Russia faces further sanctions as international horror over MH17 plane crash deepens

Nassos Stylianou
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Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard at MH17 crash site (Source: Reuters)

Pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin intensified as the international horror over the treatment of the bodies at the crash site of the downed MH17 Malaysia Airlines jet deepened.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday expressed his fury at the "really grotesque" mishandling of the victims of the tragedy, calling on Russia to take responsibility for actions of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine whom Washington believes are responsible for bringing down the aircraft.

As Russia and Ukraine continued to play the blame game during the weekend over who was accountable for the downing of MH17, killing 298 people, Kerry put forward what he called overwhelming evidence of Russian complicity in the shooting down of the aircraft.

"There's enormous amount of evidence that points to the involvement of Russia in providing these systems, training the people on them," he told CBS television.

British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the EU could announce fresh sanctions aimed at Moscow on Tuesday, when the bloc's foreign ministers meet in Brussels.

A statement from Downing Street issued after telephone calls with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said:

"They ... agreed that the EU must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on Tuesday."

In an escalation of what has rapidly become the biggest crisis between the Kremlin and the West since the Cold War ended in 1989, Western leaders voiced their anger as pro-Russian rebels controlling the area in eastern Ukraine have restricted access to the crash site.

The remains of some 200 people who were on board the plane when it set off from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday morning were stacked onto refrigerated rail wagons on Sunday afternoon - but the destination was unclear.

The OSCE, the European security organisation, has expressed concern over the integrity of the crash site. The Vienna-based organisation is negotiating with the separatists with the hope of entering the crash site on Monday.

Earlier on Sunday, Cameron had called on Putin to intervene so the victims' bodies could be repatriated in a telephone call between the two leaders.

The Russian president has received criticism for not doing enough to reign in the rebels and ensure that international observers had access to the site, as well as allowing an investigation into the event.

"There is one party in the world who clearly has the ability to snap his fingers and it would be done and that is Vladimir Putin," UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond told Andrew Marr on Sunday morning.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on individuals and businesses close to Putin but Kerry indicated that President Barack Obama might go further.

"The president is prepared to take additional steps," he told Fox News.

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