Ten days ago, the announcement of the crash of a Tu-154 airliner en route from Tel-Aviv to Novosibirsk simultaneously with a Ukrainian air defense live-fire exercise in Crimea, alarmed many of us. But a glimmer of hope has remained: we would like to believe that the disaster was caused by something other than a Ukrainian missile. Our military sounded too confident when they insisted on their not being involved in the plane crash. On October 11 the special investigatory commission completed a preliminary inquiry about the accident. The Day offers our readers some available extracts from the conclusions this commission made.
“A technical commission of the International Aviation Committee (IAC), in conjunction with civil aviation experts of the Ministry of Transportation of the Russian Federation, experts from research and industrial organizations, and experts of the civilian and military agencies of Israel and Ukraine, has conducted a thorough study of the airplane’s structural fragments, technical in-flight instruction documentation, visual control data from the Rostov air traffic control center subordinated to the Strela North Caucasus Center, radar data from Gelendzhik and Sochi, recordings of the ground-based crew to control tower voice recorder, and fragments of the antiaircraft missile warhead. These data have enabled the commission to make the following conclusions: the Tu-154M aircraft and its crew were prepared to carry out the flight in compliance with existing requirements; the flight proceeded on schedule from the airport of departure through the air space of Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, and in the jurisdiction area of the Strela North Caucasus Automated Air Traffic Control Center until the emergency arose; the crash occurred following the destruction of the aircraft by the warhead of an antiaircraft missile, while the plane was on a scheduled Tel-Aviv to Novosibirsk flight at the proper altitude along the B-145 international air corridor to which no restrictions, even temporary ones, apply (NOTAM).
“Damage from live ammunition to the airplane’s structural fragments and the available warhead compact steel elements are being further studied at the State Research Institute of the Russian Ministry of Defense, with participation of Russia’s leading design bureaus and R&D organizations, in order to find out the conditions of engagement, the type of the engaging device and its flight trajectory.
“On the night of October 11 a comparative analysis was made of the available samples of the missile warhead’s elements found in the salvaged parts of the airplane and in the items that do not belong to the aircraft.
“Also studied were radar blips not related to the airplanes then within the Gelendzhyk radar airspace.
“The State Commission has considered and accepted the conclusions and proposals of the report submitted by the technical commission.”
The truth has to be stated immediately. Even the most terrible confessed truth elevates a person and inspires hope that the committed crime might indeed be an unfortunate accident. In any case, an honest and open stand leaves no place for conjecture and insinuation: responsibility is only for what was committed and is to be borne by precisely the person who did it.
Nobody is guaranteed against tragic accidents. A loaded weapon can fire, and tragedy can occur at the most unexpected time and place. Human heads occasionally come under lethal debris at the Kyiv General Post Office or an ordinary residential balcony, to say nothing about highways where death might be seen as an everyday occurrence. Yet, it is one thing when a driver, who had not intended to have an accident, immediately rushes to help the victim and offset the consequences of what he did and it is quite different when a hit-and-run driver supposedly fails to notice the pedestrian he inadvertently ran down.
This is an example of an inner lie. What is much more terrible is an outward lie. The Chornobyl disaster signaled the Soviet Union’s final loss of world prestige. The awkward attempts to conceal the truth doomed that system. From then on, nobody ever believed it even if it was speaking the sincere truth with the best intentions.
Let us not discuss the trust Ukrainian citizens have in their leaders: this is a complicated issue, and now is not the time. Quite a different thing is the external image of this country, already much tarnished last year by the notorious cassette scandal. We will perhaps never know the cost in terms of the damage our politics and economy incurred due to the revelations of a presidential security major. For the real blame must be put not so much on the major himself, who raised the issue or the political forces which kept this scandal unfolding as on the generals who were supposed to prevent the so-called Melnychenko tapes from being made public. The problems began when each of those responsible for the information leak from this country’s top office began to defend himself by means of less than graceful lies. Instead of resigning and demanding an unbiased inquiry, the police and security chiefs opted for face-saving without thinking overly much about how easily their versions could fizzle. If it had been admitted immediately after the recordings were made public that they really existed and all those involved in this had resigned, the general public would have concentrated itself on tracking down those responsible for bugging or would have completely switched over to something else. For it does not befit a decent person to take interest in what was eavesdropped or peeped through a keyhole in the office of another decent person. Having displayed indecency and no feeling of personal responsibility for a royally botched job, the former police and security ministers gave the green light to their still more indecent opponents.
As to the Brovary tragedy (when a missile accidentally hit an apartment house — Ed.), it will be recalled dozens of times. At that time the top military leadership was caught red-handed when trying to deceive their own people and got away with it. It is for this reason that General Kuzmuk, standing at the Verkhovna Rada rostrum, was overtly wriggling his way out instead of admitting in the courageous manner befitting a soldier his fault and then cooperating with the investigation. The story about his alleged earlier offer of resignation, made public after the fact, further widened the seemingly infinite chasm of mistrust.
The truth can only be that our military from the very beginning knowingly misinformed not only the media and the outside world but also their own president who had to wait as long as a week for official confirmation of a fact known universally. You can only imagine the sinister glee of the all but forgotten radical opposition within this country. The opposition’s exultation is quite clear, for there is again an occasion for foreign institutions to denigrate this country. Our friends are also perplexed with and cornered by the ungentlemanly behavior of the Ukrainian military. In addition, the state has certain strategic interests, both military and economic. What losses will our export- oriented defense industry incur due to the generals’ lies, how will foreigners look at our military who promote Ukraine’s prestige by engaging in risky business by sending peacekeeping units to various nooks and crannies of the planet?
The maxim that truth is the most valuable commodity is over a thousand years old. How many years will it take the Ukrainian bearers of generals’ stars to understand not so much the laws of any officer’s honor, albeit belatedly, as the eternal maxim that speaking the truth is to everybody’s advantage? Or is the point only in the office held?
Ukrainian Defense Minster Oleksandr Kuzmuk made an official statement, apologizing for the Russian Tu-154 passenger airliner accidentally shot down by Ukraine air defenses. “I beg the forgiveness of all those near and dear to those who perished. I beg the forgiveness of the president, government, parliament, and people of Ukraine for the damage inflicted on this country’s prestige,” he told a press conference given by Ukrainian Air Defense Commander Volodymyr Tkachov on October 13. Mr. Tkachov in turn said that he and his deputy in charge of the air defense exercise had tendered their resignations simultaneously with the defense minister. He stressed, however, that he personally regarded the occurrence as a bizarre accident.
President Leonid Kuchma declared that Ukraine is prepared to assist the families whose relatives died onboard the Russian Tu-154, shot down by a Ukrainian missile on October 4 and that he was familiar with the Russian commission’s preliminary findings to the effect that the passenger jet was accidentally hit by a Ukrainian rocket fired during an air defense exercise. “Of course, the final commission report will be submitted after the experts have completed their detailed studies and submit their findings, but even now it is possible to say that a great tragedy has taken place,” he said.