World leaders pressure Putin, separatists
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has one last chance to show he means to help,” after an “intense” phone conversation he had with Russia’s leader about the lack of access to the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site. Nearly two-thirds of the 298 people on the plane which crashed in eastern Ukraine had Dutch citizenship.
Journalists working for the Associated Press reported that they saw armed pro-Russian militants loading body bags onto trucks at the crash site Saturday and driving off. On Sunday, the reporters said they no longer saw any bodies at the site of the crash, though body parts were still being recovered.
The Ukranian government said they have no idea where the rebels took the 196 bodies emergency workers recovered so far. Whle militants did have weapons, the emergency workers at the crash site were not armed.
The Boeing 777 is believed to have been shot out of the sky by a missile, with U.S. officials saying it was a Russian made weapon launched by either pro-Russian separatists in the Ukraine, or the Russian military themselves.
While stopping short of blaming Russia for the crash and the aftermath, Rutte criticized his Russian counterpart for not exerting influence in giving investigators quick access to the debris field, and the dead bodies scattered across the wheat field where the plane’s fuselage hit the ground.
“It is 35 degrees there,” Rutte said in a statement. “The bodies need to be recovered now.”
"The terrorists, with the help of Russia, are trying to destroy evidence of international crimes," the Ukrainian government said in a statement released to the media. "The terrorists have taken 38 bodies to the morgue in Donetsk," the government said, claiming people with "strong Russian accents" threatened to carry out their own autopsies.
Rutte said he wants to see the situation resolved with “unobstructed access and the repatriation of the victims.”
Rutte also heavily criticized militant separatists who posed for photos with toys found at the site, and who are accused of moving bodies and tampering with evidence.
“Moscow may have a last chance now to show that it really is seriously interested in a solution,” said German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to newspapers in that country. “Now is the time for everybody to stop and think to themselves what might happen if we don’t stop the escalation.”
The comments came after Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s head of state, spoke with Putin on the phone.
United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron cautioned that Europe and the West must “fundamentally change our approach” to Russia if Putin does not deal with the aftermath in a different manner. There were ten British nationals onboard the flight. In an opinion piece he wrote for the Sunday Times, Cameron said the evidence taking shape points to the likelihood “that MH17 was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile fired from a rebel-held area.
"If it is the case, then we must be clear what it means: this is a direct result of Russia destabilising a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias, and training and arming them.
"We must turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action.”
Cameron went on to say that tougher economic sanctions are a distinct reality if the situation does not improve. ”Our economies are strong, and growing in strength. And yet we sometimes behave as if we need Russia more than Russia needs us and the access we provide to European markets, European capital, our knowledge and technological expertise.”
Meanwhile, Australia has reportedly proposed a draft resolution to the UN Security Council condemning the attack, and demanding cooperation from all sides in accessing the crash site and investigating the events. The Security Council could vote on the resolution as early as Monday.
Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, and as such can veto any the adoption of any resolution.
There were 28 Australians on Flight 17.
U.S. Secretary of State also discussed the matter with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. While claiming that the two agreed that peace must be reached in Ukraine, the State Department said it is Russia which must take “immediate and clear actions to reduce tensions in Ukraine.
Officials from the United States has said they believe a Russian-made SA-11 radar-guided missile struck the Malaysian Airlines jet. Ukrainian officials have suggested the Buk truck-mounted missile system was being operated in the Donetsk region by Russian citizens.
Malaysian media has reported that a team of seven different nations’ experts, including Ukraine, are negotiating with the separatists for access to the crash site. Malaysian delegation head Khairil Hilmi Mokhtar said he was optimistic they would get access today or tomorrow.