European air traffic control regulator urged Kiev to close the south-east of the country for civilian aircraft days before the MH17 flight was downed near Donetsk, but the plea was ignored by the Ukrainian authorities, a new report claims.
Eurocontrol experts spoke privately to their Ukrainian colleagues about the danger of the situation in the east of the country, unnamed sources in the organization told the Sunday Times newspaper.
They were reportedly concerned that by that time anti-Kiev militias had already downed about 20 Ukrainian military planes; that the communication frequencies were jammed in the Donetsk Region; and that the Russian and Ukrainian air-traffic controllers couldn’t exchange information.
However, Eurocontrol lacks power to affect national governments’ decisions, and Kiev continued to allow civil planes to use airspace over war-torn Donetsk and Lugansk regions, the report said.
Ukraine only agreed to raise the minimum height, at which civilian aircraft were required to fly over the region from 8 to 9.7 kilometers.
On July 17, Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight crashed in south-eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
The victims came from 10 nations, with the majority of the passengers having been citizens of the Netherlands.
The investigations by the Dutch Safety Board and an international investigation team are still underway, with Kiev and the militias trading blame for the tragedy.
The Boeing 777 was allegedly shot down, but it still unclear if it was done by a surface-to-air missile or by a military plane.
The families of some of the MH17 victims are suing Ukraine in the European Court of Human Rights for refusing to shut down the airspace over the battle zone.
“I blame the Ukrainian authorities for not closing the airspace and Malaysia Airlines for not taking a decision to avoid it,” Robby Oehlers, who lost a cousin in the crash, told Sunday Times.
The lives of passengers of Malaysian jet were lost due to financial and political reasons, Elmar Giemulla, a lawyer for the families of four German victims.
“Presumably the Ukrainian authorities wanted to avoid losing the revenue from transit fees — up to $1 billion per year — and also for political reasons, as shutting your airspace means admitting a loss of control and a loss of sovereignty,” Giemulla said.
Eurocontrol (European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation) coordinates and plans air traffic control for all of Europe since 1960.
The organization currently has 40 member states, with Ukraine having joined in 2004.