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MH17 Plane Crash: Britain To Urge Further Russia Sanctions

Britain is expected to push for tougher sanctions against Russia when European Union foreign ministers meet in Brussels later.The Malaysian Airlines crash in east Ukraine, which killed 298 people, is a “defining moment” for Moscow, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday.

David Cameron

Any EU deal is likely to focus on speeding up and widening sanctions.

But Mr Cameron has said there is a “reluctance” from some European countries to take more decisive action.

He has singled out a French plan to sell Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia ahead of the EU meeting.

Countries including Germany and Italy are also heavily dependent on Russian gas.

Hard-hitting sanctions

There are fears in some countries that a move against Russian energy exports could undermine the fragile recovery in the eurozone, the BBC’s Europe Editor Gavin Hewitt said.

But a deal could see sanctions on specific Russian businesses, organisations and individuals strengthened.

Mr Cameron said on Monday that Moscow was fuelling the Ukraine conflict by arming the rebels, who are accused of shooting down the jet.

He said it was unlikely the plane was shot deliberately – but warned of “hard-hitting” sanctions if Moscow did not change course on Ukraine.

The prime minister said there was “anger” at what had happened and urged Moscow to stop training separatists and supplying them with weapons.

Some 10 Britons were among the casualties when flight MH17 crashed in a pro-Russian rebel-held area last week.

‘Clear choice’

Meanwhile, rebels in eastern Ukraine have handed over two flight-data recorders from the downed plane to Malaysian experts.

And a train carrying bodies from the crash site left a station at nearby Torez for the city of Kharkiv.

Mr Cameron called for “unfettered access” to the crash site for international investigators and for bodies to be repatriated.

Addressing MPs in the Commons on Monday, the prime minister said the “weight of evidence” pointed to the jet being shot by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists and that “a conflict that could have been curtailed by Moscow, has instead been fomented by Moscow”.

He said: “President Putin faces a clear choice in how he decides to respond to this appalling tragedy. I hope he will use this moment to find a path out of this festering and dangerous crisis by ending Russia’s support for the separatists.

“If he does not change his approach to Ukraine in this then Europe and the West must fundamentally change our approach to Russia.”

Mr Cameron said the rest of the European Union could no longer “turn a blind eye” to the crisis.

If Moscow does not “change course”, he said: “Russia cannot expect to continue enjoying access to European markets, European capital, European knowledge and technical expertise while she fuels conflict in one of Europe’s neighbours.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has been meeting President Barack Obama in the United States, said: “I’m afraid what’s been done so far has been proved to be inadequate. And I think that we need to show and follow the lead that has been taken by President Obama, and Europe needs to step up.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that the EU had so far failed to “act with the right collective resolve”, but that there was “a change of mood” on sanctions.

In other developments on Monday:

  • The UN Security Council approved – with Russian support – a resolution calling for an international investigation into the crash
  • UK air crash investigators started work after arriving in the Ukrainian capital Kiev
  • Two Metropolitan Police officers were in Ukraine as part of the UK’s disaster victim identification team
  • US President Barack Obama said the onus was on Russia to resolve the Ukraine crisis, saying it had “extraordinary influence” over the rebels
  • But Mr Putin warned Western powers not to use the incident to advance “vested interests” at Russia’s expense
  • Mr Cameron also chaired a meeting of the National Security Council, which is made up of senior ministers and others, and co-ordinates efforts to safeguard UK security
  • The council “agreed that the UK should work with our European partners and the US to ensure that we do what is necessary to stand up to Russia and to make clear that they must take steps to put an end to the conflict in Ukraine”, No 10 said
  • “The first step should be further EU sanctions at the Foreign Affairs Council tomorrow with a view to ratcheting up the pressure further on Russia in the future”, it added
  • Chancellor George Osborne said fresh sanctions could harm the UK’s economy – but has warned that not acting could be “much worse”
  • People continued to contribute to an online charity appeal set up by British student Richard Mayne, who was among those killed

Relatives of some of the UK passengers have also called for their bodies to be returned home.

Jordan Withers, nephew of Glenn Thomas – who was among the 10 Britons on board – said the bodies of victims had been treated “inhumanely”.

Minute’s applause

Barry Sweeney, whose son Liam was also on board, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain he hoped the 28-year-old was in a body bag, “because I don’t want him to be lying there somewhere where there’s nobody there to give him a good cuddle, you know”.

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