Kerry adds pressure on Russia as rebels control MH17 crash site
US Secretary of State John Kerry has firmly put the blame on Russian backing for Ukrainian separatists for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
He has added to international pressure on Russia as the separatists remain in control of the crash scene, leaving international rescue workers and investigators with limited access to the site.
In other developments:
- 200 bodies have been removed in three refrigerated train and taken to the nearby city of Torez
- Intelligence reports says missile laquncher is back in Russia
- The separatists take possession of Boeing 777-200's "black boxes"
- Rebel leader demands ceasefire as condition for site access
Kerry on the offensive
Mr Kerry has this morning appeared on all five major US news talk shows detailing the “build-up of extraordinary circumstantial evidence” pointing to Russia as the source of the antiaircraft missile that shot down Flight 17, killing 298 passengers and crew members.
“It is clear that Russia supports the separatists, supplies the separatists, encourages the separatists, trains the separatists,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“Russia needs to step up and make a difference here.”
He said the US has observed major supplies, including rocket launchers, artillery, and tanks, moving into the separatist region in the past month and said there was a Buk SA-11 missile system in the vicinity just hours before the shoot-down. He said there were also social-media records pointing to separatists bragging about the shoot-down of a plane at the same time.
Mr Kerry said the US also picked up the imagery of the missile launch and the trajectory with all indicators showing it took place at exactly the same time that the Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared from the radar.
“We are not drawing the final conclusion here, but there’s a lot that points at the need for Russia to be responsible,” he said.
US intelligence claims
In other reports, US officials say they believe the systems were moved back across the border into Russia following the shoot down of the jetliner.
"The assumption is they're trying to remove evidence of what they did," an official said.
Moscow has continued to deny supplying armed separatists with heavy weapons. But intelligence disclosures by Ukrainian and U.S. security officials reveal a higher degree of military cooperation from Moscow to the Ukrainian rebels than was understood before the passenger jet was shot down, as well as intricate and detailed coordination by Russian military officials with the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian emergency workers, under observation from the armed separatists in control over the area, helped transfer the remains of up to 200 bodies on three refrigerated railcars to the city of Torez.
Volodymyr Grossman, the Ukrainian official in charge of the international recovery effort, said 192 corpses and eight sets of remains were stacked inside the railcars. The numbers have been provided to the Ukrainians and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from Ukrainian federal emergency services workers who were responsible for collecting and tagging the remains.
The small OSCE mission on the scene is made up merely of monitors. Not a single international aviation expert or investigator has visited the site, as evidence disappears.
Ukraine releases recordings
Ukraine has accused separatist rebels of hiding evidence that a Russian missile and released what it said were intercepted recordings of separatist rebels at the site of the crash searching frantically for the flight-data recorders and talking about the need to keep them out of the hands of western investigators.
The accusation came just as the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic Alexander Borodai said his people have found what looks like the so-called black boxes.
The intercepted recorded conversations, which Ukraine's security services said took place on Friday evening, suggest that Moscow ordered rebels to seize the flight recorders before investigators from the could find them. The OSCE has complained of limited access to the site.
Separatist leader seeks ceasefire
A leader of the pro-Russia rebel fighters says they will guarantee the safety of international monitors at the crash site if if the Ukrainian government agrees to a truce.
"We declare that we will guarantee the safety of international experts on the scene as soon as Kiev concludes a ceasefire agreement," Andrei Purgin, deputy premier of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said in a statement. He urged Kiev to "immediately conclude such an agreement" with the rebels.