Thursday 23 November 2017

Russia 'created conditions' for shooting down MH17 jet – US

Oliver Wright

SENIOR US intelligence officials claimed last night that Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the U. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.

The officials briefed reporters under ground rules that their names not be used in discussing intelligence related to last week's air disaster, which killed 298 people. The plane was probably shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, the intelligence officials said, citing intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

But the officials said they did not know who fired the missile or whether any Russian operatives were present at the missile launch. They were not certain that the missile crew was trained in Russia, although they described a stepped-up campaign in recent weeks by Russia to arm and train the rebels, which they say has continued even after the downing of the commercial jetliner.

Ukrainian parliamentary deputies tussle during a session in Parliament in Kiev. Reuters
Ukrainian parliamentary deputies tussle during a session in Parliament in Kiev. Reuters
An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard as monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of a Malaysian air crash investigation team inspect the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region. Reuters
A man lights candles before a special prayer for the victims of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: AP
A Malaysian air crash investigator (R) inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Rozsypne, Donetsk region. Reuters
A guard stands on a train carrying the remains of victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17 downed over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine after it arrived in the city of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine. Reuters

The US also called EU restrictions on Mr Putin's regime "feeble" after they failed to target oil and gas sectors.European foreign ministers yesterday agreed limited new targets for sanctions against Russian companies and individuals linked to the conflict in Ukraine – but fell well short of demands by Britain and America to take decisive action against President Putin's regime. A senior American official described the agreement reached in Brussels as "feeble" after the EU announced it would produce a new, wider list of Ukraine sanctions targets on Thursday.

EU foreign ministers did not agree to widen sanctions to include those entities supporting the Russian regime or agree to new restrictions on key sectors of the Russian economy such as oil and gas. British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted he was not satisfied with the weak EU sanctions package. "I think we are making progress, but of course we need to do more". The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton, said officials would look at "capital markets, defence, and the energy sector" as possible targets for future sanctions. Asked if Europe had been too soft on Russia, Lady Ashton said the EU had been "extremely determined" to try to improve the situation in Ukraine even before the tragedy of MH17, but added that President Vladimir Putin should do more.

"We have called upon Russia to do what it can, and it can and should do more to ensure that those who see themselves as looking towards Russia for guidance get the strong message that this is unacceptable," she said. The meeting was overshadowed by a diplomatic spat between Britain and France over Mr Cameron's attempt on Monday to shame President Hollande into cancelling the delivery of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Moscow.

Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, head of the ruling Socialist Party, accused the British government of being "hypocrites". "When you see how many [Russian] oligarchs have sought refuge in London, David Cameron should start by cleaning up his own backyard," he said. The wrangling over the warships highlights the difficulties the EU has had in agreeing a joint line on dealing with Russia, a major gas supplier to Germany and Italy, as well as to central Europe. (© Independent News Service)

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