They also highligh the two well-known incidents of civilian aircraft being shot down by military forces: the Korean Airlines KAL 007 over Russia’s Sakhalin Island in 1983 by Soviet air defences; and the Iran Airbus 655, shot down by a US navy warship, the Vincennes, in the Persian Gulf in 1988.
But a much more recent downing into the Black Sea off Sochi of a commercial airliner, a Russian Tu-154 jet - Siberian Airlines Flight SB 1812 - from Tel Aviv to Moscow, with the death of 66 assengers and 12 crew, occurred on 4 October 2001(“Russian and Ukrainian Officials: Missile Downed Plane,” October 12, 2001, http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=80485&page=1).
World attention at the time was the bellicose build up to the NATO invasion of Afghanistan three days later, but the cause of the crash is very relevant: it was a Ukrainian air defence ground-to-air missile system. (“ Ukraine Court Upholds Dismissal of Airline Shoot-Down Claim,” 12 November 2012; http://en.ria.ru/russia/20121211/178080469.html)
Ukraine’s Supreme Commercial Court however upheld an earlier ruling clearing the Ukrainian military of any liability for the crash, even though the Gelendzhik radar base on Russia's Black Sea coast detected an airborne object heading toward the plane from 50 kilometers away just 30 seconds before the aircraft exploded.Television pictures of the aircraft's wreckage - later recovered from the sea- showed it had been peppered with shrapnel consistent with impact of a "fragmenting" warhead.
The Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee, a civil aviation authority within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), said the crash was caused by an accidental hit from a Ukrainian S-200 surface-to-air missile strike during military training exercises.
However, the Kiev Interregional Commercial Court of Appeal, in September 2011, rejected a compensation claim from the Russian airline against the Ukraine Defense Ministry and the Ukraine State Treasury.
The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office inexplicably closed the criminal case into the accident in 2007, finding “no evidence of wrongdoing.”
This backstory shows the inexcusable shooting down of the passenger jet over Ukraine this week has a complex context, which ought to be remembered when the international community points its accusatory finger towards Moscow. Russia has suffered its own aircraft shoot-down tragedy.