Kerry launches full-frontal attack, says US has ‘overwhelming’ evidence of Russian complicity

Demands Russia take responsibility for rebels’ action, says ‘drunk separatists’ mishandling bodies of victims.

By: Reuters | Washington | Published: July 21, 2014 12:48:03 am
Ukrainian workers carry a victim's body in a bag as pro-Russian fighters stand guard at the crash site. (Source: AP) Ukrainian workers carry a victim’s body in a bag as pro-Russian fighters stand guard at the crash site. (Source: AP)

US 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 US case against Moscow in the most emphatic and explicit terms yet.

In a blitz of US 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 also threatened “additional steps” against Moscow and called on European allies, who have lagged behind Washington in imposing sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, to take Thursday’s tragedy as a “wake-up call” to take a tougher stand against Russia.

While stopping short of placing direct blame on Moscow for the shootdown, Kerry put forth the most pointed and detailed US accusations so far that Russia provided pro-Moscow insurgents with the sophisticated anti-aircraft systems used to down the aircraft.

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

“It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia,” Kerry said in an interview on CNN.

Moscow denies involvement and has accused the Ukrainian military in the shootdown that killed 298 people.

Kerry’s remarks reflected Washington’s growing anger with Russia over the crash, which is widely seen a potential turning point in the Ukraine crisis that has taken relations between Russia and the West to a post-Cold War low.

In appearances on a string of Sunday news shows, Kerry called on Moscow to publicly seek responsible action from the separatists in Ukraine, including access to the crash site.

Kerry, who spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in a phone call on Saturday, expressed outrage over the chaotic scenes in the aftermath of the crash.

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