When flight MH17 was blown out of the sky over Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile it was an outrageous act of banditry that must not go unpunished.
The crisis over Ukraine has been initiated and driven by Russia at every step. Whatever details emerge over the downing of the Malaysian airliner on Thursday, it is here that the ultimate responsibility lies.
A year ago the Kremlin decided it could not accept that Ukraine sign a free-trade agreement with the EU that had been ready since 2012. Moscow initiated severe economic measures as well as a nasty propaganda campaign to force Kiev to ditch the agreement and opt for the Kremlin-centred Eurasian Union it hoped to establish.
The invasion of Crimea was a clear violation of fundamental principles of European security and international law.
However, Moscow’s aims were not limited to Crimea. There was clearly an intention to carve up Ukraine. In his presidential address in the Kremlin on March 18, Vladimir Putin laid out a revisionist vision of uniting all the lands where Russians live.
There is little doubt that Russia has been supporting the armed gangs trying to take over parts of eastern Ukraine.
A crucial part of this has been a brutal propaganda offensive which has spread fear and division in Ukrainian society.
In the past a war was initiated by an artillery barrage, today it is by a misinformation campaign.
In Ukraine, propaganda supported an initial phase in which groups of so-called “green men” armed men in distinctive combat fatigues but no revealing insignia took control of some buildings in the east.
In the past few weeks however, especially after the separatists rejected a peace plan offered by Petro Poroshenko, heavy weaponry has increasingly been turning up with them. Russian forces have also been redeployed close to Ukraine’s border.
The separatists claimed to have the surface-to-air missile system now seen as the one that probably brought down MH17. If true, one can assume they did not buy it at the local store.
Three things are now imperative. The first is to identify and bring to justice those directly and indirectly responsible for this outrageous act. The international community should not rest until that has been done.
The second is to assist Ukraine in every way possible and lastly the conflict must end.
Mr Poroshenko’s peace plan has the support of the EU, and provides a realistic basis for a political solution.
This needs Moscow to engage constructively with the effort to apprehend those responsible for the shooting down of MH17.
They must stop their propaganda campaign, and end its support of the separatists and accept that Ukraine is an independent European country. The stability of large parts of the Europe are at stake.