John Kerry strengthens US case against Russia over Malaysia Airline MH17 jet downing

Jul 21 2014, 08:53 IST
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SummarySecretary of State John Kerry on Sunday laid out what he said was overwhelming evidence of Russian complicity...

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday laid out what he said was overwhelming evidence of Russian complicity in the downing of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine as he made the U.S. case against Moscow in the most emphatic and explicit terms yet.

Delivering his points in a blitz of U.S. morning news shows, Kerry demanded that Russia take responsibility for actions of allied separatists suspected of shooting down the passenger plane and he expressed disgust over the rebels' "grotesque" mishandling of victims' bodies at the crash site.

Kerry threatened further sanctions against Moscow and called on European partners, who have lagged behind Washington in imposing penalties over the Ukraine crisis, to take Thursday's plane downing as a "wake-up call" to get tougher with Russia. He also raised the prospect of increased assistance to Ukraine's embattled pro-Western government.

But despite the angry rhetoric, Kerry offered no specific new plans to force Russian President Vladimir Putin, accused by the West of trying to destabilize Ukraine, to back down.

President Barack Obama's Republican critics responded by accusing the administration of being too restrained and called for broader "sectoral" sanctions on Russia's energy and banking industries, something Washington has avoided so far because of the potential damage to the European and global economies.

Kerry's words added to a chorus of outrage from Western powers over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which killed all 298 people on board, and the subsequent problems gaining access to the crash site in an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

While stopping short of placing direct blame on Moscow, Kerry put forth the most detailed U.S. accusations so far, based on the latest U.S. intelligence assessments. He said that Russia provided pro-Moscow insurgents with the sophisticated anti-aircraft systems used to down the plane.

He said the United States has seen major supplies moving into Ukraine from Russia in the last month, including a 150-vehicle convoy of armored personnel carriers, tanks and rocket launchers transferred to the separatists several weeks ago.

He also said the United States intercepted conversations about the transfer to separatists of the Russian SA-11 radar-guided SA11 missile system it blames for the plane downing.

U.S. authorities have seen a video of a missile launcher - with a least one rocket missing from its battery - moving back into Russia from a rebel-held area, Kerry said.

"There's (an) enormous amount of evidence, even more evidence that I just documented, that

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