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Putin's last chance? World leaders voice outrage over MH17

European Union foreign ministers will meet tomorrow to discuss more sanctions on Russia. Caution on such a move appears to be weakening in the wake of the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine.

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International forensic experts visit the site of the Malaysian Airlines plane crash at Hrabove, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine Monday. Four days after MH17 was shot out of the sky, international investigators still have had only limited access to the crash site, hindered by pro-Russia fighters.

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

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Dutch experts were finally allowed in to examine bodies at the crash site of flight MH17 after calls from world leaders and relatives of victims targeted Russian President Vladimir Putin, with many saying now was his last chance for action before more sanctions are levied.

With 193 victims from the Netherlands, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke of his shock over the “utterly disrespectful behavior” at the crash site and said of Russian President Vladimir Putin that “he has one last chance to show he means to help." 

With 27 victims from Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in an interview with Australian radio station that Mr. Putin had said “all the right things.” Mr. Abbott went on to say, “'Now he has to be as good as his word. And I will be speaking regularly to the Russian president to do my best to hold him to his word.'”

In a strongly worded opinion piece titled “This is an outrage made in Moscow...” in the Sunday Times, Mr. Cameron underscored that now was the moment for Russia to decide how it would handle the crash and for European leaders to move beyond statements of concern. There were 10 victims from the United Kingdom.

"For too long there has been a reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine.

Elegant forms of words and fine communiqués are no substitute for real action. The weapons and fighters being funnelled across the border between Russia and eastern Ukraine; the support to the militias; the half-truths, the bluster, the delays. They have to stop."

Cameron is expected discuss stronger sanctions targeting gas and oil industries as well as Russia’s defense sector today ahead of a Tuesday meeting of EU foreign ministers.The Guardian reported that he signaled that more action was a strong possibility:

“In terms of sanctions, I'm very clear, having spoken to Angela Merkel and François Hollande, that the EU will be ready for further steps in terms of other areas of, particularly, some forms of advanced industrial goods which might have dual uses for defence purposes as well. We will be looking at those things, and Russia needs to know that action will follow if there isn't a radical change in the way they behave.”

Relatives of the victims have also vehemently spoken out against Putin’s role in the crisis. As reported by the Telegraph, Hans de Borst, the father of crash victim Elsemiek de Borst, went after Putin on social media.

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“Mr. Putin, Many thanks to the Separatist leaders of Ukrainian government for the murder of my dear and only child, Elsemiek. Elsemiek would next year take her final exam, along with her best friends Julia and Marina, and she did well in school. She then wanted to go to TU Delft to study engineering, and she was looking forward to it! She is suddenly no more! From the air she was shot in a foreign country where a war is going on.”

Yet while world leaders and relatives of the victims who died on flight MH17 call on Putin to use his influence with the Russian-backed rebels to allow investigators wider access to the crash site and for the release of bodies, Russia media have continued to point fingers at the Ukrainian government and asserted that evidence presented by the Ukrainian government, including recordings of rebel conversations, is fake. 

“Fakes cannot serve as an arsenal of arguments in diplomacy,” [Ambassador to India Alexander] Kadakin stressed.


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