Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
Kremlin's response to Western leaders' demands is to accusing Washington of 'pushing its own agenda'
Oliver Poole is an award-winning Foreign Correspondent for the Evening Standard and Independent titles. In his career he has reported from war zones including Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq, where he was based during the worst years of the civil war. He has written two books, "Red Zone: Five Bloody Years in Baghdad' and 'Black Knights: On the Bloody Road to Baghdad'. He was previously a Foreign Reporter for The Daily Telegraph, and has written for the BBC, Guardian, Times and South China Morning Post.
Sunday 20 July 2014
Only six months ago Vladimir Putin was ready to confirm his global eminence with the Winter Games in Sochi – an event to confirm his and his country's restored influence.
Now it appears no more than an exercise in hubris, as the West closed ranks against the Kremlin and the alleged part it played in the circumstances that led to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Germany's Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Moscow had a "last opportunity" to stop the conflict.
These sentiments were echoed by Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, having had an "extremely intense" telephone conversation with Mr Putin. He said the Russian President "has one last chance to show he means to help" over the recovery of bodies from MH17.
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, also called Mr Putin to urge him to use his influence to reach a ceasefire. Ms Merkel and Mr Putin agreed that the contact group of diplomats from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russia and Ukraine should meet quickly and directly with the separatists to reach a truce.
"Both agreed that an international, independent commission under the leadership of the International Civil Aviation Organisation should get quick access to the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in east Ukraine," said a statement from Berlin. The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, declared: "We take a very dim view of countries which facilitate the killing of Australians. The idea that Russia can wash its hands of responsibility because this happened in Ukrainian airspace does not stand serious scrutiny."
President Barack Obama had already declared the deaths of the 298 passengers "an outrage of unspeakable proportions" late on Friday night, and laid the blame directly on separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Read more: Pro-Russians accused of blocking access to site of disaster
Vital clues may have been moved, say air crash experts
EU should 'reconsider its links with Russia,' says Cameron
Comment: In war, it's the civilians who suffer most of all
Turning his sights towards Russia, Mr Obama added that the insurgents would not be capable of carrying out such an attack without Moscow's support. "We know that they are heavily armed and they are trained, and we know that that's not an accident," he said. "[It] is happening because of Russian support."
In response, the Kremlin only appeared to isolate itself further, with the Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, accusing Washington of "pushing its own agenda".
"The statements of representatives of the US administration are evidence of a deep political aberration of Washington's perception of what is going on in Ukraine," he said, before blaming the US for provoking the uprising in February that ousted Ukraine's Moscow-backed president, Victor Yanukovych.
In a seeming attempt to dampen the rhetoric, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, agreed both countries would seek to end hostilities in Ukraine and also agreed that all evidence, including flight recorders, would be handed to international investigators.
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