TIME remembrance

The World Marks the First Anniversary of the MH17 Aviation Disaster

One year on, investigations into the tragedy are still ongoing

Friday marks one year since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

The Boeing 777 was on route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it crashed in pro-Russian rebel-held territory on July 17, 2014.

The Dutch Safety Board is due to release the final report into the cause of the crash in October, reports the BBC. It is widely believed by Kiev and Western nations that Russian-backed rebels shot down the plane. Moscow denies this and instead blames the Ukrainian military.

A criminal probe launched by a joint investigation team consisting of detectives from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine is also ongoing.

A public memorial service was held in Australia’s capital, Canberra, on Friday and a permanent memorial plaque was unveiled to commemorate the 38 Australians who died.

“In the worst of times you have displayed the strength of giants and the grace of angels and I am humbled by you,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the crowd, which included family members of those who perished. “We owe it to the dead to bring the guilty to justice.”

Memorial events are also being held in Ukraine as well as the Netherlands, from where 193 of the victims hailed.

In Kuala Lumpur, a service was held on July 11, a week before the anniversary as it would otherwise clash with the Eid al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“The end goal is clear — to bring the perpetrators to justice, and ensure they pay for this unforgivable crime,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement on the eve of the anniversary.

Malaysia is leading calls from several countries for a U.N. tribunal to prosecute those responsible for downing the flight. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected establishing an international tribunal, saying it would be counterproductive.

Meanwhile, a new video obtained by News Corp. Australia purports to show the rebels filming themselves ransacking the luggage of passengers from MH17.

In the footage, men appear to believe they have come across the wreck of a Ukrainian fighter jet but minutes later realize the aircraft is a commercial liner.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the video was “sickening to watch.”

Warning: The video contains graphic content that some viewers may find distressing

TIME Innovation

Don’t Let Ukraine Become the Next Greece

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Don’t let Ukraine become the next Greece.

By Philip Zelikow in RealClearPolitics

2. The Web that could spark revolutions and free people is dying.

By Hossein Derakhshan in Matter

3. Fracking produces millions of gallons of polluted water every day. One company figured out how to clean it.

By Rob Matheson at the MIT News Office

4. Find out why one school district is buying body cameras — for principals.

By Mackenzie Ryan in the Des Moines Register

5. Listen to what women say, not how they say it.

By Ann Friedman in the Cut

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME portfolio

See Scenes of Daily Life in a Ukrainian City Marked by War

In Mariupol, the stakes have never been higher

French photographer Jerome Sessini has spent the last 18 months covering the unrest in Ukraine. He watched the rise of the antigovernment protests in late 2013, paralyzing Kiev, after the country pivoted toward Russia under the impulsion of its then-President Viktor Yanukovych. He was at Independence Square when dozens of people were shot by snipers, and he witnessed the birth of the war in the east as pro-Russian forces fanned through the region. And last July, he was also on the scene when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed by a missile, killing nearly 300 innocents.

Sessini has returned to the east several times since then, each time documenting the changing of a society in the country’s industrial heartland and its people as the conflict rages.

At least 6,400 people have been killed in Ukraine, the United Nations recently noted, and more than 1.3 million have been displaced. Since the rebels took Debaltseve in February, fears have steadily risen that Mariupol, a key economic and transport hub, would be next. If so, it would establish a land bridge between Russia and Crimea, the province it annexed in early 2014.

In late May, Sessini arrived to Mariupol, a major port city under government control along the Sea of Azov. Earlier, he had photographed on the pro-Russian side. This time, for two weeks, he opted to remain on the predominantly Russian-speaking government-controlled side. He went in with two civilian volunteers—who were bringing food, clothing and electronics to build a drone—to see how the other side is living.

This near-certain upcoming battle has had a big impact on Mariupol, which has a population of about 460,000. “The city looks like it’s at a standstill,” Sessini tells TIME. He found a lot of shops were closed, restaurants and bars were empty, with streets largely deserted by 8PM. “You can feel the tension,” he says. “You feel this kind of sadness.”

During his visit, Sessini aimed to show daily life. He spent a fair amount of time on the tramway, turning his lens toward the souls on board and then out the windows at a city hanging in the balance as fighting rages nearby. He met a lot of young volunteers fighting on the Ukrainian side. Some of them, he was told, had been either police officers or demonstrators during the Maidan protests but were now working toward a common goal against the pro-Russian forces that fanned out across the east. Sessini worked with a translator, as many of the people he encountered weren’t naturally open with him, a foreigner. That lack of trust, he understands, is a natural part of conflict.

His photos are a powerful and tragic testament to the sea change in Ukraine. “I’ve seen the split go deeper and deeper,” Sessini says. He plans to return later in the summer—what he expects then, he’s not quite sure. He admits there is a realization among locals, as fighting has neared over the past few months, that their home city is a strategic target. They understand an assault is likely to come sooner or later. For some of them, he found, all they can do is wait.

Jerome Sessini is a French photojournalist represented by Magnum Photos.

Kira Pollack, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s Director of Photography. Follow her on Twitter @kirapollack.

Andrew Katz is a former TIME homepage editor and reporter covering international affairs. Follow him on Twitter @katz.

TIME Ukraine

Why Chechens Are Fighting Chechens in Ukraine’s Civil War

Muslim Chechen men, who fight alongside Pro-Russian rebels, pray near a checkpoint in the town of Zugres, Eastern Ukraine, on Jan. 11, 2015.
Mstyslav Chernov—AP Muslim Chechen men, who fight alongside pro-Russian rebels, pray near a checkpoint in the town of Zugres, Eastern Ukraine, on Jan. 11, 2015.

The conflict has given exiled Chechens a chance to revive an old battle against their Moscow-backed kinsmen

The Chechens arrived at about the same time on both sides of the war in eastern Ukraine. On the side of the Russians, they came last spring with no insignia on their uniforms, crossing the border into the rebel-held territory of Ukraine and taking up positions around the city of Donetsk. General Isa Munaev, by contrast, arrived on the opposite side of the front lines with a suitcase full of insignia – military berets, pins and flags bearing the symbol of Chechen independence: a wolf in repose above nine stars, each representing one of the major clans, or teips, of Chechnya.

His arrival opened one of the odder dimensions of the conflict in Ukraine. This sovereign country, which has more than enough of its own internal divisions and rivalries, has become host to a foreign conflict of Chechens versus Chechens that has been simmering elsewhere for more than a decade.

Adam Osmayev, the commander of a battalion of Chechens fighting against Russia-backed rebels, is in the town of Lysychansk, Ukraine on March 2, 2015.
Olya Engalycheva—APAdam Osmaev, the commander of a battalion of Chechens fighting against Russia-backed rebels, in Lysychansk, Ukraine on March 2, 2015.

Regardless of the peace process now easing the broader war in Ukraine, this narrow struggle is likely to continue as long as the opposing sides from Chechnya have the chance to meet each other in an active conflict zone. “It’s like a blood feud,” says Adam Osmaev, one of the key Chechen commanders participating in the war. “Politics can’t stop it.”

The feud that split Chechnya, a tiny nation of highlanders who mostly adhere to a moderate strand of Sunni Islam, began around the year 2000, when they were fighting their most recent war for independence from Russia. Under the command of President Vladimir Putin, the Russian air force systematically bombed the rebellious province into submission that year, and with no air defenses to fight back, Chechnya’s rebel leadership was broadly divided between those who grudgingly accepted Russian rule and those who kept up a guerrilla-style insurgency.

Gen. Munaev was among the latter. By his own account, he remained in Chechnya for more than five years after the war’s official end, actively participating in the resistance even as his fellow fighters turned to the use of assassinations, sabotage and terrorism in their attacks on Russian and loyalist forces. All too often, civilians were caught in the conflict, especially as Chechen rebels turned to the use of suicide bombings and took innocent hostages. In 2006, during a counter-insurgency strike in Chechnya, Munaev was gravely injured – sustaining, as he later recalled, 36 shrapnel wounds. His comrades then smuggled him through Ukraine to Europe to seek treatment, and he received political asylum in Denmark soon after.

By that point, Chechnya was firmly under the control of a young warlord named Ramzan Kadyrov, whom Putin had entrusted in 2004 to stamp out what remained of the local insurgency. The result was a vicious internecine struggle. A brawny boxing fan with a private zoo full of carnivores, Kadyrov oversaw the hunt for rebel leaders in the mountains of Chechnya and allowed no resistance to Russian rule, often referring to Putin as a kind of surrogate father. Even in exile, Kadyrov’s enemies would often wind up dead – some assassinated in Europe, others in Turkey or Dubai – even though Kadyrov denied personally ordering their murders.

The exiled Munaev seemed undeterred. Having recovered from his injuries in Denmark, he set up a political activist group to campaign for Chechen independence, and he stubbornly renounced any Chechen who agreed to talk of reconciliation with Kadyrov or his representatives. “This war never ended for us,” says his close friend and associate in Denmark, the exiled Chechen statesman Ilyas Musayev. “The thought of any contact with those who have betrayed Chechnya, who have killed their own tribesmen, causes a Chechen terrible pain,” Musayev told TIME during an interview at his apartment near Copenhagen in late 2009.

He conceded, however, that little could be done from exile to change the situation in Chechnya, and as time past, their old insurgency died down. Russia felt secure enough in 2010 to abolish martial law in the region, and a sense of normalcy returned to Chechnya as its bombed-out cities were rebuilt with money from Moscow.

The war in eastern Ukraine, which broke out last spring, provided the exiled Chechens with their first chance in years to take up arms against Russia again. Munaev didn’t miss the opportunity. Weeks after Russia set off the conflict by invading and annexing the region of Crimea, Munaev arrived in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, with his suitcase of Chechen flags and patches.

Forty-eight years old at the time, he must have seemed a strange volunteer to the Ukrainian military officers who received him. But in their desperate search for experienced fighters – Ukraine’s armed forces were hopelessly unprepared for a war with Russia – Munaev was a valuable paramilitary asset. So Ukraine’s military provided him with a cache of small arms, and he was quickly allowed to form a unit called the Dudaev Battalion, which began serving alongside the Ukrainian army last spring. (The unit was named after the late Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, a former Soviet air force general who ruled Chechnya during its years of de facto independence from 1991 until 1996, when he was killed in a Russian airstrike.)

At a press conference in October, Munaev made clear his motives for coming to fight in Ukraine: “If Ukraine loses, Chechnya will lose,” he said, his voice seeming to falter with emotion. “Fighting here in the defense of Ukrainian freedom, we are defending our own freedom, our own statehood.” By that logic, he urged all Chechen exiles to take up the call to arms as a revival of their bygone war against Russia, and dozens of them have.

According to the battalion’s officers, about a quarter of their roughly 200 fighters are Chechens who have mostly come from their exiles in Turkey and various parts of Europe. Half of them are Ukrainian, while the rest are a mixed bag of former Soviet military veterans, mostly from Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Over the past year, they have participated in some of Ukraine’s fiercest battles against pro-Russian separatist forces, often doing the dangerous work of reconnaissance behind enemy lines. But Munaev’s role as their commander did not last long. In February, during a vicious battle for control of the strategic railroad juncture of Debaltseve, he was killed in action while on a reconnaissance mission with a handful of his men. His deputy commander Osmaev, a far younger and less experienced fighter from Chechnya, then took over command of the unit.

Back in their homeland, Kadyrov was elated at the news, taking it as his chance to tell all Chechens not to follow in Munaev’s footsteps. “Stop immediately!” he wrote on his Instagram account. “This is not your war. Go home now. This is your chance to stay alive.”

It seemed an ironic piece of advice for Kadyrov to offer. At least since May, dozens of his loyal fighters from Chechnya have gone to aid the pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, and he has repeatedly warned the government in Kiev that he would send more of them to arrest Ukrainian politicians or help the separatists carry the fight. He has even offered to join the war himself if Putin gives him leave.

During a visit to Chechnya in April, TIME interviewed one officer of the region’s Interior Ministry forces who says he served a brief tour in eastern Ukraine last year. Before the deployment, he says he and the other men in his unit went on leave from active duty, allowing their commanders in Russia and Chechnya to deny having sent them. “It was a formality,” he says on condition of anonymity. “That’s the way of this war.”

Though he never met a fellow Chechen on the other side of the front lines, he didn’t seem troubled by the fact that it was possible. So deep is the split within this nation that one Chechen fighter might go covertly to Ukraine from Russia, another might travel from his exile in Europe, and neither would seem bothered by the fact that, meeting on the field of battle, they would share the bonds of faith, language and kinship that have defined their identities for hundreds of years.

Driving around in his armored car in the front-line town of Lysychansk, the current commander of the Dudaev Battalion says he can’t even bring himself to call the other side Chechens anymore. “These are people who serve the historical enemy of their nation, who kill their own kin,” Osmaev tells TIME. “These aren’t Chechens. At best they’re Chechen-speaking Russians.” He doesn’t seem to care that the scorn is mutual.

TIME Ukraine

On Patrol With One of Russia’s Most Wanted in the Battle for Ukraine

TIME embedded with the Dudaev Battalion led by commander Adam Osmaev, who is wanted in Russia on terrorism charges

Last year, the people of Ukraine realized that they had, in effect, no army to defend them. Their military had been too depleted by corruption and mismanagement to mount a defense when Russia sent troops to seize the region of Crimea in February 2014. Through the following spring, armed forces mostly stood by as Russia went on to fuel a separatist rebellion in Ukraine’s eastern regions, seizing effective control of more territory and large portions of the border with Ukraine. The so-called “volunteer battalions”—poorly trained but highly motivated militias—arose to fill the holes in Ukraine’s defenses.

Over the past year, dozens of these paramilitary groups have appeared on Ukraine’s battlefields, often bearing the brunt of the fighting against Russian-backed separatist forces. They consist of anywhere from a few dozen to a few thousand troops, and their more successful commanders often enjoy the status of national celebrities. But their place in the military hierarchy of Ukraine tends to be murky. Though they get much of their heavy weaponry from government stockpiles, they mostly operate in a legal grey zone, closer to guerrillas than national guards.

Earlier this year, TIME embedded with one of the more controversial of these groups—the Dudaev Battalion—which has been carrying out reconnaissance and sabotage behind enemy lines since the war began. About half of its troops are from foreign countries, meaning that, legally, they do not have the right to serve in Ukraine’s armed forces. But their commander Adam Osmaev, who is wanted in Russia on terrorism charges, now wants to merge his force with Ukraine’s defense ministry or national police—a move that would give him access to more weapons, he says, as well as a chance to get some Western military aid.

TIME On Our Radar

Magnum Photographer Jerome Sessini Wins Olivier Rebbot Award

Crash Malaysian airways uvraine
Jerome Sessini—Magnum The remains of a passenger on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that was shot over eastern Ukraine, July 17, 2014.

From "Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: ‘Unreal’ Scenes from Photographer Jerome Sessini"

The prestigious Overseas Press Club Awards recognizes the best international journalism

Last July, Magnum photographer Jerome Sessini was in eastern Ukraine when he heard that a plane had been brought down by a surface-to-air missile.

The French photographer was one of the first journalists on the scene. His heart-wrenching images showed how a field of sunflowers in the village of Torez had been transformed into the horrific resting place for 298 passengers.

For his coverage of the macabre landscape, published in TIME, the Overseas Press Club of America has awarded Sessini the Olivier Rebbot Award.

“I am pleasantly surprised,” the photographer told TIME ahead of today’s ceremony in New York. “I’m pleased for two reasons: one, because it’s a prestigious award and, two, because Gilles Peress is one of the former recipients of that prize, and he’s always been a model for me. He’s covered conflicts with a real analytical depth, which makes all the difference.”

Sessini spent most of 2014 in Ukraine, documenting the violent protests on Maidan Square in Kiev, the MH-17 plane crash, the unrecognized rebel-led referendum in Donetsk and the impact of war on local populations in eastern Ukraine.

“My process sounds a bit contradictory,” he said. “I start by covering a breaking news event and at some point, something happens in me and I have to cover that story in the long term. The two are indissociable. I need the urgency before I can change rhythm and take the necessary distance to the subject to produce a deeper body of work.”

Sessini was particularly attracted to the story in Ukraine because it visually stimulated him while holding a historical importance. “I’ll admit it, it was a mix of egoism and altruism,” he says. “The reason I decided to do long-term work in eastern Ukraine is because I felt the local population was the biggest loser of this war. They find themselves in the middle. They’ve been ostracized by the central government of Ukraine, and they are seen as the bad guys because Russia supports them.”

Sessini will be going back to eastern Ukraine in May.

The Overseas Press Club of America has also awarded photographers Bulent Kilic of Agence France-Presse and Rodrigo Abd of Associated Press with the John Faber Award and the Feature Photograph Award, respectively.

Kilic was named TIME’s 2014 Wire Photographer of the Year.

TIME viral

Watch This Fox Actually Make His Own Sandwich

Who needs opposable thumbs when you have teeth?

Foxes are known for being clever mammals, but this fox in Chernobyl, Ukraine can assemble his own lunch.

Watch as the animal adroitly stacks bread and deli meats atop one another in a five-layered epic sandwich worthy of a professional kitchen. Aside from the food-hygiene aspect, of course.

TIME Aviation

Germany Failed to Pass on Warnings Before Plane Was Shot Down Over Ukraine

The catastrophe killed 298 people

German authorities knew of the danger of flying over eastern Ukraine before flight Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down last July but failed to pass on the warning.

Two days before the Malaysia Airlines flight was brought down, the German government was alerted that the situation had become “very worrying,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, citing the downing of a Ukrainian air force plane at a height of about 20,000 feet on July 14.

The German foreign ministry cables noted the plane’s height and its vulnerability as a “new development” to the conflict. Targets including civilian aircraft would also have been endangered at that height.

Flight 17 was destroyed three days later on July 17, killing 298 people, a catastrophe that might have been averted had Malaysia Airlines known of the dangers.

Three Lufthansa planes flew over the area on the day of the disaster. “If the government had warned our companies of this ‘new development,’ Lufthansa would surely not have flown planes over eastern Ukraine,” a Lufthansa insider told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

A Dutch-led investigation says it is likely that the plane was shot down by a Russian-made missile launcher.

[Süddeutsche Zeitung]

TIME viral

Watch an Unbelievable Dust Storm Turn Belarus Into Tatooine

This is terrifying

An incredible video has surfaced of a bizarre weather phenomenon that, within a matter of minutes, transformed day into night in the Belarus city of Soligorsk on Monday.

Thankfully, while property damage was reported in the region, nobody was injured during the storm, says the Russian news outlet RT.

A cold front near the border with Ukraine created the epic dust storm called a “haboob,” which is rare in the region at this time of year. What’s more, the storm also included heavy rain.

It appears Mother Nature reminded us that science fiction may not be so outlandish after all.

Read next: How a Dust Storm Inspired a Mass Exodus and a Great Novel

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Ukraine

Ukrainian Ally of Ousted President Found Dead

Oleg Kalashnikov in Kiev, Ukraine in 2013.
Vladimir Donsov—AP Oleg Kalashnikov in Kiev in 2013.

Eight other allies of Viktor Yanukovich have had sudden deaths in the last year

A former member of the Ukrainian parliament who opposed the popular movement that ousted President Viktor Yanukovich was found dead with gunshot wounds in Kiev.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said in a statement that the body of Oleg Kalashnikov, 52, was discovered Wednesday evening.

Kalashnikov was involved in the “anti-Maidan” protests in support of Yanukovych, who fled in February 2014. According to the BBC, at least eight Yanukovych allies have died in the last three months; most of the deaths have been deemed suicides.

[Reuters]

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com