Moscow warned yesterday that security ties with the European Union could be cut following the fresh round of international sanctions announced last week, while in Ukraine the last bodies removed from the MH17 crash site have been flown back to the Netherlands.
The Russian foreign ministry warned that the decision to extend the list of Russian officials and organisations affected by travel bans and asset freezes risked ending co-operation on issues such as weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and organised crime.
This would "be greeted enthusiastically by international terrorists," the ministry said, adding: "EU countries have set a course for complete termination of interaction with Russia in international and regional security issues."
Among those targeted in the sanctions announced on Friday by the EU, following the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, are the head of Russia's Federal Security Service and the chief of the department overseeing international operations and intelligence. Four members of the national security council are also on the list.
The Russian foreign ministry also issued a strongly worded statement against the United States, in response to White House spokesman Josh Earnest's comments of "Russian complicity" in the downing of the flight, as the gulf between the two sides showed no sign of narrowing. "Judging by the relentless slander campaign against Russia organised by the American administration, they are being more and more guided by blatant lies when pursuing their foreign policy," the ministry said.
In London, the Foreign Office accused Russia of making "contradictory, mutually exclusive claims" in blaming Ukraine for the crash and said it was "highly likely" that pro-Russian separatists had brought it down with a Russian-supplied missile. "Russia has made a number of false claims about the events leading to this tragic disaster," an official said, citing "the presence of their troops in Crimea, about the build-up of troops on the border of Ukraine, and about the level of support they are giving Russian-backed separatists".
The crash site remains unsecured, nine days after the plane went down, killing all 298 on board. A full investigation is yet to start, but among those on the spot yesterday were Jerzy Dyczynski and Angela Rudhart-Dyczynski, who ignored Australian government warnings to travel from Perth to honour their daughter Fatima, 25, who died in the crash. The couple had to travel across territory held by pro-Russian separatists to reach the wreckage-strewn fields outside the village of Hrabova.
Mr Dyczynski's T-shirt carried a portrait of his daughter, and the couple broke down in tears as they laid a bouquet of flowers. Fatima "was for peace. She will be forever for peace," he said as he sat with his arm around his wife's shoulders amid the remains of the aircraft.
The last 38 coffins were flown from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv to the Netherlands yesterday on two cargo planes. At Eindhoven they were transferred to a fleet of hearses.
The Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, said he was travelling to the Netherlands to meet Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday. "We will discuss MH17; in particular, whether Malaysian pathologists can be of assistance in expediting the process of identifying human remains."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was concerned there were still human remains at the crash site. "Plainly there are unrecovered body remains in the area," he said. "And it's the presence of unrecovered remains that makes it more important than ever than an international team be dispatched to the site." He announced that he was sending 190 Australian police officers to help secure the crash site.
Fighting continued nearby yesterday, with the Ukrainian army saying it had made progress in retaking Donetsk from pro-Russian rebels. The national security spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said Ukrainian forces had blocked off the supply of "ammunition, reinforcements or equipment" to the separatists.
Shelling was reported throughout the city, with local authorities reporting buildings being damaged by fire. The casualties were worse in the separatist stronghold of Luhansk, where rebels claimed that upwards of 19 civilians had been killed.
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