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Ukrainian Pilot’s Suicide Wasn’t Connected to MH17 Case


Vladyslav Voloshyn. Photo Credit: Oleg Petrasiuk, Kyiv Post
Bogdan Bezpalko

Bogdan Bezpalko

Political commentator for RIA Novosti (Rossiya Segodnya)

"Information began to leak that he did so (committed suicide) because of the difficulties associated with the reconstruction of the Nikolaev Airport, but it's hard to get rid of the thought that the other side could have eliminated him as one of the dangerous witnesses who could lift the veil of secrecy over the destruction of MH17 and thereby strengthen Russia's position, because it is quite obvious that it was not necessary and not advantageous for Russia to shoot down this aircraft, and that all this was a provocation directed against our country.”

False
Neither Voloshyn nor his suicide have anything to do with MH17.

On March 18, Ukrainian ex-military pilot Vladyslav Voloshyn died in a hospital in Mykolaiv from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Voloshyn had been decorated for his service during the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2014, when he flew an Su-25 ground attack aircraft in air support missions. During the battle of Illovaisk in August-September 2014, his plane was hit and he was forced to eject over enemy territory. After hiding in a village for several days, Voloshyn managed to escape to friendly lines.

Ukraine -- A Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 warplane at the airport in the city Vasilkov, August 21, 2009
Ukraine -- A Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 warplane at the airport in the city Vasilkov, August 21, 2009

The day after his suicide, Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency published two articles about the incident. Both mentioned that Voloshyn had been accused of shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on July 17, 2014, killing 298 people. One article cited a political commentator who alleged that Voloshyn had been killed because he was a “dangerous witness,” while another presented a Facebook post by one of Voloshyn’s friends, who claimed that Voloshyn did not suffer from depression.

In December 2014, Russia’s Investigative Committee claimed to have an anonymous witness who served as part of the ground crew on the base where Voloshyn was stationed and who could implicate him as a suspect in the downing of MH17. This witness allegedly saw Voloshyn’s plane return to base without its missiles. The witness also claimed Voloshyn looked agitated and upset after the mission. However, Voloshyn said that incident occurred six days after the downing of MH17. He also said his jet was armed with air-to-ground missiles and he was upset because two of his fellow pilots had been shot down during the mission.

Ukraine -- An armed pro-Russian separatist stands near the settlement of Grabovo, at a site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, downed by a missile in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014.
Ukraine -- An armed pro-Russian separatist stands near the settlement of Grabovo, at a site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, downed by a missile in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014.

The theory that MH17 was shot down by a military plane using an air-to-air missile has been thoroughly debunked, primarily on technical evidence. An Su-25, the plane most often alleged to have shot the airliner down, is not capable of flying high enough or fast enough (especially with weapons) to have shot down a Boeing 777 flying at MH17’s altitude at the time. More importantly, the damage to MH17 and the manner in which it was hit and broke up rule out an air-to-air missile in favor of a surface-to-air missile with a much larger warhead.

This is what the Dutch Safety Board and Joint Investigation Team concluded. According to their investigations, MH17 was shot down by a Russian-manufactured Buk surface-to-air missile system. While the RIA Novosti article mentions this, it falsely claims that the other investigations relied solely on evidence provided by Ukraine. The RIA Novosti article also mentions that Almaz-Antey, the manufacturer of the Buk, carried out its own investigation and concluded that MH17 was brought down by a Buk, but that it was fired from territory that was under the control of the Ukrainian military at the time (which was found to be incorrect).

Netherlands -- Members of a joint investigation team present the preliminary results of the criminal investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17
Netherlands -- Members of a joint investigation team present the preliminary results of the criminal investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17

The Russian Defense Ministry and its media outlet, TV Zvezda, have also alleged that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian-operated Buk surface-to-air missile. While these alternate theories at least get the weapon correct, they have been debunked by other investigations and contradict claims about Voloshyn or an air-to-air missile.

There is also the question of Voloshyn’s motive for committing suicide. The Kyiv Post reported that Voloshyn may have been in trouble with the law in connection with his position as director of Nikolaev Airport. A local journalist named Andriy Lokhmatov found correspondence between Voloshyn and a friend, in which Voloshyn expressed concern for his career and said he felt suicidal.

Also, Voloshyn’s wife and two children were in his apartment at the time of his suicide attempt, casting doubt on the idea that the gunshot was actually inflicted by an assassin. Ukrainian police have opened a case in the matter, however, and are examining several possible motives for Voloshyn’s suicide. They have also not ruled out the possibility that the shooting was an accident.

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