Tag Archives: Donbass

The Odessa Massacre – Part 1: Traumas and emotions

People will respond different when confronted with traumatic experiences and emotions. Some will be silent for a while, locked inside themselves with their thoughts. Others will scream and shout to express their feelings, anger or frustration. When I am confronted with emotional trauma, two things happen. The first thing that happens is that I become unaware of my surroundings and I stop caring that everything is in the right place. Anyone who knows me, knows that this is very strange behavior for me. The second things that happens is that I start to feel my feet, the feet I don’t have any more for over a decade. This might be difficult to imagine but I literally feel my feet turn cold and I already know that when I will be finally able to sleep, my night will be disrupted by phantom pains and nightmares of the explosion.

The evening of 2 May 2014 started very nice for me and nothing pointed at having my feet turn cold that day. After a good wheel-tennis tournament in which I managed to finish in 3rd place, my friends and I went to our favorite fish-restaurant overlooking the harbor of Amsterdam. When the food was being served, I noticed an incoming call from a friend in Odessa but I decided to call him back after dinner. A decision I still regret! We enjoyed our food and some nice wine and when we left the restaurant I remembered the missed call and tried to call my friend back. Busy signal, it took me some attempts before I could finally reach him.

They are killing us! Our people are burning, they are killing us!

A very hectic conversation, panic and fear in his voice. Bits and pieces of what has happened and what was happening. My feet turned cold while trying to understand what my friend was telling me. A protest and a counter-protest escalated, people locked up in a building, shots fired, fire everywhere, the building set on fire with people inside. Many died, didn’t know how many but must be many. Escaped with his younger brother, beaten by hooligans. Cousin still missing, very worried and afraid.

Continue reading The Odessa Massacre – Part 1: Traumas and emotions

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Val Lisitsa – When a voice is silenced by lies…

While plotting the downfall of the Soviet Union, months before the referendum which gave Ukraine its independence and empowered Yeltsin to complete his struggle for power, Yeltsin addressed the status of Donbass, Odessa and Crimea with his Ukrainian counterpart and co-conspirator. When confronted with a crystal clear statement that Ukraine was not willing to give up any of its territory, Yeltsin stated that “with a bleeding heart, Russia must pay the price of giving up the Russian cities of Kharkov, Donetsk, Mariupol and Odessa to gain its own independence” and his counterpart only noticed later that Yeltsin did not mention Crimea in this statement. Several months later, during their final personal meeting in Minsk before the collapse of the Soviet Union, both future presidents agreed that there will be no resettlement of citizens between their countries and the current borders will be accepted by all parties involved.

During his flight back to Moscow, Yeltsin told his aide that he would “bring back the mines and farmlands of Donbass to Russia when the time is right and make sure the harbors of Mariupol, Odessa and Sevastopol will once again fly the Russian flag” but that for now he would go along with the agreement. His aide noted in his memoirs that Yeltsin didn’t even bother to mention the people involved and that he wondered how Yeltsin was planning to come back on an agreement he had just committed to. As a result of this agreement, former citizens of the Soviet Union living in Donbass woke up on New Year’s Day as citizens of Ukraine without being asked for their will. A country with which they had neither emotional nor historical ties for in all they were, they were Russians in their hearts and their souls. Forced to be citizens of a country they didn’t belong to, a country which never truly accepted them and abandoned by the future presidents during negotiations over power.

It is those people who Val Lisitsa speaks up for, it is those people who Val gives a voice when nobody involved in the current political environment is willing to listen. Those citizens of Donbass, who were and are deprived of their Human Right of Self-Determination, are the people to whom Val feels connected most and all Val wants is that they will finally be granted that right which is firmly anchored in the Charters of the United Nation, the right of self-determination. And if the outcome of that right of self-determination will be that the majority will democratically decide to remain citizens of Ukraine in the current system and rulings, Val will be the first to accept that, as difficult as it will be for her. That is the Val I know and respect.
Continue reading Val Lisitsa – When a voice is silenced by lies…

Flight #MH17 – Countering the sickening blame games on this dark day

It has been a dark difficult day for me like for so many others today. Remembering the victims of Flight MH17, thinking about everything that was written and said about this horrible incident, including my own words. We wend to church today, my girlfriend and newly found family at my side. We mourned together, we prayed together. We were close, as family and that means more to me than I am able to express. Back at my aunt’s house, tears overwhelmed me and I cried, my family cried with me. Again I felt flashes of anger boiling inside me, feelings I don’t want to have but I can’t avoid. My aunt sensed it, held my hand and just sat there with me. I felt what it means to have a family on this dark sad day.

And then I got a message from my dear friend Anna, a shocking message which sums up all the damage done by all the blame games going on since the massacre of Flight MH17. She wrote me “Do you hate me today?”. I tried to call her immediately but she didn’t answer the calls. But she wrote another message. “Your press all say we did it. Please don’t hate me for this!”.

My dear sweet friend finally answered the phone after many tries.

I don’t hate you, how could I hate you? Why should I hate you, you are my friend!

But they all blames us for killing your people a year ago. They all hate us for it, you also.

I don’t care what they write or what they say and no matter what, I don’t hate you. You are my friend!

But what if it was us? What if we did this?

We both know it wasn’t you and we both don’t know who it was. We will have to wait what the investigations show and no matter what it will show, it wasn’t you.

Will you still talk to me when they say it was us?

When that happens, I will talk even more to you than I do now. You are my friend, we have been friends since we were kids.
Continue reading Flight #MH17 – Countering the sickening blame games on this dark day

Flight #MH17 – Who allowed this to happen?

There are ongoing investigation into the crash of Flight MH17 by JIT and DSB which might or might not identify who is responsible for the attack on the commercial airliner in 17 July 2014. But there is another question to be answered which might help saving lives in the future:

Who allowed this to happen?

A friend does trainings coachings on the topic of Health and Safety for companies and his booklet provides a practical checklist for incidents every manager should ask himself whenever an incident occurred.. Two questions from this checklist keep circling my mind in relation to the crash of Flight MH17:

What have you done to prevent this?

What will you do to prevent this from happening again?

Looking at the days before the attack on Flight MH17 and at the current situation in various war-zones and unstable regions around the world, the answer to both questions appears to be “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

Continue reading Flight #MH17 – Who allowed this to happen?

Flight #MH17 – Investigations and jurisdiction

After the downing of Flight MH17 over embattled Eastern Ukraine on 17/07/2014, killing 298 civilians on board the plane, 3 (!) investigations were initiated by two separated bodies of authority:

  1. The Dutch Safety Board (DSB), under authority of the United Nations body International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and in agreement with the Ukrainian State Aviation Administration (SAA) and Ukrainian National Bureau of Incidents and Accidents Investigation of Civil Aircraft (NBAAII) , opened the Aviation Security Investigation for the incident in which it is to determine what caused the crash of Flight MH17 and is also expected to provide recommendations to prevent such incidents in the future. The DSB has published a preliminary report in which it excluded technical and human failure as possible causes for the crash. An updated reported was distributed to the participants, being:
    1. The Netherlands (*)
    2. Ukraine (*)
    3. Russian Federation
    4. United States of America
    5. Malaysia
    6. United Kingdom
    7. Belgium (*)
    8. Australia (*)
  2. The DSB under the same authority, opened an investigation into the decision making process under which the airspace over embattled Eastern Ukraine was not closed prior to the incident, despite multiple aviation incidents in which military planes have been shutdown from various flight levels in the days prior to the crash of Flight MH17.
  3. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) (*), per agreement between the member countries under the leadership of the Justice Department of The Netherlands, opened the criminal investigation into the crash of Flight MH17 in which it will seek evidence of the guilty party/parties and adequate evidence for prosecution.

Although these investigations by the DSB and JIT will have significant overlap in available data and resources, it is important to understand the difference. First and foremost, the DSB will focus on the Aviation Safety related issues of the incident and recommendation for prevention. This investigation is bound by the rules of and authorized by the ICAO, which also stipulates that all ICAO members are obliged to participate in and contribute to the investigation on request of the leading committee. ICAO also stipulates that all members are bound to recognize the final outcome of the investigation and the ruling by the investigative body. None of this applies to the work of the JIT!

Continue reading Flight #MH17 – Investigations and jurisdiction

Flight #MH17 – It happened before, a sad history of attacks on commercial airlines

It has been almost a year since Flight MH17 was attacked and brought down over Eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 innocent civilians on board the commercial airliner. Although we are still under shock of this horrible incident and the next of kin of the victims are still struggling with the traumas of this dramatic event, this is by far an unique incident. It happened before and it might happen again. This is an overview of the sad recent history of attacks on commercial airlines:

  • Iranian Air Flight 655 was shot down on 03/07/1988 by the USA, killing 290 innocent civilians on board.
  • Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 was shot down on 04/10/2001 by Ukraine, killing 78 innocent civilians on board.
  • Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down on 17/07/2014 killing 298 innocent civilians on board and it is still to be determined who is responsible for this incident.

These flights have several facts in common:

  • All flights were registered standard commercial flights flying within their agreed flight path under internationally recognized Air Traffic Control.
  • All flights were transmitting international standard identification codes which clearly identified them as commercial flights.
  • All flights were shot down by military air defense systems.
  • At first, those responsible for this horrible incident denied responsibility…

Flight MH17 has however some facts which set it aside from the 2 other very traumatic incidents: Continue reading Flight #MH17 – It happened before, a sad history of attacks on commercial airlines

The Kosovo Precedent and what it means for Donbass and the rest of the world!

A Precedent is in most legal systems a binding ruling by an authorized Higher court which sets a framework for future cases with identical or at least very similar conditions and circumstances. Most published Precedents consist of the ruling itself and a detailed explanatory annotation to how and under which conditions this ruling should apply to future cases. A formal Precedent is seen as the application of the applicable laws and rules to a particular combination of conditions and circumstances. In future cases, the parties involved can plea to have this Precedent applied to the case at hand, or of course, argue that conditions and circumstances differ to the extend that this Precedent should not apply to this particular case.

In principal, a Precedent is valid until it is either overruled by a higher legal authoritative institution or when a Precedent is developed which specifies further conditions and circumstances to which it should apply. Depending on the legal system, the authoritative value Precedents can vary but most countries only accept rulings by Higher Courts as binding authoritative Precedent, referred to as Case Law. Rulings by Lower or Common Courts can be applied to similar cases but have no binding authoritative value, meaning that they are not binding for the Courts.

Beside the legal way of creating and applying Precedent Rulings and Cases, there is also the practical variation of Precedent Cases. In such practical Precedents, there is no actual ruling by a Court on the particular case. What is referred to as the Precedent is the mode of operation, actions and activities or lack thereof by a certain party under certain circumstances and conditions which would, following the principals of the Legal application of Precedents, also apply to other parties which conducted in the same manner and under the same or similar conditions and circumstances. Although such practical Precedents are not documented and annotated, it is common practice to argue that when Party A can or can not, then Party B can or can not as well under the same conditions.

What is commonly referred to as the “Kosovo Precedent”, actually consists of 3 components:

  1. The advisory opinion on the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo by the International Court of Justice.
  2. The practical Precedent created by the deployment and use of foreign military force to implement the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo.
  3. The practical Precedent created limiting the jurisdiction of the responsible Tribunal to the native forces, individuals and authorities involved in the conflict and thereby excluding the foreign forces involved in the conflict from the jurisdiction of the responsible Tribunal.

Continue reading The Kosovo Precedent and what it means for Donbass and the rest of the world!

Gorlovka or what is left of it

Last week I was planning to write about Gorlovka, one of many friendly places I visited during the summer of 2012. Not a big city with flair and extravaganza and no ambition to become such a place. Just a typical town for this region. Schools, small and large businesses, students, bars, restaurants, churches, a famous cathedral. Nothing out of the ordinary and still very special. Special because the place is filled with friendly people. Or to be more precise, was filled with friendly people. Since the uprising in South-East Ukraine against the regime in Kiev, Gorlovka has been the center of war. Shelling of houses, buildings, infrastructure and even churches has become an almost daily routine. In the past days, the violence against this once peaceful town has escalated again and lives were lost, again. Children died and others were badly wounded.

I wanted to call a friend’s friend of whom I know he still has family living in Gorlovka but then my blood froze and I feared to hear bad news again. During my trip in 2012, I met so many friendly people of whom I don’t even know now if they are still alive. One evening, we ended up in a bar and watched the football game of the European Championships. We had a couple of beers, we ate some local food, we talked with many people. About the game, about the weather, about my wheelchair, about music. Smiling grim looks when I told them my father was Czech because the Czech Republic won the finals from Russia in hokey, followed by becoming “nascha Pavel” and a round of free beer when I added that my mother was Russian. Explaining that some day I will learn to speak Russian and the challenge to start right there at that moment. My friend from Moscow and our exchange student from Lugansk joking that they should learn to speak proper Russian themselves first and as always the classical joke “visit Russia before Russia visits you”.

Continue reading Gorlovka or what is left of it

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