tragedy. Several weeks ago, I had the privilege and honor to meet a brave man who is trying to coop with losing his daughter on Flight MH17 and is searching for honest answers and facts about why and how his daughter was murdered. Searching for a confirmation that whomever is responsible for this will have to face justice. This father made a statement with tears on his face which is engraved in my mind:

Whenever I try to find an answer, I end up with more questions!

Continue reading Flight MH17, the unanswered questions (Part 1)

What do we know about Flight MH17 – separating facts from fiction

The father of a victim of MH17 told me:

I will never get my daughter back but at least I want to know who did this to us!

These are the confirmed facts about Flight MH17:

  1. Flight MH17 departed on 17/07/2014 from Schiphol in the Netherlands on a flight to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia with 15 crewmembers and 283 passengers.
  2. At 13:20:03 the flight recorders stopped recording and the crew stopped responding to the calls from ATC at Ukrainian and Russian side.
  3. Flight MH17 crashed near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, killing all crewmembers and passengers.
  4. Flight MH17 was flying in unrestricted airspace in which 3 other commercial aircrafts where flying at the moment of the incident.
  5. Ukraine, responsible for the investigation according to ICAO rules, delegated the investigation to The Netherlands which is handled by the Dutch Safety Board.
  6. There is a Non-Disclosure-Agreement between the Governments of Ukraine, The Netherlands, Belgium and Australia related to this investigation for which the content is not made public.
  7. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166 calls for a thorough investigation of the crash, free and unlimited access of the crash site, ceasing of all military actions at and around the crash site and those responsible for the crash to be held to account.
  8. The flight recorders of Flight MH17 have been recovered and analyzed.
  9. According to the latest information, all victims of Flight MH17 have been identified.
  10. Wreckage of Flight MH17 have been partially recovered and transported for investigation to The Netherlands, other parts of the wreckage still remain at or near the crash site.
  11. The Dutch Safety Board published a preliminary report, concluding based on indications that the crash of Flight MH17 was caused by external high energy objects puncturing the fuselage from the outside.
  12. This preliminary report is based on ATC information provided by Ukraine and the Russian Federation without specifying which information was provided.

Almost 10 months after the horrible incident, this is a rather small amount of confirmed facts available to the public and the families of the victims of Flight MH17.

There is of course more but so far not confirmed information about Flight MH17.

Continue reading What do we know about Flight MH17 – separating facts from fiction

The fate of foreign volunteers in the Ukrainian Conflict depends on which side they are on!

With the arrest and announced prosecution of 8 Spanish citizens after their return from Donbass where they fought as combatant in the militias opposing the Ukrainian government forces, my colleague and I tried to get a simple answer to a simple question from various Spanish officials:

Will volunteer combatants with Spanish citizenship fighting for the Ukrainian government forces or the volunteer forces which are endorsed and armed by the Ukrainian government, be prosecuted by the Spanish Justice Department on the same charges as those volunteer combatants with Spanish citizenship fighting for the opposing militias in Ukraine?

From the Spanish Officials we contacted, we received the famous non-answer: “no comment” which is exactly what it says – no comment to your question and therefor no answer to your question. We assume that this answer will remain the answer until we either stop asking this question or until such case would actually arise, should it ever arise.

So we tried to understand which grounds Spain has to prosecute those combatants which have been arrested last week:

  1. Spanish citizens are prohibited from participating in combat activities or aiding to combat activities unless order to do so by the Spanish Government. Spanish citizens can be ordered to participate in combat activities without a formal declaration of war, e.g. the Spanish participation in the NATO led war in Afghanistan.
  2. Spanish citizens are prohibited from participation in a conflict in which the Spanish Government has declared neutrality and Spain has declared neutrality in the conflict in Ukraine.
  3. Each of the above mentioned prohibited activities can be prosecuted either as committed crime as such, or as the direct crime resulting from such activities when adequate evidence is available. E.g. when such activities would lead to murder or war crimes.

Continue reading The fate of foreign volunteers in the Ukrainian Conflict depends on which side they are on!

The faith of foreign volunteers in the Ukrainian Conflict

The recent arrest in Spain of 8 Spanish combatants, serving as volunteers for the rebel militias in South-East Ukraine, have sparkled vivid discussions among various communities and groups, including lawyers of different countries and backgrounds. Those without a legal background (and some with legal background) focus their discussions on good versus bad, in which being good or bad depends on personal views and beliefs. The good guys are referred to as volunteers, the bad guys are the mercenaries and soldiers of fortune. Both sides alike. Fellow researchers and confreres try to find answers in the legal environment of laws and rulings within and outside of Spain and precedents from prior conflicts in past decades.

A complicating factor in this matter is the Minsk II Protocol which provides several sections which apply to or impact foreign volunteers involved in this conflict. A pardon and amnesty, pullout foreign formations and mercenaries and disarmament of illegal groups are defined as follows:

5. Provide pardon and amnesty by way of enacting a law that forbids persecution and punishment of persons in relation to events that took place in particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine.

10. Pullout of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, and also mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under OSCE supervision. Disarmament of all illegal groups.

Continue reading The faith of foreign volunteers in the Ukrainian Conflict