WHITE HOUSE —U.S. President Barack Obama is calling on Russia to allow international investigators immediate, full, and unimpeded access to the site in Ukraine where a Malaysian passenger jet was shot down last week.
Obama said Monday the pro-Russian separatists who control the part of eastern Ukraine where the plane went down are preventing international investigators from gaining full access to the wreckage.
“As investigators approached, they fired their weapons into the air. The separatists are removing evidence from the crash site, all which begs the question: What exactly are they trying to hide?” the president asked.
U.S. officials say there is evidence the missile that brought the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 down was fired from territory controlled by rebels who Russia is backing and supplying with equipment that includes anti-aircraft weapons.
Obama said Moscow has urged the rebels on, trained them, and armed them. And he said Russian President Vladimir Putin now should facilitate a transparent investigation.
“Given its direct influence over the separatists, Russia, and President Putin in particular, has direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation. That is the least that they can do,” Obama said.
The president said the separatists have been removing bodies from the crash site without following proper procedures, something he called an insult to the victims’ loved ones.
Obama has been speaking to leaders of nations whose citizens were lost on the flight.
The U.S. leader said Russia will only continue to isolate itself from the international community if it keeps supporting the rebels.
Kerry condemns Russia
Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned Russia for what he called “overwhelming evidence” of complicity in Thursday’s downing of the Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine.
In a series of appearances on Sunday news shows, Kerry said the evidence points to Russia supplying pro-Moscow separatists with a sophisticated SA-11 anti-aircraft system and then training separatists to use it.
He said U.S. authorities have seen video, taken after the crash, of a missile launcher with at least one rocket missing. He said that battery was moved back into Russian territory from rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Thursday’s attack, which killed 298 people near the Russian border.
EU to increase sanctions
European leaders said Monday they were ready to slap increasing sanctions on Russia to force Moscow to use its influence over the rebels to stop the conflict and allow international investogators free access to the crash site.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament Monday that Russia cannot expect to enjoy access to European markets and money if it fuels conflict in Ukraine.
He also echoed comments by Obama that the separatists must ensure the bodies of the victims of the crash are repatriated and that international investigators must be given access to the crash site.