A German company is offering a $30 million bounty for the identities of the individuals responsible for downing Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine this summer.
Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are suspected of firing surface-to-air missiles at the civilian aircraft, which crashed July 17 while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board. A preliminary report carried out by Dutch investigators said that the crash was the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing plane from the outside.
Wifka, an independent German fraud investigation company, said that the money — provided by an anonymous client — will not be given away lightly. The reward will only be delivered to someone able to give detailed information on who shot down MH17, who gave the order to shoot down the plane, and who is covering up their tracks, according to Wifka.
"After the terrible assassination or 'accident,' all political parties, at home and abroad, said they owed it to the victims, their families and the public to clarify the circumstances of the crash and present evidence for what happened," the company said in a statement. "None of this has yet been done."
The list of requirements for the reward also includes information on whether the plane was shot by accident or out of political, economic, or military motivation. The company is also seeking details of the circumstances that led to the incident, the weapon used, and what happened to the people involved.
"The money is securely deposited in Zurich, Switzerland," Wifka said. "It will be paid there or in a different neutral place of the whistle-blower's choice."
The company added that their client has also offered to give the tipster a new identity if necessary.
Concessions to Rebels
Two months exactly from the day of the MH17 crash, Ukraine is still in turmoil. Despite the announcement of a ceasefire 12 days ago, Ukrainian troops have been pushed back on multiple fronts in the last two weeks.
Amnesty offers from President Petro Poroshenko to those who had not committed serious crimes in the east have been largely rejected, and Ukraine's parliament approved laws Tuesday that give rebels de facto control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, a move that has infuriated many protesters and activists.
Vitaly Zhuravsky, an MP who belongs to a party described as pro-Russian, was thrown by angry crowds into a dumpster.
Ukrainian lawmakers did manage to ratify an agreement Tuesday that brings the country closer to joining the European Union. The pact is the same one that former president Viktor Yanukovych backed out of signing last year, leading to the protests that sparked the revolution and ongoing conflict that has so far killed more than 3,000 and displaced 310,000.
"No nation has ever paid such a high price to become Europeans," Poroshenko said, referring to soldiers killed in the fighting and the early deaths of anti-government protesters.
The agreement would make Ukraine compliant with EU standards in the areas of human rights, security, and arms control. It would also have removed trade barriers, but negotiations with Russia last week led to the postponement of the free-trade aspect of the agreement until 2016.
Poroshenko, a candy magnate-turned-politician who won 54 percent of the vote in the election following Yanukovych's removal, told an audience of political experts, journalists, and senior European officials gathered in Kiev on September 13 that there could be "no military solution to this conflict."
Despite the ceasefire, NATO officials said this week that about 1,000 Russian troops remain on Ukrainian soil. Six people were killed by crossfire when rebels attacked Donetsk airport on Sunday.
Seeking More US Aid
A diplomatic solution to the conflict will be undoubtedly be on Poroshenko's agenda when he arrives Thursday in Washington to address Congress and speak with President Barack Obama. The country's parliamentary elections are due to be held October 26.
More economic and military aid from the US will also be a topic of discussion, although concerns about corruption, as well as fears about escalating the military conflict with Russia, mean that Poroshenko could leave Washington empty handed.
Paving the way for more government accountability, Ukraine passed a law Tuesday that allows the removal of corrupt officials from their positions. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk has said that Ukraine will screen roughly 1 million civil servants to root out lingering corruption from the previous regime. The law targets individuals who worked under Yanukovych, as well as former senior members of the Communist Party and KGB.
The US and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have already pledged a total of $60 million in non-lethal aid, which includes food rations, body armor, and communications equipment, plus $17 billion in bailout money. Ukraine's Central Bank says that the country's economy may shrink up to 10 percent this year.
Photo via Flickr