Who downed Flight MH17?

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THE arguments will continue for some time as to precisely who launched the missile which brought down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, forcing it to crash in eastern Ukraine with the loss of 298 people.

But what is certain is that the military conflict being waged by Russian separatists against the Ukrainian government, a conflict which much of the world was doing its best to ignore, has claimed its most terrible price yet, a passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, claiming casualties from across the globe.

What is essential now is that the outraged governments of all those countries affected work quickly to establish the facts.

Already there are reports that the “black box” flight recorders have been recovered by Russian separatists who say they are sending them to Moscow, a clear flouting of the conventions regarding crashed passenger airliners.

Certainly, all the evidence available so far points to this tragedy being the handiwork of Russian rebels. Following the crash, their commanders were quick to deny that their forces had any weapons capable of downing a plane at such an altitude.

Yet, only last month, Russian state media congratulated the rebels on stealing a set of missile-launchers from a Ukrainian air base and said that these would now be “protecting” the skies above Donetsk.

But if Russian involvement in this tragedy is confirmed, then clearly the sanctions already in place against Moscow must be tightened considerably. Both the US and the European Union have soft-pedalled so far, apparently unwilling to upset Mr Putin too much.

Yet the tension between Moscow and Kiev has increased, rather than diminished, and there is a clear need to nip this extremely dangerous conflict in the bud regardless of this latest terrible event.

Of course, this disaster poses questions for airlines, too. Should Malaysia Airlines – a company still trying to cope with the disappearance of flight MH370 earlier this year – have plotted a different course, one that avoided the conflict zone in Ukraine? And should airlines generally take much greater effort to avoid flying over war-torn areas?

For now, however, 
the prime task is to establish the facts of this case. And then to take action against those responsible.

Curbing strikes: Tories put pressure on Labour

IF UNION leaders cannot manage to persuade more than a quarter of their members to vote in a strike ballot, then how can they have the right to close schools, disrupt children’s education and cause inconvenience for thousands of parents?

And when the ballot that authorised this action actually took place two years previously, it is surely adding insult to injury for the hard-pressed parents involved.

When these facts about last week’s National Union of Teachers strike are considered, it is hardly surprising that there is much public support for David Cameron’s plans for legislation to ensure that walkouts only occur with the support of 50 per cent of the workforce and that strikes take place within three months of the ballot authorising them.

Of course, trades unions are protesting vigorously at what they see as an appalling curtailment of workers’ rights.

Yet to any dispassionate observer, let alone those members of the public who were badly affected by last week’s strikes, these proposals seem nothing other than fair and reasonable.

Labour, who reacted to last week’s strikes in customary style by failing either to support them or condemn them, are under some pressure here.

The Conservatives are finally standing up for the public against union bullying. What will Ed Miliband’s response be?

New arrival for golden girl Jess

AMID THE grimness of the day’s events, there is heart-warming news from the golden girl of Sheffield, Jessica Ennis-Hill, who has given birth to a baby boy, Reggie.

Our warmest congratulations go to Jessica and her husband, Andy, along with the hope that, notwithstanding the demands of motherhood, she will go on to realise her ambition of achieving a second heptathlon gold at the 2016 Olympics.

Given the talent and determination which lit up the London Games two years ago, who would bet against it? Or against there now being another medallist in the family come the 2032 Games?