Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: 'Make Putin's oligarchs pay for Ukraine disaster'

US and UK press for tougher Russia sanctions after Ukraine air disaster

Prominent Russian oligarchs, businesses and politicians could face wide-ranging and draconian new EU sanctions as the West united to punish Moscow for the shooting down of Flight MH17.

Britain will urge other European countries to extend travels bans, asset freezes and business sanctions on any individual or entity in Russia deemed to be “influencing or supporting” the “Putin regime”.

Existing sanctions only cover Russian individuals and firms deemed responsible for the recent conflict in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

At a meeting of foreign ministers, the new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, will also call for a complete ban on any new arms sales to Moscow and for faster progress in identifying companies and individuals “materially or financially supporting Russian action in eastern Ukraine”. These are already covered by existing sanctions.

“We need to use the sense of shock, the sense of outrage, to galvanise opinion behind a more robust stance,” Mr Hammond said. “We have tools in our toolbox. We can inflict damage on the Russian economy.”

Video: Aftermath of MH17 crash

The new range of sanctions under discussion reflects growing fury on both sides of the Atlantic over what Downing Street called Russia’s “unacceptable” response to the tragedy. No 10 sources revealed that Russia had blocked the release of a Security Council statement calling for a full, independent investigation into the shooting down of MH17.

They also expect Russia to veto a UN Security Council resolution being drafted by the UK and Australia calling for “full, safe and unfettered access” to the crash site and for those responsible to be “held to account”.

At the crash site in Grabove in eastern Ukraine yesterday, pro-Russian rebels claimed that a total of 192 bodies had been gathered and placed inside railway carriages in the town of Torez, around 10 miles away. Officials from the Office for Security and Co-operation in Europe said they had inspected three carriages and been told 167 corpses were inside them.

The rebel leader Alexander Borodai, head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, said the bodies would remain on the train until experts came to examine them. Apparently responding to claims the separatists had even been moving some of the bodies to Russia, he said he was waiting for the arrival of crash experts from Malaysia and the Netherlands.

“The bodies will go nowhere until experts arrive,” he said at a press conference in the rebel-held city of Donetsk

Mr Borodai also said his men had recovered the black boxes from downed plane. He said these would in due course be handed over to officials from the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN agency.

Last night, David Cameron spoke to Vladimir Putin over the phone for 30 minutes after three days of requests for talks which were rebutted by the Russian President. Downing Street said afterwards that Mr Cameron accused Mr Putin directly of contributing to an appalling tragedy by continuing to support the separatists.

Mr Cameron also said the delay and restrictions on access to the crash site were “completely unacceptable and indefensible”. Mr Cameron added: “President Putin must change course.”

Until now, the Obama administration has been frustrated at the slow speed of European sanctions that has, in part, been driven by the reliance of many countries on Russian gas supplies.

Even Britain, which has been more bullish on sanctions than France and Germany, would suffer financially if so-called Tier Three sanctions were imposed

These would cover measures on trade, energy and finance and would affect both the city of London and BP, which last month signed a £1.5bn deal with the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that he hoped the shooting down of MH17 would act as a “wake-up call” to other European governments on the need for effective sanctions to influence Russian support for the Ukrainian separatists.

Yesterday Mr Cameron also held conversations with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President François Hollande. Downing Street said afterwards they agreed that the EU “must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia”.

To be effective, Russian sanctions would have to target more than only oligarchs such as Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft who is already on the US sanctions list.

They would also have to target Russian companies’ access to Western capital, Russia’s oil and gas exports as well as Russian assets held overseas.

A government source said  much would depend on Russian actions over the next two days: “Our immediate priority is to secure unfettered access to the crash site both for investigators and those who will help to repatriate the bodies. If no more progress is made on support for the international investigation and access to the site by Russia then sanctions may be even tougher than they would otherwise have been.”

* John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, said there was a “build-up of extraordinary circumstantial evidence” that pro-Russian rebels had shot down the plane and that Moscow had been complicit in the act.

“This is the moment of truth for Russia,” he said. “Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists, and Russia has not yet done the things necessary in order to try to bring them under control.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Housing Assistant

£16819 - £21063 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - OTE £60,000

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In 2014, they launched the worl...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Design Lead

£23958 - £29282 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Guru Careers: Bathroom Showroom Manager / Bathroom Sales Designer

£22 - £25k basic + Commission=OTE £35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Bathroom Sh...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones