Media: Russia closed its skies near Donbas 24h before the MH17 tragedy

“24 hours before the tragedy with the MH17 plane, Russia placed a ban on flights in the airspace neighboring the Donbas,” Russian Forbes reported, citing the Dutch Safety Board (DSB).

The ban came into force from midnight on July 17, that is, the day when the passenger plane flying the MH17 flight was shot down. “Russia suddenly, on the night of the 17th of July 2014, by issuing the document NOTAM UUUUV6158/14, placed a restriction on commercial flights to the Russian airspace neighboring with Ukraine in the zone controlled by the Rostov regional air traffic center up to an altitude of more than 16 km (up to FL530 altitude), which is comparable to the maximum range of a Buk surface-to-air missile system (roughly 18 km).

“Only 17 hours 20 minutes later, a Buk surface-to-air system shoots down the Malaysian Boeing with passengers,” the article states. According to the publication, during the investigation, the DSB asked Russia to explain the restrictions on commercial flights in the zone of responsibility of the Rostov zonal air traffic management center. Rosaviatsia (Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency) responded that this was done with the goal of “coordinating restrictive measures with airspace surrounding Ukraine”.

However, the publication notes that no such coordination was achieved, because Ukraine closed the airspace up to an altitude of 9,454m (FL320), whereas Russia closed airspace to a much higher altitude – 16,150m. It also notes that Russia did not respond to the DSB experts’ question relating to the altitude conflict. “Russia has made no response to the DSB experts’ question about the obvious conflict in the two altitudes (FL320 west of the Russian-Ukrainian border and FL530 to the east), namely, the reason Russia introduced a ban higher than the Ukrainian one, and specifically more than 16 km,” the article reports.

On July 17, the MH17’s flight route lay over the zone controlled by the Rostov zonal center, which received information about the restrictions. The Rostov controller knew that by crossing the Russian state border the Malaysian Boeing 777 was entering into a zone where commercial aviation was prohibited, and it remained silent.

On the 17th of July 2017 the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed after being hit by what was presumably a surface-to-air missile. All 298 people on board were killed.

  MH17, Donbas