Monday 29 December 2014

Obama accuses Putin over deaths of 298 on Flight MH17

Steven Swinford London and Tom Parfitt Moscow

Published 19/07/2014 | 02:30

A pro-Russian separatist stands at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region. Inset: Irish woman Edel Mahady, who died in the missile attack on MH17
A woman walks past a body covered with a plastic sheet near the site of the crashed Malaysia Airlines jet in Rozsypne, eastern Ukraine.
Passengers' belongings are pictured at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 before a visit by Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region. Reuters
A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region. Reuters
Irish woman Edel Mahady, who died in the missile attack on MH17
Malaysian Siti Dina weeps after seeing her daughter's name on the list of passengers on board Malaysia Airlines MH17 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang. Reuters
Debris is seen at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region. Reuters
Members of the Ukrainian Emergency Ministry search for bodies near the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region. Reuters
Pro-Russian separatists watch as Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors arrive at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region. Reuters
Pro-Russian separatists look at passengers' belongings at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region. Reuters
A pro-Russian separatist holds up a stuffed toy found at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region. Reuters
Pro-Russian separatists look at passengers' belongings at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region. Reuters

WESTERN leaders last night rounded on Russia over the "unspeakable" missile attack on Flight MH17 as diplomatic relations reached their lowest point since the Cold War.

US President Barack Obama described the deaths of 298 people as an "outrage" as he issued a stark warning to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for supporting the separatists who are thought to have fired the missile.

Mr Obama suggested that the missile launcher used to shoot down the plane was from Russia and that those who fired them may have been trained in Russia.

He said: "Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken – men, women, children, infants – who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine. Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.

"A group of separatists can't shoot down military transport planes without sophisticated equipment and sophisticated training and that is coming from Russia.

"The eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine and we are going to make sure that the truth is out," he said in the White House.

The strong words came amid contrasting images of emergency workers and off-duty coal miners fanning out across picturesque sunflower fields searching for charred pieces of wreckage from the Boeing 777. World leaders have also called for an immediate ceasefire in eastern Ukraine as they demanded speedy access for international investigators to the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines jet that was shot down near the Russian border. The missile attack on the civilian plane killed people from nearly a dozen nations – including an Irish woman as she returned to her adopted home of Australia after visiting her elderly mother in Dublin.

The victim, aged in her 50s, was named as Edel Mahady, who was originally from Palmerstown in west Dublin but had emigrated to Australia where she had started a new life some time ago.

US intelligence authorities said a surface-to-air missile brought down the jet as it travelled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Amid mounting evidence that Russian-backed separatists were behind the disaster, the US Ambassador to the United Nations said "technical assistance" from Russia could not be ruled out.

In a pointed reference to Moscow, Dublin-born Samantha Power added that the perpetrators should not be “sheltered” by any UN member state.

Ms Power told the UN Security Council in New York the missile was likely fired from a rebel-held area near the Russian border. Mr Obama called for an immediate ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russia separatists. He also called for a credible investigation.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was an “appalling, shocking, horrific” incident and added that “those responsible must be held to account”.

Both leaders called for Mr Putin to allow the crash site to be “properly investigated” amid reports that armed separatists were denying investigators access.

On a day of fastmoving developments and growing recriminations between the East and the West, Mr Putin was accused of avoiding phone calls from world leaders, including Mr Cameron.

America was last night considering imposing further sanctions as Mr Obama warned that he was prepared to “increase the costs” to Russia.

Footage emerged of a Buk anti-aircraft missile launcher being driven into rebel-held Torez in eastern Ukraine just two hours before the crash.

Video and audio emerged purporting to contain footage of Russian backed-rebels saying they had mistakenly shot down the jet. Mr Putin categorically denied any link to the attack and suggested that Ukraine was partly responsible.

Challenging Mr Putin to stop supplying the arms to the separatists, Mr Obama said: “If Mr Putin makes a decision that we are not going to allow heavy armaments and the flow of fighters into Ukraine across the Ukrainian-Russian border then it will stop.”

Mr Cameron said: “We have got to get to the bottom of what happened, and how this happened.

If, as seems possible, this was brought down then those responsible must be held to account.”

According to reports, a unit of heavily armed rebels had cordoned off a large section of the crash site and was denying access to international investigators.

A missile launcher allegedly used to destroy Flight MH17 has been smuggled across the Ukrainian border into Russia to cover up its role in the strike, Ukraine's interior minister claimed yesterday.

Ukraine's interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said a Buk mobile launch vehicle had been moved since the destruction of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 on Thursday, and that it was missing at least one rocket.

He claimed the launcher had been tracked by Ukrainian intelligence agents as it passed by the town of Krasnodon in the Luhansk region.

A 13-second video showed a tarpaulin-covered vehicle being driven through a semi-rural location with green and white missiles still visible, but it was not possible to confirm the veracity of the claim.

Mr Avakov wrote on Facebook: “To all appearance, this is exactly the Buk rocket complex which fired at the aircraft flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.”

Photographs also emerged purportedly showing a Buk battery being moved in a rebelheld area close to the crash site.

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed suggestions that Moscow was involved in the alleged strike.

The separatists also denied involvement, claiming that they did not have a weapon capable of such an attack.

However, the separatists themselves announced last month that they had seized at least one Buk missile launcher from a Ukrainian army base.

Ms Power told the UN Security Council: “We assess Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was likely downed by a surface-to-air missile, (likely) an SA-11 (the US designation for a Buk missile), operated from a separatist location in eastern Ukraine.”

She added: “We cannot rule out technical assistance from the Russians. The perpetrators must be brought to justice, they must not be sheltered by any member state of the United Nations.”

Irish Independent

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