Western governments yesterday warned that a more severe round of sanctions could be imposed against the Russian government, with heads of state increasingly blaming Moscow for supplying the missile which brought down a Malaysian airlines jet last week.
Foreign secretary Philip Hammond, who has held the post for less than a week, said yesterday that “the entire international community is ranged against Russia”, adding that the UK would tighten sanctions.
Prime Minister David Cameron spoke with President Francois Hollande of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, with another round of sanctions against the Russian government now almost assured to come from a meeting of European Union foreign ministers later this week.
Concerns about new sanctions causing a supply disruption sent Brent crude oil above $108 (£63.21) dollars a barrel on Friday, before the price settled at around $107.14. Russia produces more than a tenth of the world’s crude oil and supplies around one third of Europe’s gas.
News of the plane crash dramatically escalated the crisis just one day after the US implemented tougher sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies for the first time, including oil giant Rosneft.
“This is not a good time to be doing business with Russia,” Malcolm Graham-Wood, oil and gas analyst, told City A.M.
“International companies with exposure to Russian oil companies or fields are at risk if further sanctions are implemented. BP is particularly exposed due to its stake in Rosneft. The company may have two seats on the board but it has no control over Rosneft at all.” BP declined to comment on the issue.
So far, sanctions have largely been placed on individuals close to Putin’s regime and limited to smaller companies directly owned by the state.
Speaking to the BBC yesterday, Hammond added: “The Russians have influence, if not direct control over these people [separatists]. They have been supplying them, they have been supporting them, they have been providing them with succour. They cannot deny their responsibility for the acts that these people are carrying out.”
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, also piled in, saying to US media: “It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists”
Reports from eastern Ukraine suggested that separatist militants were actively blocking attempts by international observers to investigate the site. David Cameron tweeted that “Putin must do more” to assist investigators in gaining access to the site.
The black box flight recorders which would offer information about the crash were also recovered by rebel groups over the weekend, with little clarity over what would be done with the devices.
Hundreds of the bodies of the 298 people who were killed in the crash last Thursday were placed on refrigerated train carriages.
During his interview yesterday, Hammond added: “What we need is full Russian cooperation. Any evidence that they control needs to be turned over to the international investigators.”
“They must use their influence to allow international access to the site to secure the evidence and secure respect for the bodies and the possessions of the victims.”
Michael Bird, Suzie Neuwirth