Monday, July 21, 2014

#MH17 Malaysia Airlines Plane Crashes Updated/ 21July2014/2000

• PM tells Putin his "cronies" will face severe sanctions
• Another 27 bodies are found
• Victims' bodies loaded onto trains
• Intercepted calls purport to implicate Russia in cover-up
• Malaysia Airlines crash: everything we know so far
• Watch: Wreckage offers glimpse into victims' lives


11.30 If Moscow is proven to be behind the downing of MH17, how can he be held to account? Charles Crawford, a former British ambassador in several Eastern European missions, discusses that question in a blog for The Telegraph. He writes:
The diplomatic problem is bad, and getting worse by the hour. What if it is established beyond any doubt that officers under Moscow’s command did have a hand in the murder of all those passengers? No one wants to say. But we can be sure that if GRU operatives are implicated in this catastrophe, under Putin’s leadership Moscow will do whatever it takes to deny any responsibility. If victims and their families are denied all human decency while feverish efforts are made to hide evidence of the crime, too bad.
The hardest challenge in diplomacy? Dealing with ruthless leaders who enjoy showing defiance based on a policy of “the worse, the better”.
11.06 An image is being circulated on Twitter which appears to show a rebel removing a ring from a body at the MH17 crash site. Its authenticity has not been confirmed, but it would lend support to previous reports of separatist looting at the scene.
11.01 Our correspondent Roland Oliphant has more from the team of Dutch investigators, who have inspected the makeshift morgue at Torez train station:
The Dutch team leader, Pieter van Vliet, said: "We have looked in the wagons, we have seen the bodies. We can't count them because I would have to walk on the bodies and I think that shows no respect. I just want the train to go to a place where we can do our work, and that's in everyone's interests."
Mr van Vleit said that the team had no complaints about the conditions the bodies were being stored in, which as far as they were able to determine were satisfactory.
"As far as the recovery process is concerned, given the circumstances, it seems quite good," he said, adding that separatists had not hindered their access so far.
He said they hoped to take the bodies to a new site soon but could not confirm where that would be.
10.43 The Malaysian prime minister has abruptly cancelled his planned statement to the nation, due to be made in just a few minutes. It is unclear why at this point, but one government source has told our correspondent Tom Phillips in Kuala Lumpur that it is due to "developments on the ground" in Ukraine. He is now going to appear later tonight, it is believed.
Malaysia is deeply angry at what it perceives as the failure of Putin to allow access to the crash site; it may be that Najib Razak is waiting to see if the Dutch team heading the international investigation are able to reach it today as intended.
"They are pro-Russia, right? So why doesn't Putin just tell them to stop?" the brother-in-law of one victim told The Telegraph this afternoon. "Putin has the power, doesn't he?" There are also suggestions of a protest to be held at the Russian embassy in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.
We'll post more detail on this as we have it.
Ukrainian forces and separatist rebels have agreed a safe zone at the MH17 crash site
10.34 The downing of the Malaysian plane has further unnerved Poland, already rattled by events in its former fellow Soviet state. Our correspondent Matthew Day reports from Warsaw:
The Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, said that Poles “are not, and cannot, feel safe because our neighbour was the victim of aggression”.
Mr Sikorski also called for Nato to adopt a “package of guarantees essential to our security” at its next summit, which is being held in Wales at the beginning of September.
The minister added that if the West had taken a hard line with Russia and shown solidarity with Ukraine “this escalation would not have occurred”.
10.23 We can expect more strong words for Putin at 10.45am (UK time) when the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, is due to give a statement. The country has been enraged by the downing of MH17, a tragedy which has personally touched the Malaysian leader whose own step-grandmother was a passenger. Our correspondent Tom Phillips in Kuala Lumpur has tweeted this picture of the front page of the Malaysian Star newspaper this morning:
The front page of the Malaysian Star today
10.12 The Dutch investigative team has arrived at Torez train station, where bodies of the MH17 victims are being stored in refrigerated carriages. Our correspondent Roland Oliphant was on the scene. He said the three Dutch observers, who said they represented the "international forensic team" now in Kiev and Kharkiv, have just inspected bodies in the makeshift morgue. As the carriages were opened, a stench immediately filled the air, making it difficult to breathe. While the refrigerators are working, some of the carriages have nevertheless been sitting in baking hot sun.
The observers however said that they believed the conditions the bodies are being stored in to be "of good quality". They declined any further questions, though it is believed they hope to remove the bodies to an as yet undetermined location today in order to identify them. They are now making their way to the MH17 crash site. More to follow.
A pro-Russian rebel guards victims' bodies at Torez train station
10.04 Speaking in Kiev, Arseny Yatsenyuk has also had more strong words for President Vladimir Putin. The Ukrainian prime minister said the Russian leader should understand that "it's enough already", criticising Moscow for handing weapons to rebels fighting Kiev's forces in eastern Ukraine.
"I do not expect anything from the Russian government. They supplied weapons, they sent in fighters. Putin should understand that it's enough already. This is not a conflict between Ukraine and Russia. It is an international conflict," he told reporters.
"Russia is on the dark side, on the side of the devil."
09.55 Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, has been speaking to reporters in Kiev, where he has said that his government is willing to hand over coordination of an investigation into the Malaysian airliner crash to international partners but that it is convinced the plane was taken down by "professionals".
"Ukraine is ready to hand over a coordinating role in the investigation into the tragedy to our Western partners. And the Netherlands could head that process," he said.
"At the moment, we have no doubt that the plane was shot down. The reason for it - a missile strike most likely from a BUK-M1 (SA-11 radar guided missile system). It is clear that this system could not be operated by drunk pro-Russian terrorists. There were professional people," he said, referring to Kiev's charge Moscow had a clear role in shooting down the plane.
All bodies of MH17 victims will be transferred to Holland, it was also announced.
09.50 Dutch investigators have arrived at the train station in Torez, where bodies from the MH17 crash site are being stored in refrigerated train carriages. Meanwhile workers at the scene have recovered a further 21 bodies, which were piled in black body bags near the side of the road in Hrabove on Monday morning. It was unclear when they would be transported to Torez.
Ukrainian emergency workers collect bodies from the MH17 crash site
09.45 How much of an impact could further sanctions against Putin's inner circle have? According to Bloomberg, Russia's billionaires are "increasingly frantic" that the Kremlin's actions over Ukraine could prompt punitive measures which would cripple them financially - but no one wants to say so publicly. It quoted one Russian billionaire as saying that what is happening is bad for business and bad for Russia, anonymously of course. Here's an excerpt from the report:
“The economic and business elite is just in horror,” said Igor Bunin, who heads the Center for Political Technology in Moscow. Nobody will speak out because of the implicit threat of retribution, Bunin said by phone yesterday. “Any sign of rebellion and they’ll be brought to their knees.”...
“The threat of sanctions against entire sectors of the economy is now very real and there are serious grounds for business to be afraid,” Mikhail Kasyanov, who served as Russia’s prime minister during Putin’s first term as president, from 2000 to 2004, said by phone from Jurmala, Latvia. “If there will be sanctions against the entire financial sector, the economy will collapse in six months.”
Andrey Kostin, head of state-run lender VTB Group, said last week that the sanctions already in place may tip Russia’s $2 trillion economy into a recession and turn Russia into an outcast of global capitalism.
09.26 As fighting rages in Donetsk and investigators push to reach the MH17 crash site, pressure is building on the diplomatic front for tougher sanctions against Russia. The Chancellor has said this morning that Britain is prepared to take an economic hit from further sanctions against Russia because the costs of not acting would be greater.
George Osborne said no one should doubt Britain's resolve to punish those responsible for Thursday's downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane.
"I would say ... any sanctions will have an economic impact, and we are prepared to undertake further sanctions," Mr Osborne told BBC radio's Today programme.
"But think of the economic hit ... of allowing international borders to be ignored, of allowing airlines to be shot down - that's a much greater economic hit for Britain and we're not prepared to allow that to happen."
Members of Vladimir Putin's inner circle have already been targeted with individual sanctions but critics say these have not gone far enough.
Vladimir Putin
Britain, Germany and France agreed yesterday they should be ready to ratchet up sanctions on Russia when European foreign ministers meet in Brussels tomorrow.
The EU has been under pressure from the United States and Ukraine to take a harder line against Moscow but some EU governments are wary of potential retaliation from Russia, the bloc's biggest energy supplier, if they imposed trade sanctions. Britain, with a huge amount of investment from the Russian oligarchy, could find itself particularly affected.
09.18 Heavy shelling has been reported in the area around the train station in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. An AFP journalist at the scene says insurgent fighters have closed off the roads in the area and civilians are fleeing the fighting in minibuses and on foot.
09.05 More detail is emerging of an apparent military operation underway the rebel-held city of Donetsk this morning. Fighting is raging near the railway station, and witneses have reported plumes of smoke and loud explosions in the area.
A pro-Russian separatist leader has said Ukrainian forces are trying to break into Donetsk and a Reuters witness saw two rebel tanks heading towards the railway station, driving against a steady flow of people running away.
"Attention! There is fighting in the Krasnoarmeiskoye highway, roads Marshal Zhukov, Stratonavtov-Artyomovskaya (streets). In the square ... there is also fighting," the Donetsk city council said in a statement.
"We ask residents living in this square not to go out and not to leave their homes and apartments."
President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to retake Donetsk, the heart of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, from Kremlin-backed separatists
A spokesman for Ukraine's military operations in eastern Ukraine said the operation was in an "active phase" but could not comment on reports of troops entering Donetsk because he did not want to give away the Ukrainian strategy.
09.00 The Telegraph's Defence Correspondent Ben Farmer is in Donetsk, where Dutch investigators have been speaking ahead of their mission to retrieve the bodies of the dead from the makeshift morgue at Torez station. He reports:
Dutch forensic investigators have arrived in eastern Ukraine after the MH17 air crash and said their priority was to move a train packed with bodies to a place where they can be identified.
The three man team said they were heading to Torez station where scores of bodies retrieved from the crash scene have been packed into refrigerated wagons by separatist rebels.
The Dutch team arrived in Donetsk as separatists holding the eastern city said Ukrainian forces were using tanks and armoured personnel carriers to try to break in and fighting was underway near the railway station.
The arrival of the first international crash investigators nearly four days after the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 airliner was shot down came amid concerns from relatives of the 298 dead that the bodies are being used as a bargaining chip.
Peter van Vliet, team leader, said: “We are going to Torez to look at the train.We hope to achieve that the train can leave today to a location where identification can take place. I don’t know where. That is on a government level.”
Mr van Vliet said British investigators were also on their way, along with a Malaysian team, but they were still 400 miles away in Kiev.
Authorities in the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic have said the bodies will remain in the train until international experts arrive.
Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the breakaway republic, says his men believe they have also recovered black box recorders from the crash scene and they would only hand over the flight data boxes to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Reports the scene has been left open to looting and the clear up has been chaotic have caused anger among nations who have lost citizens.
Australia's prime minister said he was deeply concerned the Russian-backed rebels remained in control of the crash site, saying the scene looked more like a "garden clean-up" than a forensic investigation.
Source: telegraph


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