'Sanctions' threat for Russia over MH17 crash site access

July 20, 2014 - 6:36:28 pm

PARIS: France, Britain and Germany warned Russia Sunday it could face further EU sanctions if it did not press pro-Kremlin separatists in Ukraine to allow unfettered access to the crash site of flight MH17.

Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and David Cameron held phone separate talks to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine days after a Malaysia Airlines jet crashed, killing 298 people on board after what is believed to have been a strike by a surface-to-air missile.

Concerns have been mounting that the separatists are blocking access to key evidence and to the bodies of the passengers, scores of which were moved from the crash site to a train on Sunday.

"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," a Downing Street spokesman said in a statement, adding that Cameron was due to speak to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin later.

A French presidency statement after the calls similarly warned that "consequences" would be drawn at Tuesday's meeting "if Russia does not immediately take the necessary measures".

It said the three leaders had agreed to call on Putin to pressure the rebels into allowing rescuers and investigators "free and total access to the site of the MH17 flight disaster to accomplish their mission".

"Russia must understand that resolving the Ukrainian crisis is more than ever an imperative after this tragedy which has outraged the entire world," it added.

Cameron had already raised the prospect of fresh EU sanctions against Russia, warning in the Sunday Times that Moscow should be held accountable if it was confirmed that MH17 was downed by a missile fired from an area held by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

The European Union has so far hit 72 Ukraine and Russian figures with travel bans and asset freezes over the crisis, but divisions over how far to go given some member states' close economic ties with Russia has left Brussels trailing Washington.

These individual sanctions are referred to as Phase 2 measures, and preparatory work has been done on next-level Phase 3 sanctions, which would target economic sectors.

But so far, EU leaders have only agreed to widen the scope of current Phase 2 sanctions, including punishing Russian firms, and the new list of targets is expected to be ready by the end of the month. (AFP)

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