Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: EU should 'reconsider its links with Russia,' says David Cameron

British PM urges other leaders to confront Moscow over the shooting down of aircraft
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The Independent Online

The European Union should "reconsider its approach to Russia" in the light of evidence that pro-Russian separatists brought down flight MH17 with a missile, Downing Street said last night.

David Cameron held a telephone conversation with his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, yesterday in which the two men agreed that the EU's relationship with Moscow should be reviewed, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said.

Mr Cameron reportedly said last night: "If President Putin does not change his approach on Ukraine, then Europe and the West must fundamentally change our approach to Russia." He said he wasn't advocating military action, but "it is time to make our power, influence, and resources count".

The intervention marks a major scaling up of the political pressure on Vladimir Putin. The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, also warned the Russian President yesterday that the "world's eyes are on Russia" and its behaviour in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines disaster which claimed 298 lives.

The EU has already imposed travel sanctions on Russians involved in efforts to destabilise Ukraine.

A No10 spokesman added that Mr Cameron had also spoken to his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott, and that "all three leaders are clear that President Putin needs to use his influence on the separatists to ensure they allow access to the crash site".

Specialist officers from Scotland Yard are due to arrive in Ukraine today to help with the process of recovering, identifying, and repatriating the bodies of the victims. Six investigators from the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch are also working alongside an international team to establish what happened.

Mr Hammond said the first priority for the UK was to ensure that the bodies of the victims are treated with "dignity and respect" as they are recovered from the wreckage.

Investigators have repeatedly been denied access to the site, which is under the control of pro-Russian separatists and has still not been properly secured. Mr Hammond said there was a "growing body of evidence" the plane was brought down by a missile fired by the rebels. "Our focus now is on securing the site so there is a proper international investigation to identify the cause and the perpetrators and bring them to justice while making sure the victims [get] the proper dignity and respect," the Foreign Secretary said. "We're not getting enough support from the Russians, we're not seeing Russia using their influence effectively enough to get the separatists, who are in control of the site, to allow the access that we need.

"This is not about Russia and the West, this is about the whole community demanding that proper access is made available to this site, the victims properly recovered, and evidence is secured. The world's eyes will be on Russia to see if she delivers on her obligations in the next couple of hours."

He added that Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the UK, would be summoned to the Foreign Office and made aware of the Government's views. "We are demanding the Russians use their influence to ensure that access is granted. That's the only way we can get to the truth and bring those accountable to justice," he said.

A total of 10 British citizens are believed to have died in the disaster, but Mr Hammond said the Government could not be "absolutely certain" that more would not be identified during the investigation.

Three UK victims were named yesterday as John Allen, 44, a world-leading patent lawyer who died with his wife and their three children; Robert Ayley, a 28-year-old father of two who was born in the UK and had settled in New Zealand; and Somerset-born Andrew Hoare, 59, a banker, who died with his Dutch wife and their two children. His brother Hugo Hoare said last night: "He was a warm, funny and wonderful man whose smile and character lit up a room."