Channel NewsAsia

Malaysians angry MH17 victim of Ukraine-Russia conflict

The ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine have seemed distant to most Malaysians. But when a Malaysian Airline aircraft crashed on July 17, that conflict hit very close to home.

KUALA LUMPUR: On Thursday, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in east Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard.

American and Ukrainian authorities believe the plane was shot down -- a casualty of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Both governments have pledged full cooperation in the investigations into the crash. But will that be enough to appease the anger of Malaysians after the loss of 43 of their fellow citizens?

Before July 17, the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine seemed rather remote and distant to most Malaysians. But when a Malaysian Airline aircraft crashed some 50 kilometres from the Russia-Ukraine border, that distant conflict hit very close to home.

Accusations are flying from both the Russian and Ukrainian governments about what exactly happened to flight MH17. But looking beyond which side was responsible, the consensus from both sides is that the plane was shot down after it was mistakenly identified.

Many Malaysians, including politicians, are angry. 298 people, including 43 Malaysians, have become innocent casualties of the conflict that has now taken on even greater geopolitical significance.

Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang tweeted: "Whatever internal conflict arise in Ukraine-Russia, it has nothing to do with Malaysia. Leave us out of it. #MH17 doesn't deserve such fate.”

One Malaysian said: "Whether it's Russia or Ukraine, I think everybody has to sit down to discuss it, and come up with a solution. And no more lives to be lost in such a horrible way."

Ukraine's ambassador to Malaysia Ihor V Humennyi said his nation shares Malaysia's grief.

"I understand that there are some feelings here that -- why it happened to us? It's clear, there is no intention. But there is a war and that is actually happening without any intention of course from our army or government, because we're not involved at all.

“I would like to apologise to the people of Malaysia and those who were on this aircraft, and this poor Malaysia Airlines that's already twice hit,” he said.

The Malaysian government isn't assigning blame just yet, though it wants a ceasefire in the conflict zone to make way for a fair and independent investigation, which Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said his nation should be part of.

"It has to be an independent investigation team, but Malaysia must be part of the team,” Najib said.

Both Russia and Ukraine have pledged their support to help make this possible.

Ihor V Humennyi said: "For us it's very important to provide the safety work for these people in the area. Unfortunately this area, it is controlled by the separatist groups and as of today, according to my knowledge, the government managed to agree with them that there will be a safety square, 20 by 20 kilometres.

"I would like Malaysians, because I sometimes receive some calls, to be more patient and to wait when we will find out the result.”

In the meantime, Malaysia's Prime Minister has called on Malaysians to unite in prayer, in the hope that no more tragedies befall the nation. 

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia