#MH17 Tragedy Mounts Pressure On Russia: Who Said What

While US President Barack Obama was informed about the accident by Putin himself as the two leaders were on the phone at the moment, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said in a TV interview that ‘Putin has gone too far’.

The pressure is mounting on Russia after world leaders have started demanding an answer to the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crash in the Eastern Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, a Boeing 777 that had been flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over Ukraine.

Till the latest update, pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine have agreed to allow investigators access to crash site. Malaysian President Najib Razak had demanded the same and had marked the news of crash “a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia”, referring to the earlier disappearance without a trace of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Razak said that any wrongdoers must be held responsible. However, he did not mention receiving a phone call of condolence from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia said earlier that its President had called to the Malaysian leader “to convey his deepest sympathy and support” to the victims’ families.

Razak said: “We must – and we will – find out precisely what happened to this flight. No stone can be left unturned.

While US President Barack Obama was informed about the accident by Putin himself as the two leaders were on the phone at the moment, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said in a TV interview that ‘Putin has gone too far’ after 298 die in missile strike.

Although the White House did not blame Russia directly for the tragedy, it linked its remarks on the disaster to the Kremlin’s support for separatists in Ukraine. Obama has urged Putin’s government to stop inflaming the situation in the country and take “concrete steps” towards de-escalation.

The US vice-president, Joe Biden, said the plane appeared to have been “blown out of the sky”.

John Kerry, the secretary of state, made a statement of condolence and called for a “credible international investigation”.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called on Russia to explain the disaster as it “now seems certain it’s been brought down by a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile”. Australia announced a national day of mourning and said flags were being dipped to half mast.

It should be noted that there were 28 Australians on board the plane, along with 154 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, nine passengers believed to be from the UK, four each from Germany and Belgium, three from the Philippines, one Canadian and one from New Zealand. The nationalities of 39 passengers had not yet been verified.

The David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, tweeted: “I’m shocked and saddened by the Malaysian air disaster. Officials from across Whitehall are meeting to establish the facts.” Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “We are working through passenger data, cross-checking it and referencing it to establish exactly the numbers and identities of those British nationals.”

A group of international HIV/Aids experts flying to Melbourne were among those killed.

The UN Security Council announced it was convening a meeting on Friday as calls mounted for an international response. “There is clearly a need for a full, transparent and international investigation,” said the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, sending his condolences to the victims’ families.

Putin reportedly ordered Russian military and civilian agencies to co-operate with any investigation but also sought to blame Ukraine for the incident.

“This was not an incident, this was not a catastrophe, this was a terrorist act,” said Ukraine‘s president, Petro Poroshenko. The Ukrainian security services released an audio recording said to be rebel commanders discussing the fact that their forces were responsible with Russian officers.

The field next to the tiny hamlet was a scene of charred earth and twisted metal as shocked local people milled around the scene. Body parts belonging to the 298 on board were strewn around. US intelligence was reportedly still working to determine the exact location from which the missile was fired, and whether it was on the Russian or the Ukrainian side of the border.

Rebels in the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics have shot down several Ukrainian planes and helicopters in recent weeks. But they insisted they had no part in the downing of MH17, claiming instead that Ukrainian fire was responsible.

Ukraine’s SBU security services released a recording, which could not immediately be verified, of what it said were rebel commanders saying they had shot down a plane and then discovering with horror it had been a civilian jet.

The Associated Press had said that one of its journalists had seen a Buk launcher near the town of Snizhne earlier on Thursday.

Russia’s state-owned Channel One avoided speculation of who might have been behind the plane crash in its first bulletins on the subject. The Kremlin-friendly Life News, whose reporters were first on the scene, said it was likely to have been brought down by Ukrainian fire, claiming that the rebels did not have any missile systems with the capacity to down a plane at that altitude.

However, a report on the website of Russian state television from late June described how the rebels in Donetsk had taken control of a Ukrainian missile defence facility that was equipped with Buk systems. The report said that the rebels planned to “defend the sky over Donetsk” using the missiles.

On Thursday afternoon, the commander of the rebel forces, Igor Strelkov, had announced on social media site that the rebels had shot down an An-26 Ukrainian transport plane, and had also claimed that there was “information about a second plane”. The post was later removed.

Meanwhile, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said: “Attempts to call the plane crash a terrorist act are unacceptable. We are not going to take the crashed Boeing’s flight recorders.”

With EU imposing more and stricter sanctions on Russia, Putin needs to solve the Ukrainian problem soon.

The world is watching.

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