The Dutch-led international inquiry into the MH17 shootdown has clearly anticipated the organised denial that would follow its publication.
This is evident from the extraordinarily degree of thoroughness in its forensic examination of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.
The inquiry was far more thorough than would have been required simply to confirm that an unidentified missile brought the aircraft down.
But as far as Russia and the eastern Ukrainian rebels are concerned this careful work is irrelevant. They can claim truthfully – although not with honest intent – that the wreckage was not secured, and that it could have been tampered with.
That makes them untouchable in law unless even more detailed evidence is uncovered that proves precisely where the missile was launched from.
Actually, there is a chance that evidence may be found.
But even if it’s not, the care to which the Dutch-led investigation has gone to identify the precise physical damage to the aircraft and chemical traces on the airframe is such that the report has real credibility: it makes clear that a Russian-built Buk missile did to the Malaysia 777 and its passengers and crew what Buk missiles are supposed to do.
The consequence of this report’s credibility is that the credibility of the deniers will be fatally damaged in the eyes of the global community as a whole.
So what else has the world learned as a result of MH17?
The day that MH17 happened the world’s airlines learned that intelligence about the safety of high level airspace is not guaranteed. Ukraine had closed its airspace below 32,000ft in the belief the rebels only had limited-performance weaponry. They were wrong.
ICAO has since set up a system for improving the communication of intelligence about conflict zones to airlines. But they could be wrong too.
So should airlines, from now on, avoid airspace over a zone in which – it is believed – small arms only are being used?…on the grounds that they might be misinformed about that too.
No easy answers here.