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« Reply #135 on: Jul 21, 2014, 06:21 AM »

MH17: First major outbreak of hostilities since plane crash

Rebels say tanks are trying to break into Donetsk as first investigators reach Torez, where bodies from MH17 are stored

Shaun Walker in Donetsk and Harriet Salem in Torez
theguardian.com, Monday 21 July 2014 10.52 BST   

As Dutch forensic experts arrived at the scene of the Malaysian Airlines crash on Monday and promised that the train being loaded with the victims' bodies would be moved before the end of the day, heavy fighting broke out between the Ukrainian army and rebels on the outskirts of Donetsk, the main regional city and the hub of the insurgency.

There has been widespread international anger that the rebels have failed to allow proper access to the crash site to investigators, and suspicions that they have seized the black boxes and are attempting to destroy evidence.

But it was the Ukrainian army that seemed intent on disrupting expert work on Monday, as they apparently launched an offensive against rebel positions close to Donetsk railway station, as well as in other towns across the region.

"There is work on clearing approaches to the city, on destroying checkpoints of the terrorists. If there are explosions in the middle of the city, then it is not Ukrainian soldiers," said Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Security Council, in Kiev.

Adding to the chaos, Lysenko denied that the Ukrainian army was responsible for explosions in central Donetsk but said a "self-organised group" of partisans could be engaging the rebels.

"We have strict orders not to use air strikes and artillery in the city. If there is fighting in the city, we have information that there is a small self-organised group who are fighting with the terrorists," he said.

Vladislav Seleznev, spokesman for Ukraine's anti-terror operation, said the action was "a planned offensive" to push rebels away from Donetsk airport, and insisted that aviation and artillery were not being used against civilian residences.

However, there were reports of civilian casualties. The Guardian saw one 18-storey building where a shell had hit the courtyard, smashing all the windows on the first nine floors and destroying parked cars.

Trucks of rebels could be seen travelling past the station as reinforcements, and gunfire and artillery rounds were audible. One rebel fighter claimed the Ukrainians had tried to take the area around the train station with tanks and the rebels were fighting back.

The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, ordered a ceasefire across a 40-kilometre radius from the crash site, but this does not include Donetsk, which is further out.

The OSCE have arrived at the crash site, where they appear to be observing the situation under the watch of the rebels. So far the observers are still being confined to the main path into the fields where most of the debris is. They do not appear to have been allowed to move from the main path. The rebels have cordoned off the press into a separate section to allow the observers to do their work.

In the town of Torez, where bodies of the crash victims are being loaded on to refrigerated train carriages, OSCE monitors and the small team of Dutch forensic experts viewed the body bags in the three train carriages and said the train should be moved on Monday. Peter Van Vliet, one of the experts, said the storage of the bodies was acceptable.

"I just want the train to move as soon as possible to a place where we can do our technical work," he said, adding that it was not possible to do in this location. He was unable to confirm the number of bodies because they would have to walk on them and, he said, that would show no respect.

In a conversation between the investigator Alexander Hug and one of the rebels escorting the officials, Hug said: "We need to get the train out of here today. To wait any longer than today will not be good for anything – for the experts, or for the families."

Ukrainian authorities say they have prepared for the bodies to be brought to Kharkiv, a major city in the east of the country. However, the fighting at Donetsk railway station could complicate any transfer of the bodies by rail.

There has been a flurry of international criticism of the shit stain called Pig Putin over Russian support for the rebels and claims that MH17 was shot down using a missile system provided by Russia.

In an unusual video address, the evil called Pig Putin said on Monday that "nobody should – and no one has the right to – use this tragedy to achieve selfish political ends. Such events should not divide people but unite them."

***************

Experts Examining Ukraine Crash Bodies

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 July 2014, 13:51

Dutch forensic experts on Monday began examining the bodies from the MH17 plane disaster, as world leaders denounced the "shambolic" state of the crash site left in the hands of pro-Russian rebels.

Kiev's prime minister said the remains of some 250 victims of the 298 killed when the flight went down last week, apparently shot by a surface-to-air missile, had been recovered and moved to train cars, and could be transferred to the Netherlands.

But the bodies are in rebel-held territory where Kiev holds no sway, near the city of Donetsk where intense shelling broke out again on Monday.

The U.N. Security Council is expected on Monday to adopt an Australia-backed resolution demanding that pro-Russian separatists grant unrestricted access to the crash site for international experts.

Patience was wearing thin over Moscow's stance, even as President shit stain Pigr Putin pledged Russia would do "everything in its power" to resolve the Ukrainian conflict and to open access to the site.

The under-fire Russian leader appeared to seek to temper world fury after Washington said it had overwhelming evidence the missile system used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines jet was transferred from Russia to the rebels.

After speaking with the shit stain Pig Putin, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott noted he had "said all the right things" but that he would "hold the president to his word".

"That is certainly my intention, and it should be the intention of the family of nations to hold the president to his word," Abbott said, as concerns rose over tampering with evidence including the victims' remains and the plane's black boxes.

Twenty-eight Australian nationals and nine residents were among the passengers from a dozen countries on the doomed flight.

At the Torez station, close to Donetsk, an AFP reporter witnessed the Dutch investigators, wearing masks and headlights, open each of the train wagons holding the remains of recovered bodies, amid an overpowering stench.

Even as the shit stain called Pig Putin pledged to work toward dialogue between the Ukrainian rivals, intense shelling rained down in the rebel stronghold Donetsk, just 60 kilometers from Torez where the bodies are being held.

Insurgent fighters had closed off the roads in the area on the edge of the city and terrified civilians were fleeing the fighting in minibuses and on foot.

A rebel fighter told AFP that government troops had attacked their positions close to the transport hub at around 10 am (0700 GMT).

"They came within about two kilometers of the station," insurgent gunman Volodya told AFP.

Even as Dutch teams were inspecting the bodies, international investigators have yet to gain access to the actual crash site in Grabove, with debris spread out for kilometers.

"As anyone who has been watching the footage will know, this is still an absolutely shambolic situation," Australia's Abbott said.

Malaysia's transport minister Liow Tiong Lai has also expressed concerns that "the sanctity of the crash site has been severely compromised".

Only a team of conflict monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were allowed briefly to access the main crash site.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has slammed as "grotesque" the manner in which "drunken separatist soldiers" were allegedly "unceremoniously piling bodies into trucks, removing both bodies, as well as evidence, from the site".

Insurgents defended their actions, with a rebel chief saying they had moved scores of bodies "out of respect for the families".

Washington has pointedly blamed Moscow for supplying rebel with the missile system used to shoot down the passenger jet.

Kiev on Sunday released fresh recordings of what it says are intercepted conversations between rebels organizing to hide the flight's black boxes from international monitors.

And the U.S. embassy confirmed as authentic recordings released by Kiev of an intercepted call between an insurgent commander and a Russian intelligence officer as they realized they had shot down a passenger jet.

The Washington Post said Ukraine's counterintelligence chief had photographs and related evidence that three Buk M-1 anti-aircraft missile systems moved from rebel-held territory into Russia less than 12 hours after the crash.

However, top Russian officials and state media have suggested that Kiev's new leaders staged the attack to blame the rebels.

The U.N. Security Council votes at 1900 GMT on Monday on a resolution demanding that armed groups controlling the area "refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site... and immediately provide safe, secure, full and unrestricted access to the site and surrounding area for the appropriate investigating authorities."

The leaders of France, Britain and Germany also signaled they could ramp up sanctions against Russia as early as Tuesday -- barely a week after the last round of toughened embargoes.

The separatists' violent bid to join Russia is the latest chapter in a prolonged crisis sparked by Kiev's desire for closer ties with the EU -- a sentiment many in the Russian-speaking east do not share.

*****************

MH17: world's anger at Russia grows as bodies pile on to train at crash site

Experts fear clues as to why Malaysia Airlines plane was brought down could be lost for ever as chaos at scene persists

Shaun Walker in Torez
The Guardian, Monday 21 July 2014   
   
Masked, hooded men ran along the platform nervously waving their guns, as the large grey door to one of five train carriages was levered open. A ghoulish stench poured out; inside the glint of shiny black body bags piled in a heap was visible. A group of international monitors from the OSCE peered in briefly, and then the door was swung shut again.

That this event was seen as a great breakthrough in the cleanup of the MH17 air disaster only went to show what a grimly farcical mess it had been up to now.

As politicians, investigators and relatives of the dead across the world expressed anger at the Kremlin for not forcing pro-Russia rebels to offer more cooperation, there had yet to be any serious examination of the crash site.

The UN security council is due to vote on Monday on a resolution that demands armed groups do not compromise the crash site integrity, as well as that those responsible be held accountable.

But experts suggested that vital clues to how the Malaysia Airlines Boeing was brought down could have been lost forever as the site continues to be a free-for-all three days after the tragedy, which took 298 lives.

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. Until Sunday lunchtime, nobody even knew where the body bags from the site had been taken, with dark rumours swirling. Even now, the OSCE monitors have had to take the word of the local emergency services that 196 bodies have been found so far.

"We have not been able to count them as that would be too difficult in this situation," said Alexander Hug, the deputy chief of the OSCE mission, as he was circled by rebels with guns.

Michael Bociurkiw, the spokesman for the mission, added: "Going inside the wagons is impossible without special equipment. The stench is very, very bad."

The OSCE monitors are fully at the mercy of the rebels, and were only told of the fate of the bodies on Sunday: "We are waiting for the rebels to call us and tell us what we can do," one had said over breakfast in a Donetsk hotel earlier in the day. "They are heavily armed and we are unarmed, so we don't have much of a choice."

At the crash site, the rebel fighters who had been stationed there and barred access on previous days had gone, but chaos still reigned. Volunteer miners and local emergency workers continued to find bodies in the corn and sunflower fields throughout the day on Sunday, and stacked them by the side of the road in thick plastic bags: black for more or less whole bodies, and green for small parts. By the afternoon at least 18 freshly bagged corpses lined the road.

There was a complete lack of control over access to the site. The world's television media seemed oblivious to the irony of criticising the chaos while contributing to it – wading through fields to get a better shot with little regard for the human and material debris below. Sky had to apologise after one of its reporters rummaged through a suitcase on camera for effect.

Elsewhere, items had been moved and piled up by the search teams on the side of the road – suitcases stacked next to each other; and three football biographies, of Kevin Keegan, Ron Atkinson and Nigel Clough, lined up in a neat row.

Nevertheless, despite the loud accusations of looting by locals, it is unclear how widespread this has been. Dozens of eminently lootable items – watches, new pairs of shoes and even somehow unharmed bottles of duty-free alcohol visible from the road lay untouched on the ground. At one site, locals had even brought furry toys and small candles in tribute. It was unclear if and how relatives would ever be able to take possession of the items that lay scattered over a huge radius.

There was widespread international suspicion that the rebels may have been attempting to restrict access to the site in order to destroy important evidence. International experts said that preserving the site intact was key to understanding what exactly happened to MH17.

Phil Giles, formerly with the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, said: "It's absolutely crucial to seal off any crash site because it's similar to the scene of a crime and you don't want any contamination. The reason the site needs not to be disturbed is because if you accidentally shot down a Malaysia Airlines plane the first thing you would do is find the record casing [from the aircraft's flight recorder] and disappear it."

Giles, who looked into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, said the site would also be contaminated by people trampling over the wreckage. He said that the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing hinged on a thumbnail-size piece of the bomb's timing device that could easily have been walked into the ground. Other experts said traces of the blast on the aeroplane's surface could even reveal the manufacturer of the missile in some cases.

Additionally, the cockpit recording of the explosion might contain a "fingerprint" that could identify the type of missile used, said Tony Cable, an investigator who worked for the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch for 32 years.

Ukrainian security forces have released an audio recording of what are alleged to be a series of intercepted phone calls between two rebel leaders, which suggest rebels may already be in possession of up to three of the boxes containing vital clues about the final moments of the flight.

"The boxes must be under our control," says one of the voices. "Our friends from high above are very interested in the fate of the 'black boxes'. I mean people from Moscow."

Questioned about whether he was in contact with Russian authorities over the black boxes, the self-styled prime minister of the Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai, said only: "Officially, no." He said that rebels had found "technical elements" believed to be the black boxes. They would be "stored in a safe place" in Donetsk until they can be handed over to "international experts," he said.

As more and more time has passed since the crash, international anger and anguish has grown, especially in the two countries most affected. The Netherlands' best-selling paper De Telegraaf called for Nato troops to be deployed in eastern Ukraine, while prime minister Mark Rutter called attempts to block the site "totally disgusting". In Malaysia, the country's youth and sport minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, wrote on Twitter on Sunday: "Pro-Russian terrorists have not handled #MH17 victims with dignity. Putin promised PM @NajibRazak he would help. He hasn't."

In Donetsk, the rebels shrugged off these accusations, claiming they would welcome any international experts, but none had shown any desire to arrive yet. Borodai said that the Donetsk People's Republic was expecting a team of 81 international experts, including 20 Malaysian specialists, who would "probably arrive tomorrow evening". The rebel leader said he did not know why the international community had not responded quicker to the incident. "I cannot understand why the experts cannot come here immediately, we are not an island, it should be easy for them to come here," he told press.

However, with military clashes between the Ukrainian army and rebels continuing in the area, there are obvious safety issues, as well as the fact that Donetsk airport has been inactive since it was the scene of a huge battle in May.

A forensic expert working with the Red Cross has arrived in Donetsk on Sunday after the humanitarian support organisation's offer of assistance in dealing with the crash site was accepted by the Donetsk authorities. However a diplomatic source in Kiev said that the main international delegation plans to travel to Kharkiv, the east Ukrainian city where there are plans to transport the bodies.

A number of stories told by locals showed just how haphazard the gathering of the bodies has been. At the main hospital in Torez, a man arrived in a white Lada and pulled the corpse of a child from the boot, about two hours after the crash on Thursday.

The boy was perhaps six or seven and looked Asian, recalled duty nurse Olga. The man was a local and had arrived on the scene shortly after the crash. Spotting the child, the same age as his own son, he had been overcome with emotion and decided to bring the body to hospital, to avoid stray dogs attacking the corpse.

"He was covered in blood, so much blood. He was wearing a green T-shirt that had been pulled up around his neck, and there were burns on the body and injuries to his arms and legs," she said.

Hospital staff washed and refrigerated the boy's corpse, but were later told he should be delivered to a nearby village, so he was taken in an ambulance. From there, the nurses believe, he was part of a convoy of about 38 bodies that were taken to the train at Torez.

After the OSCE left the station, the armed men departed with them and the platform was left in an eerie silence. The train driver shrugged and said he had no idea of its destination, or its departure time. In the musty, decaying interior of the small station, building a few locals gathered, wondering when the next passenger train would arrive.

"You only came here because they are foreigners dead," said one. "We've been having a war here for months."

*******************

Deadly Fighting Rages On in East Ukraine despite Plane Crash

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 July 2014, 22:58

Pensioner Oleksandr had just stepped out of his house in eastern Ukraine to say hello to a neighbor when a mortar shell landed at his feet.

He died several minutes later, with his hand blown off and his stomach torn open.

"They are fighting and we are in the middle of it!" Lyudmila, his grieving widow, told Agence France Presse in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.   

"If they enjoy fighting so much then they should just go to a field and beat each other up there. I just want to live in peace."

After Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed on Thursday in the strife-torn region, killing all 298 passengers aboard, both Kiev and the pro-Russian rebels it has been fighting for months raised the possibility of a ceasefire.

But in reality, the bullets never stopped flying.

Ukraine's armed forces over the weekend pushed on with their operation to stamp out the rebels controlling the south-east part of Lugansk, with combat over the last 24 hours leaving 13 wounded in the industrial hub.

The border with Russia is the scene of daily skirmishes, while around Donetsk -- a city of nearly one million -- fighting carried on unabated.

Lyudmila said she had only just arrived home when she heard a loud noise.

"I came out and Oleksandr had a hand sliced off and several wounds in the stomach. Our neighbor tried to help him as far as he could. The ambulance took just over half an hour to arrive as there were too many shots being fired. He died before that."

"I don't care who is the government but this must end," she said, tears flowing.

Just a few hundred meters from that spot, Vitaly Maistrenko was wounded in his legs by mortar shells while he was sitting in his garden.

The impact in the middle of the carnation-lined garden was visible and the bench he was sitting on was still soaking in blood.

On the other side of the street, the roof of a home that did not survive the pounding. Luckily, there were no victims as the house was empty like many in every two in this area.

"Everyday there are shots, day and night, and yesterday was horrible. We would like to leave too but our parents are too old and ill. So we are staying here and praying but for how long? Look at the state of that house, we can't do anything to protect against that," said one local resident.

Several meters further, in a street that had visibly been subject to heavy bombardment, a couple with their 18-year-old daughter arrived carrying big plastic bags filled to the brim. Behind her, an elderly woman struggled to keep up.

"They are leaving but I'm staying. I just came to say goodbye to them," the 84-year-old said. "I'm old. How can I leave the house where I have lived all my life?"

Her daughter Alina, who works in a factory in the city said: "I can no longer live here. I'm going nuts. It's now been two months that we're going to bed at night wondering if we're going to open our eyes in the morning."

****************

Australian PM Hits Out at 'Shambolic' MH17 Crash Site

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 July 2014, 08:07

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Monday hit out at the "shambolic" situation at the MH17 crash site as he demanded Russian President Pig Putin back up assurances with action.

Abbott and the Pig spoke by telephone overnight in their first conversation since the Malaysia Airlines plane, carrying 298 people, crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, apparently shot down by pro-Russian rebels with a surface-to-air missile.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, British counterpart David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande also piled pressure on Putin over the weekend in phone calls.

While Abbott would not divulge details of what was discussed, he said the onus was now on Moscow to act, using its influence with pro-Russian separatists to ensure experts can access the site of the crash.

"To President Pig Putin's credit he did say all the right things. I want to stress what he said was fine," Abbott told a press conference.

"The challenge now is to hold the president to his word. That is certainly my intention, and it should be the intention of the family of nations to hold the president to his word."

Rutte talked with shit stain Pig Putin on Sunday, with the Russian leader promising to help retrieve bodies and black boxes, a spokeswoman for Dutch government press service RVD told Agence France Presse.

Abbott has been particularly vocal among world leaders in his outrage at Russia's perceived lack of cooperation in the investigation into the disaster.

He has branded the plane's downing "a crime", and accused Moscow of trying to wash its hands of the tragedy while failing to properly secure the crash site.

Moscow denies any involvement in the disaster.

Twenty-eight Australian nationals and nine residents were among the 298 people from a dozen countries on board who died.

- 'Bodies are not hostages' -

Abbott said every day that went by the bodies were deteriorating and the crash site was being further contaminated.

"As anyone who has been watching the footage will know, this is still an absolutely shambolic situation," he said.

"The site is being treated more like a garden clean-up than a forensic investigation."

He added that his key goals were "to retrieve the bodies, we want to investigate the site, and we want to punish the guilty. That's what we want to do".

The comments follow Australia on Sunday circulating a draft U.N. Security Council resolution -- that could be put to a vote as early as Monday -- demanding that pro-Russian separatists provide "full and unfettered access" to the site.

Abbott said that having pro-Russian rebels in charge of the crash zone was "a little like leaving criminals in control of a crime scene".

He dispatched Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to the United States to lead the lobbying for support of the resolution.

She said it was "an utter outrage" that the site had been contaminated and evidence removed.

"This is not a time to use bodies as hostages or pawns in a Ukrainian-Russian conflict," she told reporters in Washington.

On Sunday, pro-Russian militiamen in Ukraine loaded almost 200 bodies from the flight into refrigerated train wagons. A rebel chief said they were holding them until "the experts arrive".

Canberra wants a full and impartial investigation in the disaster, but Abbott said a key difficulty was that there was "no-one in authority in charge on the ground".

He said Monday he had sent former defence force chief Angus Houston to be his personal envoy on the ground in Ukraine and to help recover the remains of the Australians killed.

Abbott added that the government was considering designating the MH17 disaster as a terrorist attack, which would trigger compensation payments to the families of Australian victims.

****************

MH17: UN resolution on ensuring crash site access set for Monday

Russia will support final version in security council vote if no one is blamed, according to reports in Australian newspaper

Reuters
theguardian.com, Monday 21 July 2014 03.32 BST   

The UN security council is due to vote Monday on a resolution that would condemn the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane in Ukraine and demands that those responsible be held accountable and that armed groups do not compromise the crash site integrity.

While Russia engaged in negotiations with the 15-member council on the resolution – drafted by Australia which lost 37 citizens and residents – it was unclear if it would support the final version, said diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.

However, the Australian Financial Review on Monday reported that Russia would support the resolution ensuring unfettered access to the crash site as long as it does not blame Moscow.

Ambassador Vladimir Morozov told the newspaper that Moscow was prepared to support a draft resolution circulated by Australia that would guarantee international investigators access to the wreckage, which is in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.

"This resolution is supported by Russia ... so long as it does not blame somebody," Morozov said in an interview, the newspaper reported.

In an apparent bid to compromise with Moscow, the wording of the condemnation was change to characterise the incident as the "downing" of the Malaysia Airlines flight – with 298 people on board – instead of "shooting down", according to the final draft obtained by Reuters.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of fuelling a pro-Russian uprising that threatens to break up the former Soviet republic of 46 million people. Russia denies orchestrating the unrest and says Ukraine's attempts to end it by military force are making the situation worse.

Moscow denies any involvement in shooting down the airliner and has blamed the Ukrainian military. US secretary of state John Kerry put forward on Sunday the most detailed accusations so far that Russia provided insurgents with the sophisticated anti-aircraft systems used to down the aircraft.

Russian president Pig "I am not evil" Putin urged the pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine to cooperate and insisted that an international investigation must not leap to conclusions.

The draft UN resolution "demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability" and "calls on all states and actors in the region to cooperate fully in relation to the international investigation of the incident".

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop and Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans are due to be at the UN for the vote on the resolution, said diplomats. The Netherlands lost 189 citizens on the flight to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.

The draft resolution "expresses grave concern at reports of insufficient and limited access to the crash site."

It "demands that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site ... and immediately provide safe, secure, full and unrestricted access to the site and surrounding area for the appropriate investigating authorities."

International monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe visited part of the crash site for a third day on Sunday. They said on Saturday that gunmen had stopped them approaching some of the wreckage.

The draft resolution also "insists that the bodies of the victims are treated in a dignified, respectful and professional manner and calls upon all parties concerned to ensure that this happens with immediate effect."

Television images of the rebel-held crash sites, where the remains of victims had lain decomposing in fields among their personal belongings, have turned initial shock and sorrow after Thursday's disaster into anger.

The security council issued a statement on Friday calling for a "full, thorough and independent international investigation," access to the site and appropriate accountability. Britain drafted the text and hoped the council could issue it on Thursday but Russia requested more time.

*****************

MH17 crash: Kerry lays out evidence of pro-Russia separatists' responsibility

US secretary of state lists 'enormous input that points fingers' and urges Moscow to act as rebels move victims' bodies from crash site

Dominic Rushe in New York and Shaun Walker in Torez
theguardian.com, Sunday 20 July 2014 16.14 BST   

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has said all the evidence surrounding the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 points towards pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine being to blame. He spoke out as bodies of victims were moved by rebels on to trains several miles from the crash site.

Kerry appeared on all five major US Sunday talkshows to lay out the Obama administration's case against the separatists and to call on Russia to act and stop them from blocking an investigation into the firing of a surface-to-air missile that brought down the plane on Thursday, claiming 298 lives.

"We have enormous input about this that points fingers," Kerry told CNN's State of the Union. "It is pretty clear that this was a system from Russia, transferred to separatists. We know with confidence that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point of time."

He said the US knew that in the last month there had been a "major flow of arms and weapons from Russia to the eastern part of Ukraine and turned over to the separatists".

Kerry said social media reports and US surveillance put the missile system in question in the vicinity of the crash before the tragedy.

"We know because we observed it by imagery that at the moment of the shootdown we detected a launch from that area," he said. "Our trajectory shows that it went to the aircraft.

"We also know to a certainty that social media immediately afterwards saw reports of separatists bragging about knocking down a plane and then the so-called defence minister of Donetsk, Igor Strelkov, posted a report bragging about the shoot-down of a transport plane."

The case against the separatists was further backed by evidence from voice intercepts and a video of a launcher moving back into Russia with at least one missing missile, said Kerry.

Kerry called on Russia to "step up publicly and join in the effort to make sure there is a full fledged investigation".

Last week, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the US president, Barack Obama, should "stop lecturing Russia".

Kerry said he had spoken to Lavrov on Saturday. "It was a direct and tough conversation," he said.

Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate select committee on intelligence, told CNN the type of equipment Russia had supplied to the separatists should only go to someone with "an ethical compass".

"Now we find out it's been given to separatists who are in many respects thugs. And it's been used in a very terrible way."

"The nexus between Russia and the separatists has been established very clearly," Feinstein added. "So the issue is, where is the Russian president, the shit stain called Pig Putin? I would say: 'Shit stain, you have to man pig up. You have to say this was a mistake,' which I hope it was."

The evil Pig has urged the pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine to cooperate and insisted that an international investigation must not leap to conclusions. Moscow denies involvement and has pointed the finger at Kiev's military.

Ukraine and its western allies accuse Moscow of fuelling a pro-Russia uprising that threatens to break up the former Soviet republic of 46 million people. Russia denies orchestrating the unrest and says Ukraine's attempts to end it by military force are making the situation worse.

On Sunday, the bodies of the victims were loaded on to three railway carriages, apparently with refrigerator capability, standing at the train station in the town of Torez, several miles from the crash site in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

The Guardian witnessed the arrival of a delegation from the international monitoring body the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at around midday local time on Sunday to inspect the wagons, accompanied by a convoy of heavily armed and nervous rebels.

As they opened the metal door to one of the carriages to inspect the interior, a stench of death wafted out, and black body bags were visible inside.

"The special monitoring mission in its third day dealing with the incident has now monitored the location where bodies are being refrigerated in three wagons," said Alexander Hug, the deputy chief of the mission.

"We have not been able to count them as that would be too difficult in this situation."

Michael Bociurkiw, the spokesman for the mission, added: "Going inside the wagons is impossible without special equipment. The stench is very, very bad."

The OSCE, which has had its access to the crash site itself limited in recent days, left in a convoy to return to the crash site.

There have been no international investigators at the scene. Ukrainian authorities say they are setting up facilities for relatives to stay and autopsies in the city of Kharkiv, about 200 miles away.

Armed separatists at the scene refused to say how many bodies were in the train carriages or when they would leave. The train driver told the Guardian he had no idea of the train's destination.

The local department of Ukraine's emergencies ministry in the eastern Donetsk region said on Sunday that 196 bodies had been found at the site where the Malaysian airliner crashed.

"As of 7am on 20 July, in the Shakhtarsky region of the crash site of the Boeing 777, 196 bodies were found," it said in a statement, adding that divers were involved in the search because the area included a reservoir.

It also emerged on Sunday that the UN security council was considering a draft resolution to condemn the "shooting down" of a Malaysian passenger plane in Ukraine, demand armed groups grant access to the crash site, and call on states in the region to cooperate with an international investigation.

Australia – which lost 28 citizens – circulated a draft text, seen by Reuters, to the 15-member security council late on Saturday, and diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it could be put to a vote as early as Monday.

The draft resolution "demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability".

It "condemns in the strongest terms the shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 … resulting in the tragic loss of 298 lives" and "demands that all states and other actors in the region refrain from acts of violence directed against civilian aircraft."

Russia's UN mission declined to comment on the draft security council resolution.

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MH17: missile launcher was in towns near crash site, videos suggest

Videos and photographs appear to show a mobile anti-aircraft missile launcher in neighbouring towns of Torez and Snizhne

Julian Borger and Josh Halliday   
The Guardian, Sunday 20 July 2014 18.55 BST   
   
Evidence was growing on Sunday that Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a missile fired from the vicinity of two neighbouring towns near the crash site within rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine.

Analysis of videos and photos posted on social media sites on the day the plane was brought down show a mobile Buk anti-aircraft missile launcher in the town of Torez, about six miles south of the farmland where the wreckage is scattered, and then in Snizhne, two miles east of Torez. Washington said that one of its satellites had detected a missile launch from the vicinity of those towns at the time the Boeing 777 was brought down.

Eliot Higgins, a video and photographic analyst, published the pictures on his investigative journalism website Bellingcat. "The guy who uploaded one of the videos, deleted the video and his accounts a few hours after the plane came down," Higgins said.

"There is a cluster of two videos and two photos we have analysed that show a Buk missile-launcher in Torez, at about midday from the angle of the sun, and then about an hour and half later in Snizhne."

Higgins said that the pictures were not clear enough to be sure whether the mobile launcher in Snizhne was the same as the one in Torez.

The Ukrainian interior ministry also released a short video that appeared to show a Buk launcher with at least one missile missing being transported along a road on a trailer, claiming the weapon was being driven across the border into Russia.

The video analysis confirms an earlier Associated Press report that one of its journalists spotted a Buk-like launcher in an area of eastern Ukrainian controlled by separatists, contradicting claims by rebel leaders not to have such missiles.

The Buk, known to the US military as an SA-11 Gadfly, can reach targets up to altitudes of 46,000 feet. MH17 was flying at 33,000 feet en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Both the Ukrainian and Russian armed forces possess the launchers, which work alongside a separate mobile radar and a command vehicle. Experts say its target-acquisition technology is good enough to spot aircraft, but not to differentiate between civilian and military planes.

The US state department on Sunday published its most detailed version of the attack on the Malaysian airliner. "At the time that flight MH17 dropped out of contact, we detected a surface-to-air missile launch from a separatist-controlled area in southeastern Ukraine.

"We believe this missile was an SA-11," a statement from the US embassy in Kiev said, adding that the launch was in the area of Torez and Snizhne.

"Intercepts of separatist communications posted on YouTube by the Ukrainian government indicate the separatists were in possession of a SA-11 system as early as Monday July 14th. In the intercepts, the separatists made repeated references to having and repositioning Buk (SA-11) systems."

The embassy statement also said that US intelligence audio analysts believed the intercepts of rebel commanders discussing the shooting down of the plane were genuine.

It claimed that over the weekend of 12-13 July Russia sent a convoy of military equipment with up to 150 vehicles, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers artillery, and multiple rocket launchers to the separatists. The statement also said Russia was training separatist fighters in south-west Russia, including on anti-aircraft systems.

Vitaly Nayda, Ukraine's counterintelligence chief, said that Buk missile launchers were seen crossing into Russia from eastern Ukraine on Friday morning.

A definitive investigation was still being prevented on Sunday by eastern separatist groups imposing access restrictions. The rebels were removing bodies and the Ukrainian government accused them of sanitising the scene of evidence.

A team of six investigators from Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch was sent to Ukraine soon after the disaster to take part in an international enquiry, but a spokeswoman from the AAIB said: "They are still in Kiev, while the format for an investigation is being established." She declined to go into further detail but it is believed that the investigators have not gone to the crash site, east of Donetsk, for lack of security assurances.

Senior figures in the air accident investigation community have said that the crash site is becoming increasingly contaminated, hindering the chances of a full independent inquiry.

Phil Giles, formerly with the AAIB, said: "It's absolutely crucial to seal of any crash site because it's similar to the scene of a crime and you don't want any contamination. The reason the site needs not to be disturbed is because if you accidentally shot down a Malaysian Airlines plane, the first you would do is find the record casing [from the aircraft] and disappear it."

********************

Three pro-Russia rebel leaders at the centre of suspicions over downed MH17

Igor Strelkov, Igor Bezler and Nikolai Kozitsyn reportedly discussed the shooting down of a plane soon after jet exploded

Alec Luhn in Moscow
The Guardian, Sunday 20 July 2014 19.15 BST   

As the world searches for answers over the Malaysia Airlines flight downed in eastern Ukraine, suspicion has fallen on the leaders of the pro-Russia rebels who have shot down three government planes in the past week.

Attention has centred on rebel leaders who reportedly discussed the downing of a plane shortly after MH17 exploded and crashed: Igor Strelkov, an alleged Russian intelligence agent leading the military forces of the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic", and Igor Bezler, a notorious loose cannon who rules the town of Horlivka with an iron fist. A third suspect is Nikolai Kozitsyn, commander of a group of Cossacks, the traditional military caste that once protected the borders of the Russian empire.

Shortly after the Boeing 777 went down with 298 people aboard, a Russian social networking page that has been uploading messages from Strelkov for weeks published a post saying rebels had shot down a plane outside Torez, near the location of the wreckage of MH17.

The post, which was later deleted, appeared to incorrectly identify the aircraft as an AN-26 military transport plane, lending credence to the theory that the rebels mistakenly downed the Malaysian airliner. "We warned you not to fly in our skies," it read. Rebel leaders later denied their forces had shot down the plane.

Strelkov (his real name is Girkin) is an avid historical battle re-enactor from Moscow and a former colonel in Russia's Ffederal security service who recently admitted he was asked to lead the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, although he wouldn't say by whom. He fought as a volunteer in Bosnia and in Transnistria, a Russian-backed breakaway republic in Moldova, and was seen advising separatist leaders in Crimea before the peninsula seceded from Ukraine and was annexed by Russia.

Strelkov is good friends with Alexander Borodai, the political analyst from Moscow who leads the government in Donetsk, and both previously worked for a company owned by nationalist oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, who reportedly funded separatist activity in Crimea.

On Friday, Ukrainian authorities released recordings of what they said were intercepted phone conversations between rebel leaders. In the first, a voice claimed to be Bezler's says a rebel group had shot down a plane and was investigating the crash site. In the second, a rebel commander reports that Cossacks shot down what was later discovered to be a "100% civilian aircraft" and that documents of an Indonesian student had been found.

Sound analysts and rebel leaders quoted on Russian television have argued the recordings were falsified by combining unrelated conversations, and a pro-Russian blogger claimed they were originally created before MH17 went down.

A final conversation allegedly records a rebel reporting to Kozytsin that "the plane shot down in the area of Snizhne-Torez … is a civilian one".

"That means they were carrying spies," the man alleged to be Kozitsyn responds. "They shouldn't be flying. There is a war going on."

Bezler, a former funeral home director nicknamed Bes (Demon) and renowned for his ruthlessness, first emerged after angry pro-Russia protesters stormed the police station in Horlivka, during which he was seen in a video identifying himself as a "colonel in the Russian army".

In a later interview with Russian Forbes magazine, he said he was a Russian citizen from Crimea whose ancestor died in the Charge of the Light Brigade, commemorated by Alfred, Lord Tennyson during the Crimean war.

In Horlivka, he is known as a "cruel but effective" commander, and rumours hold he summarily executed four men accused of raping a girl, according to Ruslan, a local taxi driver. Bezler himself has filmed captured Ukrainian special agents with tape wrapped around their bloodied heads, and his men have been involved in many of the ugliest clashes with Ukrainian troops.

He is also known as a loose cannon liable to fight with the leadership of the Donetsk People's Republic, which said it was considering placing him before a war crimes tribunal after he appeared in a video executing two Ukrainian officers by firing squad. (It was later admitted that the men were firing blanks.)

In June, Bezler's men seized the regional police headquarters in downtown Donetsk, sparking an hours-long shootout with local rebel forces.

The final rebel commander under suspicion, Kozitsyn was born in the Donetsk region and took part in military actions in the Russian-backed separatist republics of Transnistria, and Abkhazia in Georgia, according to a Russian nationalist website. He reportedly received a medal from the Russian security services, the FSB, for engaging in talks with former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who was later tried for war crimes.

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US says recordings of Ukraine rebels admitting MH17 downing ‘authentic’

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, July 20, 2014 12:49 EDT

Alleged intercepted phone conversations released by Ukraine’s security service of pro-Russian rebels discussing how they shot down Malaysian airliner MH17 are genuine, the US embassy in Kiev said Sunday.

Ukraine’s SBU security agency on Thursday released recordings of what it claimed were phone talks involving rebels and a Russian military intelligence officer admitting that they had hit the passenger jet after mistaking it for a military aircraft.

The recordings were presented as key evidence to back up Kiev’s claims that rebels — supported by Russia — downed the jet while the separatists accused Ukraine’s army of being responsible.

“Audio data provided to the press by the Ukrainian security service was evaluated by Intelligence Community analysts who confirmed these were authentic conversations between known separatist leaders,” the US embassy in Ukraine said in a statement.

In one of the recordings a rebel commander nicknamed the “Major” says rebels shot down the plane and tells a disbelieving comrade that the jet is “100 percent a civilian aircraft.”

On Sunday Ukraine’s security agency released a fresh batch of alleged leaked conversations of rebels organising to hide the flight’s black boxes from international monitors at the crash site.

*******************

Shit stain Pig Putin's Russia risks burning bridges over jet crash

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, July 20, 2014 12:54 EDT

Russia risks burning bridges with the West over the deadly Malaysian plane crash in Ukraine, as analysts warn that the shit stain called Pig Putin might never accept responsibility for the disaster.

Observers said Thursday’s shooting down of a Boeing 777 with 298 people on board over Ukrainian territory held by pro-Kremlin rebels would have unpredictable political and economic consequences for Russia.

“We are witnessing a tectonic clash between Russia and the West,” Yuly Nisnevich of the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics told AFP. “Russia’s isolation will very much deepen.”

Anger over the disaster has been directed largely at Pig, accused by the West of backing the separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine that erupted after Moscow’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula in March.

European leaders have already warned Russia to allow investigators full access to the crash site in rebel-held eastern Ukraine or face further sanctions.

But the pressure on Moscow looked set to intensify, with Kiev and the West accusing it of providing Ukrainian rebels with the missile launchers that blasted the plane out of the sky.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday laid out what he said was “extraordinary circumstantial evidence” that the rebels hit the plane with weapons obtained from Russia.

US intelligence suggests that a sophisticated SA11 missile system was used to bring down flight MH17 as it flew at some 33,000 feet (10,000 metres) over Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Kerry said.

Russia fiercely denies the accusations, claiming to be a victim of a propaganda war and suggesting Ukraine may be responsible for the crash.

Analysts say they doubt Moscow would ever agree with the conclusions of any international probe — if and when it takes place — that points the finger either at separatists or the Kremlin.

“I believe that Russia will continue to deny it is responsible even if there is evidence, especially indirect evidence as it will most likely be the case,” Sergei Guriyev, a prominent Paris-based Russian economist, told AFP in emailed comments.

“If the investigation points at Russia, it would deal colossal damage to the country,” added Yevgeny Gontmakher, an economist and member of the Civic Initiatives Committee think tank.

- In Iran’s footsteps? -

Irrespective of who is eventually assigned blame, analysts said the crash, capping the worst standoff in East-West relations since the Cold War, had already dealt Russia huge damage.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott hinted Saturday that the Kremlin pigman would not be welcome at the next G20 summit in Australia in November if he does not cooperate over the investigation.

The warning came after Russia’s G8 membership was suspended over its takeover of Crimea in March.

With the threat of new EU sanctions now on the table, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the West must “fundamentally change our approach” to Russia unless Moscow alters course in Ukraine.

Gontmakher said the gap between Russia and the West was widening dangerously, pointing to anti-Western official rhetoric and raging anti-US sentiment on national television.

“The situation will only get worse,” he said, warning Russia could eventually find itself as isolated as Iran. “I am afraid we are moving in that direction.”

Promoting Russia as an antithesis to the West has become a key Kremlin policy as the evil Pig's approval ratings soared after Crimea’s annexation, with dissident voices relegated to social media amid a persistent clampdown on dissent.

- ‘Beginning of the end?’ -

The crash of MH17 threatens to “become the beginning of the end for the Russian president,” commentator Ivan Yakovina wrote for online news portal Novoye Vremya.

Some even drew parallels with the regime of late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi which became an international pariah after the 1998 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, at the cost of 270 lives.

Outspoken Kremlin critic Yulia Latynina, speaking on popular radio Echo of Moscow, branded the downing of the plane “a second Lockerbie”.

Others played down the parallel, arguing that Russia’s diplomatic and economic clout meant it would never be cut off entirely from the world stage.

“Russia is not Libya,” commentator Maxim Samorukov said on Slon.ru news website.

Isolating Russia entirely would be difficult considering Moscow’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and its faithful allies in Asia and Latin America, he argued.

“But on the other hand, there is absolutely no need for everyone including Venezuela and Myanmar to join an embargo against Russia,” for it to inflict significant damage.

“Even China’s neutrality will not save the situation.”

**************

And of course.......

Pro-Kremlin Media Accuse West of Assigning Blame over Jet

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 July 2014, 11:36

A chorus of Kremlin-friendly media declared on Monday that the truth about what happened to the Malaysian jet would likely never be found out, accusing the West of heaping the blame on Russia.

"Western press already knows who is to blame for the loss of the airliner -- Russia obviously," said popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Mass-circulation Moskovsky Komsomolets accused the West of pinning the blame on Russia before the results of a yet-to-begin investigation are out.

"Those guilty have been designated," it said, recalling that the United States had falsely accused dictator Saddam Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"It is unclear whether it is possible to tell the truth from the lies in this wonderful new information world," Moskovsky Komsomolets added.

Government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta pointed the finger squarely at Kiev authorities, accusing them of refusing to cooperate with Moscow.

"Kiev is not in a rush to answer '10 questions' about the Boeing," it said, referring to a litany of queries released by the Russian defense ministry over the weekend.

Broadsheet newspapers took a more measured approach, saying the disaster ushered in a grim new era in ties between Russia and the West.

"The catastrophe not only in the skies but also in relations between Russia and the West," said Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

"The wreckage from the Boeing is falling on Russia," added Kommersant daily, noting that the outcome of the inquiry into the crash will determine the future of Russia's ties with the West.

The newspaper cited analyst Alexander Golts as saying that if probe results end up pointing the finger at Moscow, it would once again be perceived in the West as an "Evil Empire."

But if the investigation proves the jet was shot down by Ukraine Kiev would lose Western support, the expert was quoted as saying.

Liberal daily Vedomosti said it was not too late for Russia to mend fences with the West.

"Russia should start rebuilding trust in ties with Europe," it said.

"Much has become irreversible but precise and responsible steps can still point to a path of mutual understanding."

And Novye Izvestia featured on its front page a poem by prominent poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko saying all parties were to blame for the death of 298 people on flight MH17.

"And I am crying, your unnamed brother/ Forgive me for this. I am guilty."


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« Reply #136 on: Jul 21, 2014, 06:25 AM »

Britain Wants Tougher Sanctions against Russia over MH17

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 July 2014, 14:29

Britain will push for EU sanctions targeting whole sectors of the Russian economy in the wake of the Ukraine plane disaster even if it means taking a short-term "hit" to the economy, its ministers said on Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said "the time has now come for sanctions to be tightened further", and stressed that inaction so far over the Ukraine crisis had "not served us well".

EU foreign ministers meet on Tuesday to decide whether to impose sanctions if Russia does not press Ukraine's pro-Kremlin separatists to allow access to the crash site of flight MH17 and reduce Moscow's support for the rebels.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was due to address parliament on the issue later Monday.

Ten Britons were among the 298 people killed when their passenger jet crashed after what is believed to be a strike by a surface-to-air missile.

"We believe the time has now come for sanctions to be tightened further and that is precisely what we will be seeking to deliver in the meetings in the EU later this week," Clegg told a monthly news conference.

He said it was time for the EU to move to "Tier 3" sanctions against Russia, which would block access to European markets for whole sectors of the Russian economy such as gas and oil.

"Let's be clear, in doing so there might be some short-term economic effects in the UK as there would be in other European member states, but a failure to act with the right collective resolve in the EU, in my view, has not served us well in the last seven months."

So far Brussels has only imposed second tier sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes on members of Putin's inner circle.

British finance minister George Osborne made a similar call for tougher sanctions.

"Any sanctions will have an economic impact and we are prepared to undertake further sanctions," he told BBC radio.

"But think of the economic 'hit' of allowing international borders to be ignored, of allowing airlines to be shot down -- that's a much greater economic hit for Britain that we are not prepared to just allow that to happen."

The EU has made preparations for third tier sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine but has not yet brought them into effect.

Britain and some eastern European states have been pushing for tougher action against Moscow.

However, London believes others are more reluctant, such as Germany, which relies on Russian energy supplies, and France, which has a contract to supply Russia with two warships.


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« Reply #137 on: Jul 21, 2014, 11:54 AM »

Obama Says Shit Stain Putin Must Force Separatists to Aid MH17 Probe

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 July 2014, 19:05

U.S. President Barack Obama voiced outrage Monday that the probe into the downing of a Malaysian airliner was being hampered by Ukrainian rebels and demanded Russian leader Vladimir "shit stain" Putin force them to cooperate.

"The Russian-backed separatists continue to block the investigation. They've repeatedly prevented international investigators from gaining full access to the wreckage. As investigators approached they fired weapons into the air... All of which begs the question what exactly are they trying to hide?" Obama asked angrily in a statement on the White House south lawn.

The rebels were also removing bodies from the crash site "without the care" normally expected, Obama added, denouncing their actions as "an insult to those who have lost loved ones" and saying it was up to recovery personnel to do "the solemn and sacred work of recovering the remains of those who were lost."

Russia has "direct influence over these separatists" and the Russian shit stain "has direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation. That is the least that they can do," Obama said four days after Thursday's downing of flight MH17 as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

"The burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full, and unimpeded access to the crash site."

The United States has alleged that the plane with 298 people on board was shot out of the skies by an SA-11 missile system, which had been supplied by Moscow to the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

"Our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened and putting forward the facts. We have to make sure the truth is out and that accountability exists," Obama said.

"Our friends and allies need to be able to recover those who were lost. That's the least we can do. That's the least that decency demands," he said.

"Families deserve to be able to lay their loved ones to rest with dignity. The world deserves to know exactly what happened and the people of Ukraine deserve to determine their own future," Obama added.

He warned Moscow that failure to rein in the separatists would only lead to greater isolation, and hinted more U.S. sanctions could come, saying "the costs for Russia's behavior will only continue to increase."

"Now is the time for the shit stain called Putin and Russia to pivot away from this tragedy... and get serious about trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine in a way that respects Ukraine's sovereignty and respects the right of the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions."

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EU to 'Raise Pressure' on Russia over Downed Malaysian Flight

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 July 2014, 17:40

Germany's foreign minister said Monday the EU will "raise the pressure" on Russia over the Ukraine crisis following the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 with a suspected missile.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier said "the terrible deaths of hundreds of innocent people in the plane crash a few days ago, the ghastly images of the crash site and the ruthless behaviour of the separatists have rightly caused outrage and shock around the world".

With Russia still failing to rein in the pro-Moscow insurgents or halting the cross-border flow of fighters and weapons, and no ceasefire in sight, Steinmeier warned of the risk of a further "dramatic escalation".

"All this we will have to discuss in the group of European foreign ministers tomorrow," said Steinmeier, adding that it will be "no easy session".

"We will have to raise the pressure to achieve the results that all European foreign ministers believe to be necessary," Steinmeier said after meeting his Hungarian counterpart Tibor Navracsics.

The German top diplomat added that the foreign ministers will also have to debate how, "aside from the heightened pressure and sanctions, we can return to a resilient political process that indeed promises to lead to a ceasefire".

**************

Canada to Impose Further Russia Sanctions over Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 July 2014, 18:03

Canada's prime minister announced Monday further economic sanctions against Russian entities and individuals, saying the downing of flight MH17 was a "direct product of Russia's military aggression and illegal occupation" of Ukraine.

"The outrageous and criminal act of shooting down a civilian airliner last week is a direct product of Russia's military aggression and illegal occupation of Ukraine, and demonstrates the need for the international community to continue applying pressure on the Putin regime," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was blown out of the sky on Thursday by what is believed to be a surface-to-air missile, killing 298 passengers and crew and dramatically raising the stakes in Ukraine's bloody three-month conflict.

Kiev has blamed the rebels, citing photographs of anti-aircraft missile systems being moved from rebel-held territory into Russia less than 12 hours after the crash, and an intercepted call between an insurgent commander and a Russian intelligence officer as they realized they had shot down a passenger jet.

"It is clear that the Putin regime's continuing provocative military action against Ukraine, its illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula, and its failure to end its support to armed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine constitute a threat to international peace and security," Harper said.

He called on the Russian shit stain, Putin, to order a withdrawal of his troops from its border with Ukraine, stop a flow of weapons and militants into Ukraine, urge the rebels to lay down their arms and to allow investigators access to the crash site.

The sanctions "against a broad range of entities related to various Russian sectors" follow consultations and coordination with Canada's allies, Harper noted.

Details of the sanctions were to be unveiled later in the day.

***************

And the 'evil empire' vomits up propaganda ... for it's own people to 'believe' .... and any other idiot who needs to believe in such propaganda ...

Moscow Says Ukraine Fighter Jet Flew near Malaysian Plane before Crash

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 July 2014, 13:51

Russia on Monday said its flight records show a Ukrainian fighter jet was flying close to the Malaysian passenger airliner just before it crashed and that Kiev was operating radar stations used for missile systems.

Moscow also denied supplying Ukrainian separatists with Buk missile systems or any other weapons, as it sought to head off international accusations it was responsible for the downing of the Malaysian plane with 298 people on board.

Armed with a number of slides, charts and images, two high-ranking officials of Russia's General Staff laid out a case against Ukraine at a specially called briefing.

Lieutenant-General Andrei Kartopolov said the Malaysian plane strayed north of its planned route, adding that a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet, which is typically equipped with air-to-air missiles, had been recorded in the proximity of the Boeing 777.

The Malaysian plane "deviated from its route to the North ... The maximum deviation was 14 kilometers," he said.

"An altitude gain was recorded for a Ukrainian armed forces plane," he told the briefing. "Its distance from the Malaysian Boeing was three to five kilometers (two to three miles)," he said, noting that the SU-25 is capable of reaching a height of 10,000 meters "for a brief time."

"With what aim was a military plane flying along a civilian aviation route practically at the same time and at the same flight level as a passenger liner?" said Kartopolov. "We would like to receive an answer to this question."

He also said that the Russian defense ministry detected unusual activity from radar stations that are used to operate missile systems on the day of the tragedy.

"From July 17 (Thursday) the intensity of the operation of Ukrainian radar stations increased to the maximum," said Kartopolov.

He said seven radar stations were operating close to the area of the disaster on Tuesday, eight on Wednesday and nine on the day of the crash, Thursday.

After the crash, just four radar stations were operating in the area on Friday and just two on Saturday, he added, citing data.

Kartopolov insisted Russia had not supplied Ukrainian separatists with Buk missile systems or any other weapons.

"I want to stress that Russia did not give the rebels Buk missile systems or any other kinds of weapons or military hardware," he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Dutch forensic experts on Monday began examining the bodies from the MH17 plane disaster, as world leaders denounced the "shambolic" state of the crash site left in the hands of pro-Russian rebels.

The Dutch public prosecutor's office also said it had opened a preliminary criminal probe into the downing of flight MH17.

"An officer from the prosecutor's office, Thijs Berger, is in Kiev at the moment," spokesman Wim de Bruin told Agence France Presse.

Under Dutch law, the Netherlands can prosecute war crimes suspects, even for alleged crimes committed abroad, if one or more victims is Dutch.

There were 193 Dutch citizens on the doomed plane, which is believed to have been brought down by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists.

The prosecutor's office could not say what Berger would do in Ukraine as part of the probe.

Kiev's prime minister said the remains of some 250 victims of the 298 killed when the flight went down last week, apparently shot by a surface-to-air missile, had been recovered and moved to train cars, and could be transferred to the Netherlands.

But the bodies are in rebel-held territory where Kiev holds no sway, near the city of Donetsk where intense shelling broke out again on Monday.

The U.N. Security Council is expected on Monday to adopt an Australia-backed resolution demanding that pro-Russian separatists grant unrestricted access to the crash site for international experts.

Patience was wearing thin over Moscow's stance, even as the evil called Putin pledged Russia would do "everything in its power" to resolve the Ukrainian conflict and to open access to the site.

The under-fire Russian leader appeared to seek to temper world fury after Washington said it had overwhelming evidence the missile system used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines jet was transferred from Russia to the rebels.

After speaking with Pig Putin, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott noted he had "said all the right things" but that he would "hold the president to his word".

"That is certainly my intention, and it should be the intention of the family of nations to hold the president to his word," Abbott said, as concerns rose over tampering with evidence including the victims' remains and the plane's black boxes.

Twenty-eight Australian nationals and nine residents were among the passengers from a dozen countries on the doomed flight.

At the Torez station, close to Donetsk, an AFP reporter witnessed the Dutch investigators, wearing masks and headlights, open each of the train wagons holding the remains of recovered bodies, amid an overpowering stench.

Even as the shit stain, Putin, pledged to work toward dialogue between the Ukrainian rivals, intense shelling rained down in the rebel stronghold Donetsk, just 60 kilometers from Torez where the bodies are being held.

Insurgent fighters had closed off the roads in the area on the edge of the city and terrified civilians were fleeing the fighting in minibuses and on foot.

A rebel fighter told AFP that government troops had attacked their positions close to the transport hub at around 10 am (0700 GMT).

"They came within about two kilometers of the station," insurgent gunman Volodya told AFP.

Even as Dutch teams were inspecting the bodies, international investigators have yet to gain access to the actual crash site in Grabove, with debris spread out for kilometers.

"As anyone who has been watching the footage will know, this is still an absolutely shambolic situation," Australia's Abbott said.

Malaysia's transport minister Liow Tiong Lai has also expressed concerns that "the sanctity of the crash site has been severely compromised".

Only a team of conflict monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were allowed briefly to access the main crash site.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has slammed as "grotesque" the manner in which "drunken separatist soldiers" were allegedly "unceremoniously piling bodies into trucks, removing both bodies, as well as evidence, from the site".

Insurgents defended their actions, with a rebel chief saying they had moved scores of bodies "out of respect for the families".

Washington has pointedly blamed Moscow for supplying rebel with the missile system used to shoot down the passenger jet.

Kiev on Sunday released fresh recordings of what it says are intercepted conversations between rebels organizing to hide the flight's black boxes from international monitors.

And the U.S. embassy confirmed as authentic recordings released by Kiev of an intercepted call between an insurgent commander and a Russian intelligence officer as they realized they had shot down a passenger jet.

The Washington Post said Ukraine's counterintelligence chief had photographs and related evidence that three Buk M-1 anti-aircraft missile systems moved from rebel-held territory into Russia less than 12 hours after the crash.

However, top Russian officials and state media have suggested that Kiev's new leaders staged the attack to blame the rebels.

The U.N. Security Council votes at 1900 GMT on Monday on a resolution demanding that armed groups controlling the area "refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site... and immediately provide safe, secure, full and unrestricted access to the site and surrounding area for the appropriate investigating authorities."

The leaders of France, Britain and Germany also signaled they could ramp up sanctions against Russia as early as Tuesday -- barely a week after the last round of toughened embargoes.

The separatists' violent bid to join Russia is the latest chapter in a prolonged crisis sparked by Kiev's desire for closer ties with the EU -- a sentiment many in the Russian-speaking east do not share.
« Last Edit: Jul 24, 2014, 05:58 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #138 on: Jul 22, 2014, 06:25 AM »

Australia Says 'Industrial Scale' Tampering of Evidence at MH17 Site

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 08:57

Evidence has been tampered with on an "industrial scale" at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday, calling it "a cover-up".

Abbott, whose government was behind a U.N. Security Council resolution that Monday unanimously demanded full access to the site in rebel-held east Ukraine, admitted progress had been made but said more needed to be done.

"There is still a long, long way to go," he told a press conference of the quest to repatriate the bodies of the dead Australians and bring those responsible for the 298 killed to justice.

"After the crime comes the cover-up," he added.

"What we have seen is evidence tampering on an industrial scale. That has to stop."

His comments came as pro-Russian separatists, who are accused of shooting down the plane, finally conceded to a furious international clamor for the bodies and the jet's black boxes to be handed over to international investigators.

It followed days of bitter wrangling in which rebels hampered experts from gaining access to the site and were accused of tampering with evidence.

"This site has been trampled from the beginning and we haven't just seen all sorts of random individuals roaming around the site, picking over the remains, picking over the wreckage. We've seen heavy equipment coming onto the site," Abbott said.

"The more recent footage suggests it's more like a building demolition. And this again is unacceptable."

He said the crash site must be secured and suggested it should be policed by those countries whose citizens had been killed in the disaster.

"Obviously there does need to be security for the site and I would think that the security for the site would best be provided by the countries that have been so wronged here," he said.

In recent days Abbott had been particularly scathing in his criticism of shit stain Pig Putin for failing to intervene, but admitted he now appeared to be acting following intense international pressure.

"The point I made 24 hours ago is that Pig Putin had said all the right things. I then went on to say the challenge is to hold him to his word," he said.

"And to the Pig's credit, he has thus far been as good as his word. I give him credit for being as good as his word over the last 24 hours."

A train carrying the remains of 280 people killed in the disaster was finally allowed to leave a rebel-held region in eastern Ukraine Tuesday as the militants declared a truce around the crash site.

The corpses are due in the Ukrainian government-controlled city of Kharkiv before being put on planes, including an Australian C-17 Globemaster, to the Netherlands, where the doomed flight to Kuala Lumpur originated.

Abbott said the "painstaking and methodical process" of identifying the victims could take weeks, a process he acknowledged would be frustrating but important to get right.

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Ukraine Rebels Hand over MH17 Black Boxes, Call Ceasefire

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 07:06

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday handed over two black boxes recovered from the crash site of the MH17 jet to Malaysian officials at a press conference.

They also announced a ceasefire within a 10 kilometre (six mile) radius around the crash site to allow international investigators to safely access the vast area where the Malaysia Airlines flight was downed Thursday.

"We have decided to hand the black boxes over to Malaysian experts," the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai, told journalists.

The Malaysian team of experts and representatives of the separatist group then signed a protocol before the bright orange boxes were handed over.

"On behalf of the Malaysian government I thank the government of the Donetsk Republic for handing us the two black boxes which are the property of Malaysia," said a member of the Malaysian team.

"We have not found the black boxes from flight MH370 (disappeared over the Indian Ocean in March), so are happy to be able to recover these.

"I see that the black boxes are intact with only minor damage."

One of the boxes will contain all conversation in the cockpit and another all flight data.

However, it is unclear how useful this will be in determining what happened to the flight, which is believed by Kiev and world leaders to have been shot down by a surface-to-air-missile.

The Russia-backed separatist rebels who control the area where the plane went down are suspected of having fired the missile, however they blame the Ukrainian military.

There has been an outpouring of global outrage over lack of access to the site, and fears the rebels have tampered with evidence.

Borodai gave in to demands for a ceasefire to allow investigators full access to the site.

"We will order a ceasefire in a area of 10 kilometres around" the site of the disaster, which left 298 people dead, he said.

Malaysian officials were accompanying a refrigerated train transporting the remains of the passengers to the town of Kharkiv, controlled by the government in Kiev.

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Ukrainian Military and Rebel Fighters Clash in Donetsk

By SABRINA TAVERNISE and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
JULY 21, 2014
IHT

DONETSK, Ukraine — A thick plume of dark smoke could be seen rising into the bright blue afternoon sky here on Monday. One man, a passenger in a blue car that was stopped at a red light, said two people in his building were killed in the day’s fighting. He said he ran out of his house in nothing but his slippers.

A woman in the Kuibysheva neighborhood, which was hit Monday morning, was killed as she walked through a courtyard near a small playground. Two men were found dead nearby. A grocery discount card was on the ground near the bloody outline where the woman’s body had been.

“They are trying to push the D.N.R. back, but they end up hitting us,” said Yevgeny Zhitnikov, a 17-year-old resident of Donetsk, using an abbreviation for the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. “Victory is more important to them than human life.”

His father, who was arranging bags on the ground for the family to leave to a nearby bomb shelter, added, “Animals.”

While the world was watching the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Ukraine stepped up its fight against the separatists, firing on rebel positions in areas of the northwest of the city. Ukraine denied it had hit civilian areas. But at least three of the approximately seven blast sites had trajectories and impact damage consistent with a rocket’s being fired from the northwest, where the Ukrainians are based.

A current visual survey of the continuing dispute, with maps showing rebel and military movement, sites of recent violence, as well as political, cultural and economic factors in the crisis.

“I hate them all,” said an elderly woman, whose front yard had been swallowed up by a large crater. She was sweeping glass off her windowsill in orange gloves, and trying to salvage some old photographs that had been torn. “I don’t know who did this. But let him come, and have his child and his loved ones end up in this situation.”

A Ukrainian military spokesman, Vladislav Seleznyov, would not provide details, citing military secrecy, but confirmed the fighting, calling it “an active phase of the antiterrorist operation.”

A spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Andriy Lysenko, confirmed that government forces were closing in on Donetsk and Horlivka, another rebel stronghold.

Mr. Lysenko denied, however, that government troops had fired any mortars at Donetsk — the government’s standard position — even though heavy fighting in the city cast doubt on his assertion.

The attack, which local rebels said was from a Grad rocket, though the source was unconfirmed, struck near the main train station, a dentist office building, a library, a music school and a basketball court.

Ukraine has continued to press its military campaign against the rebels, who seized control here this spring, shelling and bombing rebel positions, including on the morning after the downing of the Malaysian jet. At least 16 civilians died in fighting in Luhansk that day.

The rocket that killed the woman in Kuibysheva had punched a deep hole into the courtyard. Angry residents had gathered. “Why are people suffering, for what?” said Galina Afrina, a 60-year-old retired financial worker who was holding homemade compote. “We are being told to evacuate.”

B.y 2:30 p.m., residents were leaving the neighborhood. A woman carrying a large gray cat rushed by. A man carrying a kitten walked a bicycle.

A series of booms thumped through the courtyard. It was unclear from which direction the sound came. When asked where the rockets were being fired from, a rebel who identified himself as Yenot gave a long, slow shrug. “They can come from five to 40 kilometers,” he said. “Who knows?”

In a leafy courtyard down the street from where shells landed at School No. 51, residents gathered around park benches. They had been told to evacuate, but few had anywhere to go, or any way to get there.

Dima, a timid boy of 7, stood with his mother.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” his mother, Marta, answered, stroking his head. “We’ll see.”

*****************

MH17 victims' bodies are finally moved out of conflict zone

Train carrying bodies of victims leaves Torez as plane's black box recorders were due to be handed to Malaysian delegation

Harriet Salem in Torez and Shaun Walker in Donetsk
The Guardian, Monday 21 July 2014 20.03 BST   

Four days after MH17 came crashing down into the fields of eastern Ukraine, a train of refrigerated carriages finally rolled out of the station in the rebel-controlled city of Torez on Monday night carrying the bodies of 282 of the victims.

Bound for the city of Kharkiv, the train's departure from the crash site is likely to bring a small amount of respite to relatives, after a chaotic and controversial clear-up mission complicated by a military conflict rumbling nearby, the summer heat and what at times has appeared to be deliberate obstruction.

The plane's black box recorders were also due to be passed over to a Malaysian delegation in Donetsk late on Monday evening. However, much remained unclear. Fighting broke out in Donetsk during the day on Monday and the train left without three Dutch experts who were meant to be travelling with the bodies.

Earlier in the day, the trio of experts, the first to reach the train holding the bodies, paused, hands clasped together and heads bowed, before clambering up to the grey train carriages to inspect the interior. One of the three, Peter Van Vliet, said the experience had given him goosebumps, despite the sweltering heat.

In a whispered conversation on the station platform, observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) urged the rebels to do everything in their power to speed up the process of moving the bodies out of the conflict zone.

"This train must move today, it cannot wait any longer. It will not be good for anyone – not the experts, not the families, not you," Alexander Hug, deputy of the special monitoring mission to Ukraine, was overheard saying to the rebels.

At 7pm local time, the train did indeed pull out of the station. According to an official statement from the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, it was due to travel to Kharkiv, a major city fully under Kiev's control, where a large team of international experts have gathered.

It is expected that the bodies of the victims will be loaded on to a transport plane and flown back to the Netherlands as soon as possible.

There is much work still to be done in Donetsk and at the crash site itself, but renewed fighting near the city's train station between pro-government forces and rebels, which left several civilians dead on Monday , provides an additional obstacle for any international experts attempting to reach the site.

Nevertheless, a delegation of about a dozen Malaysians arrived on Monday , and had negotiations with Alexander Borodai, the self-styled prime minister of the "Donetsk People's Republic". The talks, on the top floor of the occupied regional administration building in Donetsk, were guarded by armed rebels, and a number of the Malaysians seen exiting the talks refused to comment.

"Forget about it," said one, when asked what they had been discussing. However, talks over the fate of the plane's black box recorders were clearly part of the meeting, as the Malaysian prime minister later announced that the separatists would hand over the recorders to a Malaysian delegation in Donetsk.

Borodai arrived at the Park Inn hotel to meet the Malaysians shortly before 10pm local time but it was unclear if he had the black box recorders with him. Ukraine's security services had previously released recordings of what it said were rebel leaders coordinating a ground search for the black boxes and insisting that they not be given to international leaders, as Moscow wanted to get them first. The rebels denied that the recordings were genuine.

Getting appropriate permissions for international experts to enter the war-torn region has proved problematic. Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE, called the process a logistical nightmare. The three Dutch specialists, who travelled from Kharkiv, said that they had been accompanied part of the way by the Ukrainian army before being passed over to an escort of rebels.

Monday's violence made Donetsk an even more daunting venue to travel for international experts hoping to examine the MH17 crash site. The city's mayor advised all residents to stay indoors, the streets were largely deserted and there were reports that damage to infrastructure meant that the city would run out of water in a matter of days.

While the rebels have been heavily criticised for blocking access to the crash site, it was the Ukrainian army that seemed intent on disrupting expert work on Monday, as they apparently launched an offensive against rebel positions close to Donetsk railway station, as well as in other towns across the region.

The Ukrainian authorities said they were not targeting residential areas. "We are coming to the city, special assault groups are working there," Vladislav Seleznev, spokesman of the anti-terrorist operation, told the Guardian. "Within city boundaries we are not using heavy artillery."

However, there were a number of cases where what appeared to be Grad rocket fire had landed in residential areas. At one school building near the railway station, terrified locals hid in the basement all morning and two men were killed by shrapnel in the playground. A local named Sergei, who lives near the school, said he had helped to load dead bodies on to a truck provided by the rebels.

Adding to the sense of chaos, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's national security council in Kiev, denied that the Ukrainian army was responsible for explosions in central Donetsk but said small groups of partisans could be engaging the rebels. "We have strict orders not to use air strikes and artillery in the city. If there is fighting in the city, we have information that there is a small self-organised group who are fighting with the terrorists," he said.

The Ukrainian president ordered a ceasefire across a 40km (24-mile) radius from the crash site, but this does not include Donetsk, which is further out.

The fighting near the station was an "added complication" for moving the train with the bodies, said the OSCE. They also said the body bags inside the train were tagged using a numbering system and stored at a temperature between 0C and -5C. Experts from several countries including the UK are in Kharkiv.

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said at a news conference that the swift return of the bodies was his "number one priority".

With most of the bodies now removed from the site, attention will turn to the other tasks of the crash investigation, most importantly attempting to find some proof of what brought the plane down.

David Gleave, a former aviation safety investigator, corroborated pictures that appeared to show shrapnel damage from a missile to a section of fuselage from the stricken aircraft. "The markings are consistent with something external hitting the aeroplane," he said, describing the indentations as indicative of a missile strike.

"It looks like there are markings on the external to the internal of the aircraft, meaning it's not a bomb blowing outwards. That's not the main bit where the missile hit, it's the periphery of the explosion. It looks like secondary damage."

In spite of the delay in investigators arriving at the crash site, Gleave said it would still be possible to trace the manufacturer of the missile by forensically examining bits of wreckage and human remains for chemical traces.

"I'm not convinced [the contamination of the crash site] is quite as bad as people say. If it's a missile, then all the conventional stuff we need for data-gathering goes out of the window. A black box isn't going to tell you it was a missile," he said.

The cleanup operation, which has been roundly criticised by the international community who fear pro-Russia rebels are contaminating the site to cover up signs of their involvement, was cautiously praised by Van Vliet, at least when it came to the collection of the bodies.

Given the hot weather, the size of the crash site and the military operations going on in the vicinity, the operation was "very difficult" and he was impressed with the efforts of local emergency workers and volunteers, who have spent three days sifting corpses and body parts from the crash site. He added though, that the area needed a "full, forensic sweep" by proper experts.

**************

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
07/22/2014 12:01 PM

US Loses Patience with Europe: Washington Wants Tough Russia Sanctions

By Gregor Peter Schmitz in Brussels

Following the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine, calls are growing in Washington for tough sanctions against Moscow. Many European governments are still hesitating, paving the way for the next big trans-Atlantic row.

Usually, it takes quite an effort for the ambassador of a European Union member state in Washington to raise the attention of the American government. But lately, it hasn't been difficult at all. "The calls and requests just don't stop," said one European diplomat in the US capital.

The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 over eastern Ukraine, presumably by pro-Russian separatists, is considered to be a game changer in Washington -- an event of such magnitude that the status quo is no longer possible. All 298 passengers on board the Boeing 777 perished in the crash.

Washington officials have been clear with the Europeans about the lessons it has learned from the disaster, namely that EU members needs to adopt a tougher stance in its dealings with Russian President Shit Stain Pig Putin. Even prior to the Flight MH 17 disaster, pressure for additional sanctions in Washington had been growing. Bloomberg reported that Deputy National Security Advisor Anthony Blinken held a closed-door meeting a week ago with EU ambassadors to inform them of the actions Washington would like to see Europe take.

The Americans are proposing an end to EU weapons deliveries to Russia. With orders on the books for two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships for Russia worth €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion), that move could hit France particularly hard. The White House also says it would like to see further restrictions placed on Russia's access to money and capital markets.

Washington Doesn't Want Further Excuses

The US government's message is clear: Impatience is growing over the constant excuse given by the Europeans that they can't afford to isolate Russia for economic and energy policy reasons. Public statements given by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are getting brisker, with both speaking in unison of a "wakeup call for Europe."

On Sunday, Kerry told ABC News there was "powerful" evidence suggesting that the Russians had provided both training and weapons to the rebels.

In US government circles, many believe the Europeans will go along with sanctions this time. "This tragedy is so enormous, and above all so palpable for European countries like the Netherlands, that the Europeans will finally have to move decisively against shit stain Pig Putin," says Jack Janes of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington. Some 189 of the passengers who perished on board Flight MH 17 were Dutch citizens.

Will the Europeans be swayed this time? Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and his Polish colleague Radoslaw Sikorski have both called for tougher sanctions against Moscow. And British Defense Minister Michael Fallon has accused Russia of "sponsored terrorism".

Although they threatened there would be "consequences" for Moscow over the weekend, EU members Italy, Germany and France have remained hesitant about applying further sanctions.

Many EU leaders believe that sufficient action was taken at a summit last week in which they expanded current sanctions that are largely focused on banning travel and blocking the foreign bank accounts of oligarch billionaires who support Russian decision-makers.

Hesitance in Europe

It remains uncertain whether EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday will go beyond a general discussion of the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight to actually agree on further punitive measures. The French government is also opposed to British calls to penalize the entire Russian defense sector.

Cameron is now considering an alternative embargo applying only to new weapons deals with Russia, which would exclude the French Mistral sale. That deal was approved by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011.

His successor, François Hollande, said earlier this week that the first helicopter carrier is nearly complete and would be delivered as planned in October. However, he said delivery of a second ship would depend on Russia's attitude in the Ukraine crisis.

Obama's government is expected to wait until after the EU foreign ministers meet on Tuesday, but administration officials are already preparing the next steps, with measures aimed at Russia's financial sector. Officials are also considering an export ban on dual-use technologies that can be used for both civil or military applications.

Heather Conley, a Europe expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, believes trans-Atlantic relations could be put to the test again if the United States and Europe don't pull together. "The Americans know that sanctions again Russia will only work if the Europeans take part," she says. "After all, the EU has far greater trade with Russia than the Americans do."

Trans-Atlantic policy expert Janes says that expectations are accordingly high. "People here are following very closely just how prepared EU member states are for sanctions -- especially Germany, which is so strong economically," he says.

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 SPIEGEL ONLINE
07/21/2014 03:36 PM

The Tragedy of MH17: Attack Could Mark Turning Point in Ukraine Conflict

By SPIEGEL Staff

The shooting down of a jet carrying 298 people on Thursday could mark the turning point in the conflict between Russia, Ukraine and the West. With evidence suggesting pro-Russian separatists fired the missile, pressure is mounting on Vladimir Putin.

A travel guide titled "Bali and Lombok" could be seen lying in the middle of the field of smoking wreckage, a nightmarish landscape of ash, twisted metal and body parts. For the passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17, the prospect of a vacation in the tropics ended in death, near a poultry farm on the outskirts of the village of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine.

On Thursday, armed rebels combed through the wreckage of the aircraft, which had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile while traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The men in camouflage held up Dutch passports for the cameras, while one used his mobile phone to take pictures of the horrific scene.

After hearing a loud explosion on Thursday afternoon, residents of the neighboring village, Sjeverne, initially remained in their homes. They initially thought they were coming under fire from the Ukrainian army, says a local journalist who calls himself Sergei. "The explosion was so powerful that a friend even threw himself onto the ground."

Then the young men from the town got on their mopeds and drove to the accident site, three kilometers (2 miles) away. They saw a dead body on the side of the road, says Sergei. They walked gingerly across the scorched earth, wearing sandals and shorts. There were bodies with twisted limbs lying on the ground. The mouth of one dead woman was still open in a scream.

It was almost surreal, the way the human suffering of an aviation disaster had collided with the war in eastern Ukraine, on territory held by pro-Russian separatist on the eastern edge of Europe.

All 298 people on board the Boeing 777 died in the crash. Many were on their way to exotic travel destinations in Asia. There were young couples on board, and there were 80 children, including three infants. Entire families perished, as evidenced by the children's drawings and comic books that now lie scattered in a Ukrainian wasteland.

There were also four Germans among the casualties: Wilhelmina B., who was sitting in seat 36F; Fatima D., a 24-year-old student in seat 20D, who was going to Australia to visit her parents; Gabriele L., in 21E, who worked as a teacher at a German school in Sydney; and, in 41E, 24-year-old student Olga I., who was traveling with her Ukrainian boyfriend.

Holland in a State of Mourning

Some 189 of the passengers were from the Netherlands, where the entire country has been in a state of mourning since Thursday. A sympathy card attached to a bouquet of white lilies in front of Terminal 2 at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam reads: "Holland is in mourning. The world is in a state of shock. This should never have happened." There was a condolence book on a table next to the bouquet, in which someone had written: "This was a crime against humanity." Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who had ordered flags to be flown at half-mast, said: "This beautiful summer day has ended in the blackest possible way." Rutte and the king and queen of the Netherlands were to meet with family members of the deceased on Monday.

Until last week, most in Western Europe perceived the civil war in Ukraine as a foreign and faraway conflict, dominated by bearded men in strange uniforms. The downing of flight MH 17 has suddenly brought the conflict much closer.

Indeed, the missile that shot down the airliner could have struck anyone traveling to a vacation destination in Asia. The route over eastern Ukraine is part of one of the busiest flight paths in the world, known to pilots as "L980." Anyone who has ever flown from Frankfurt, Amsterdam or London to Singapore, Hong Kong or Mumbai has most likely traveled along that route.

At the time of the incident, flights operated by Singapore Airlines and Air India were in the air space over the rebel-held territory, only a few kilometers away. Lufthansa flight LH 797, en route from Hong Kong to Frankfurt, was also scheduled to fly over the region a few hours later, but after the accident the pilots were instructed to program a new route into their flight computer. It is only since then that all commercial flights have made a wide berth around the region.

A Turning Point?

The downing of MH 17 could go down in history as a turning point in the Ukraine conflict. If it does, it wouldn't be the first time that a civil aviation disaster has had enormous political consequences.

Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov characterized the downing of the Malaysian airliner near the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk as being the equivalent of an Eastern European 9/11. While this may not be the best comparison, the July 17 disaster certainly does mark an important turning point -- for Russia and President Vladimir Putin, and for Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko, inaugurated only two months ago. It also represents a watershed moment for the West, and the Europeans in particular, because it could force them to begin taking a more decisive approach in the Ukraine conflict.

Russia's claims that this is a purely a regional conflict that does not concern the rest of the world can no longer be allowed to stand unchallenged.

The official investigations will continue for a long time, and it seems unlikely that all parties will recognize the conclusions reached by the experts. But it is already clear who the main suspects are in the downing of the airliner: the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine who had received substantial weaponry from Russia in recent weeks, and may have unintentionally struck a commercial airliner with a surface-to-air missile. They apparently believed it was a Ukrainian military aircraft.

Last Friday, US President Barack Obama, echoing the sentiments of his ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said that the rebels were likely to blame for this "global tragedy." According to reports in the US media, images recorded by US spy satellites support his contention. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was more cautious, although many diplomats in the German Foreign Ministry also consider this version of the events to be plausible.

Obama: 'We Don't Have Time for Propaganda'

Who should be held accountable for shooting down a Boeing jet filled with innocent people? If it turns out that the pro-Russian rebels he helped arm are to blame, the Russian Pig will also face serious criticism, which will likely translate into further Western sanctions that could be very damaging to Russia. Is this why the separatists initially prevented independent observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from gaining access to the crash site?

"We don't have time for propaganda," Obama said. "We don't have time for games." Oleksandr Turchynov, the chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, even called upon the West to begin sending weapons to his country.

In Europe, many leaders have expressed outrage by the shooting down of the flight. In an editorial printed by the Sunday Times newspaper, British Prime Minister David Cameron called the attack a "direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them. ... We must turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action." He also called on other European leaders, to "respond robustly" with new sanctions. "For too long, there has been a reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine," Cameron wrote.

After telephone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande on Sunday, Cameron's office issued a statement saying that the leaders agreed that the immediate priority is to secure access to the crash site and ensure that specialist teams are able to recover the victims and return them home. They said "the shit stain called Pig Putin has an important role to play by persuading the separatists to grant access and to work with the international community." They also agreed the EU must "reconsider its approach to Russia," and that EU foreign ministers would impose further sanctions if full access to the site wasn't provided to accident investigators.

"Moscow has perhaps its last chance to show that it is seriously interested in a solution," Steinmeier told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

In Germany, so far, an atmosphere of reserve has prevailed. Neither Chancellor Merkel nor Foreign Minister Steinmeier has publicly blamed Putin for the incident. Speaking on Friday, the chancellor stated, "These events have once again shown us that what is required is a political solution and above all that it is also Russia that is responsible for what is happening in Ukraine at the moment."

On Monday, a Dutch forensics team arrived in Torez, where a train with refrigerator cars is holding the remains of the victims retrieved so far. Meanwhile, international pressure is growing, with the UN expected to vote later in the day on a resolution demanding international access to the crash site and a cease-fire around the area.

Victims from all Walks of Life

The 298 people who died over Ukraine had nothing to do with the conflict that their deaths could now influence. They probably didn't even know that they were flying through the air 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) above it.

There were 298 tragedies.

There was British citizen Glenn Thomas, 49, a media officer with the World Health Organization. There were Roger Guard, a pathologist, and his wife Jill, both Australians. There were the Smallenburgs, a couple from Hilversum near Amsterdam, traveling with their two children. And there was Nick Norris, 68, a management consultant from Perth, Australia. He had boarded the flight in Amsterdam with his three grandchildren, Mo, Evie and Matis, aged eight to 12.

The passengers also included at least seven attendees of one of the most important global conferences on HIV, which is taking place in Melbourne, Australia, this week. Initially, it had been reported that as many as 100 attendees died in the crash, but conference organizers confirmed Monday that figure had been far lower than originally thought.

The victims included Joepe Lange, a professor of medicine at the University of Amsterdam, who had long been a pioneer in AIDS research and had specialized in HIV therapies.

Even worse, all of these stories will revive memories of another Malaysia Airlines flight, MH 370, which disappeared from the sky in March.

One Australian family now faces the incomprehensible fate of having lost some of its members on both flights. In March, Kaylene Mann lost her brother Rodney Burrows and his wife Mary on board MH 370. And now her stepdaughter and her husband were on their way back to Australia after a vacation in Europe. The two had wanted to take a different flight, but they were unable to change their tickets.

It took the Pig several hours to make a statement after the crash. Finally, it snorted: "Certainly the government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy." He also pointed out that if Ukraine hadn't launched a military offensive against the separatists, the accident would never have happened. It's a claim he repeated on Monday. "We can say with confidence that if fighting in eastern Ukraine had not been renewed on June 28, this tragedy would not have happened," Putin said. "Nobody should or does have a right to use this tragedy for such mercenary objectives."

Meanwhile, as of Friday, Russian state media reported around the clock that the Ukrainian forces probably shot down the aircraft. The majority of Russians believe the repeated claims of experts who insist that the pro-Russian rebels didn't even have the kinds of weapons used in the incident. The height of the propaganda offensive was probably a report from the Russian news agency Interfax, which claimed that the attack was in fact aimed at the Pig itself, who was returning from a trip to Latin America.

Did Rebels Get Russian Training?

Nevertheless, there are many indications that the separatists were likely responsible. The United States presented over the weekend what it called "powerful" evidence the rebels shot down the jet. On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN Russia had directed large quantities of heavy weapons to Ukrainian separatists and even trained them on the use of SA-11 (Buk) anti-aircraft missiles of the type believed to have been used in the attack on Flight MH 17. "We know for certain that the separatists have a proficiency that they've gained from training from Russians as to how to use these sophisticated SA-11 systems," Kerry said.

A commercial airliner traveling at 33,000 feet can only be shot down by a radar-guided anti-aircraft missile system, such as the Soviet-made Buk-M1. In late June, the rebels boasted that they had gained control over two of the systems from the Ukrainian army. In NATO terminology, the Buk system is referred to as a "gadfly." It can capture six targets at the same time, and it can shoot them down from a distance of up to 25 kilometers.

UN Ambassador Samantha Power told the UN Security Council that rebels had already shot down Ukrainian military transport planes in the past. Besides, she said, they had been spotted with a Buk system on Thursday. The interior minister in Kiev issued a video showing a missile system being transported to the Russian border. The video was supposedly recorded at 4:50 a.m. last Friday, or about 12 hours after the crash of MH 17.

'We Warned Them Not To Fly through Our Airspace'

The Ukrainians also released conversations they had allegedly recorded. In one, a separatist officer named Igor Besler proudly tells a Russian intelligence officer about the downing of an aircraft. In a later conversation, he sounds horrified as he reports that it was a civilian aircraft, and he says that he suspects the dead passengers were spies. In another recording made shortly before the aircraft was shot down, rebels are allegedly discussing a battery of Buk missiles from Russia. However, the authenticity of the recordings has yet to be confirmed.

Ironically, Igor Strelkov, a colonel with the Ukrainian separatists and former Russian intelligence officer, provided another clue on the social network VKontakte. On Thursday, he posted: "We have just shot down an An-26. We warned them not to fly through our airspace." He also wrote that he had "information about a second aircraft that was shot down, reportedly an Su." At that point, he was unaware that the downed airliner was a Boeing, and he later deleted the posting. In a bizarre interview, Strelkov later claimed that the passengers on board the flight had already been dead when it was shot down.

Miners, Truck Drivers and Daredevils

It would be no surprise if the rebels, with almost no trained military personnel, had mistaken the passenger jet for a Ukrainian military aircraft. The separatist leaders are in command of a force consisting of miners, truck drivers, daredevils and the jobless. Professional soldiers, such as the commander of the so-called Vostok battalion, Alexander Khodakovsky, also consider the untrained soldiers a scourge within their own ranks.

MH 17 had only been shot down 15 hours earlier when, early Friday morning, a spokesman from the rebel headquarters, quoting top rebel commander Igor Strelkov, reported that combat operations would continue in the Donetsk region, except in the area where the plane had crashed. According to Strelkov, a "humanitarian cease-fire" to allow aviation experts to investigate the crash site was unnecessary, because the site was "well within the territory held by the people's militia of the Donetsk People's Republic." Suspending combat operations at this point, he said, was "not practical."

For Kiev, things did not go very well militarily last week. The Ukrainian military had reported major military successes until then. It had captured the rebel stronghold of Sloviansk and closed on the regional capital. The rebels in Donetsk were becoming increasingly restless.

But then several hundred Ukrainian Army troops came under heavy fire. Towns they had already captured near the Russian border had to be abandoned again. Then the rebels shot down a Russian An-26 transport aircraft and an Su-25 fighter jet. The rebels had apparently received new weapons -- from Russia.

The Russian state TV channel Rossiya 1, one of the most important propaganda tools for the Kremlin, aired a telling report on Wednesday evening. A correspondent, reporting from a "secret militia base in the combat zone," said that there had been "military successes" that were partly the result of new weapons. The journalist pointed to a row of tanks that looked brand new parked in a small forest used as camouflage. Unfortunately, the separatists, who had "only driven long-distance buses so far," had little experience with tanks.

Operating antiaircraft missiles is much more difficult. To be operated properly, even simpler models like the Buk system require at least three soldiers who "must be trained on the weapon for at least a month," says Moscow military expert Alexander Golz. And Doug Richardson, a missiles expert with trade magazine Jane's Defence," says: "The systems may have been operated by amateurs and were in semi-automatic mode."

In the standard configuration, a Buk battery consists of three elements: an armored vehicle with a large radar device for target acquisition; the command vehicle, where there are monitors from which the battery is controlled; and, finally, one or more mobile launching pads with four missiles each. It's possible that someone simply started firing from a missile-launching vehicle.

Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, had already warned Pentagon officials in late June that Russia was training separatists in the use of anti-aircraft systems on the Russian side of the border, and that these missile batteries would later be driven to the Ukrainian side.

A Case for NATO?

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has long pointed to the threat posed by the "green men" in eastern Ukraine, as the rebels are known within NATO. A few weeks ago, Rasmussen presented a classified document titled "Hybrid Warfare," in which he reportedly discussed whether the military activities of these men dressed in uniforms without any insignia were a case for the Western military alliance. Rasmussen apparently asked his legal experts to examine whether attacks by the separatists could trigger the application of NATO's mutual defense clause.

The document was rejected by the NATO Council, where most member states, including Germany, reportedly felt that it was too alarmist. But the downing of the passenger jet is likely to push the issue to the top of the agenda once again.

A discussion of the consequences has also erupted in foreign policy and security policy circles in Berlin. Economic sanctions against Russia are no longer the only issue on the table. The German Foreign Ministry and the Chancellery want to use the situation to push for talks between Russia and the separatists, as well as with the Ukrainian government. "In this way, perhaps something good can emerge from the tragedy," said Foreign Ministry officials.

Peacekeeping Mission?

Some now consider a UN peace mission to be the right approach in Ukraine. A few officials in the German Defense Ministry support this solution, as does the chairman of the defense committee in the German parliament, Hans-Peter Bartels. "A UN peacekeeping force is certainly a possibility to supervise a jointly negotiated solution," says Bartels, a member of Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Clearly it will not be easy to gain approval for the idea of a peace mission. Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has a veto and influence on all relevant decisions. It is difficult to imagine Putin allowing a UN force to prevent him from playing his dangerous games across the border.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko, on the other hand, seems to favor such a solution. He declared that restoring order in eastern Ukraine is now the rest of the world's business. But this is also potentially dangerous for Poroshenko, because a peacekeeping force would freeze the status quo in the region, which is not in Kiev's interest. Once observers and peacekeeping troops are on the ground, it will legitimize those currently in power in Donetsk to a certain extent. The UN would have to negotiate with them, and Poroshenko could no longer take military action against the rebels.

Flying over a War Zone

The question many people are now asking is why airliners are even flying over a war zone. The route across Ukraine is the most economical and, therefore, the most popular connection among airlines between major European and Asian cities. As recently as early last week, aviation regulators still viewed the skies over Ukraine as a safe flying route.

Neither the American FAA nor Eurocontrol in Europe had issued any warnings, nor had the airline umbrella organization IATA or the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Without such a warning, an air route remains "in use," says a Lufthansa spokeswoman. In addition to the airlines, which save fuel, use of the route benefits Ukraine, which collects overflight fees.

No matter how fierce the fighting is below, civil aircraft flying high above a war zone are not at any risk, because they are outside the range of most weapons. That, at least, was the official stance until now.

But for the risk analysts at most airlines, the situation in Ukraine still seemed too precarious. Carriers like Korean Air, Asiana and Qantas decided weeks ago to avoid Ukraine altogether. British Airways consistently flew around the troubled country on its flights between London and Bangkok, as did Air France.

Nevertheless, three-quarters of flights, including those operated by Lufthansa, KLM and Malaysia Airlines, continued to fly over Ukrainian territory -- until the crash.

Now German pilots are calling for a review of air routes worldwide. Is flying over crisis zones like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan still justifiable?

A Malaysian Tragedy

It is especially tragic that this accident struck Malaysia Airlines. The carrier was already in financial trouble in early March, and then came flight MH 370 -- the aircraft that vanished into thin air. Only four months later, another Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 has crashed. It is questionable whether the airline can survive these two major blows.

In this sense, the conflict in Ukraine has also affected a country halfway around the world: Malaysia.

Last Friday marked the 21st day in the fasting month of Ramadan. The pilot of the downed Boeing, Wan Amran Wan Hussin, 50, had recently told his family that he wanted to attend the Hajj in Mecca this year. "We all became weak when we learned that Wan Amran was flying the plane," says his nephew.

Shortly before departure, a passenger named Mohammed Ali Mohammed Salim posted a video to his Instagram account that has since been forwarded thousands of times. It depicts a scene familiar to anyone beginning a trip by air. As the passengers put away their bags, the pilot announces: "We are in the process of loading the last few pieces of luggage. Please ensure that your mobile phones are switched off before we depart for…"

The video ends. "Wish me luck, in the name of God," Salim wrote. "My heart feels nervous."

By Marco Evers, Matthias Gebauer, Christian Neef, Gordon Repinski, Mathieu von Rohr, Matthias Schepp, Christoph Scheuermann, Hilmar Schmundt, Christoph Schult, Luzia Tschirky and Bernhard Zand

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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 SPIEGEL ONLINE
07/21/2014 05:11 PM

The Boomerang Effect: Sanctions on Russia Hit German Economy Hard

By Matthias Schepp and Cornelia Schmergal

The United States and Europe last week announced the imposition of stronger sanctions against Russia in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. German industry may be among the losers.

It wasn't that long ago that Kremlin officials could hardly avoid laughing when asked about the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West. As long as every NATO member state jealously sought to protect its own business interests, things "weren't all that bad," they gloated.

But since last week, their moods have darkened. For months, the European Union in particular had been reluctant to enact effective penalties against Moscow. Last Wednesday, though, the 28 EU heads of state and government cleared a psychological hurdle: For the first time, they opted go beyond sanctions targeting individual political leaders in Moscow, adding prohibitions against doing business with specific Russian companies that contribute to the destabilization of the situation in Ukraine. A concrete list is to be presented by the end of the month. European development banks have also been banned from providing loans to Russian companies.

The US, for its part, penalized a dozen leading Russian conglomerates, including oil giant Rosneft, natural gas producer Novatek, Gazprombank and the weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov. From now on, they are forbidden from borrowing money from American monetary institutions and from issuing medium- and long-term debt to investors with ties to the US.

For the companies involved, the penalties are a significant blow. It has become difficult to acquire capital in Russia itself, with both domestic and foreign investors withdrawing their money from the country in recent months. It is hardly surprising, then, that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke of a return to the Cold War and President Vladimir Putin warned that sanctions "usually have a boomerang effect."

Even prior to the sanctions, the Russian economy had been struggling. Now, though, the Ukraine crisis is beginning to make itself felt in Germany as well. German industry's Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations believes that the crisis could endanger up to 25,000 jobs in Germany. Were a broad recession to befall Russia, German growth could sink by 0.5 percent, according to a Deutsche Bank study.

Significant Risks

The most recent US sanctions, warns Eckhard Cordes, head of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, have placed an additional strain "on the general investment climate." Particularly, he adds, because European companies have to conform to the American penalties.

By last Thursday, just a day after the US sanctions were announced, the German-Russian Foreign Trade Office in Moscow was besieged by phone calls from concerned German companies who do business with both the US and Russia. The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimate that up to a quarter of German companies that do business abroad could be affected. And the risks are significant, with large fines threatening those who violate the American sanctions, whether knowingly or not.

Stefan Fittkau, who heads the Moscow office of EagleBurgmann, the Bavaria-based industrial sealing specialists, says company sales have already plunged by 30 percent. "Orders have been cancelled or delayed -- or we simply don't receive them anymore," he says. Novatek, Russia's second largest natural gas company, for example, had hired EagleBurgmann to take care of seals at a vast liquefied natural gas facility on the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. Now, though, doing business with Novatek is no longer allowed.

Radical Steps

The inclusion of Rosneft on the list also affects more than a dozen German companies: The construction firm Bilfinger maintains facilities for Rosneft, for example, while Siemens received a €90 million contract to supply turbines and generators. "In the end, both sides, the Russians and the Europeans, will lose," says Frank Schauff, head of the Association of European Businesses in Moscow.

Already, the uneasiness can be seen in the Ifo Business Climate Index. One in three of the companies surveyed at the end of June said it expected adverse effects. "Russian customers have begun looking for suppliers outside of Europe," says Ulrich Ackermann, a foreign trade expert with the German engineering association VDMA. "They are concerned that European companies, because of the threat of increased sanctions, won't be able to deliver."

Even prior to the latest sanctions, business has been slowing in almost all sectors. The Düsseldorf-based energy giant E.on, for example, recently built power stations in Russia worth €9 billion. Most of the generators are already online, but because the economy in Russia is suffering, the returns are much lower than forecast. Volkswagen is a further example. The carmaker's sales figures for 2014 are 10 percent lower than they were last year. Opel's figures dropped by 12 percent during the first five months of the year.

Already, Opel has been forced to take a radical step. In St. Petersburg, where the Astra is manufactured, the company shut down the assembly lines recently for several weeks.

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Lithuania Slams French Warship Deal with Russia during Ukraine Crisis

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 11:21

Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite said Tuesday the European Union was compromising its values to protect trade ties with Russia, pointing to a French warship agreement with Moscow.

"We see the Mistralisation of European policy," Grybauskaite said, referring to a 1.2 billion euro ($1.6 billion) deal to supply Russia with two French Mistral warships.

"Values and security are undermined for the sake of business, when 'buy and rule' is being applied" the president told public broadcaster LRT, suggesting Moscow is using its purchasing power to divide opinion within the EU.

"The sale of military technology to Russia the under current circumstances cannot be tolerated," said the outspoken Baltic leader, a former EU budget commissioner.

EU foreign ministers meet on Tuesday to decide whether to ratchet up sanctions on Russia over the Malaysian plane disaster.

Britain is calling for tougher measures but France and Germany, who each have important trade ties to Moscow, are seen as more reluctant.

Grybauskaite warned "indecisive" EU policy would mean "a direct invitation for the aggressor to be more aggressive and go further".

The Western powers ratcheted up the pressure on Moscow for failing to rein in pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, and accuse it of supplying the sophisticated weaponry.

Having anchored their security in the EU and NATO following the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Baltic states and Poland are wary of the impact of Russia's actions in Ukraine on their security.

"Nazism was not stopped in the 1930s, and we now we see great-Russia chauvinism which leads to things like an attack against a civilian airliner", said Grybauskaite.

"Those who organized, ordered and supplied weapons must be held responsible, before the Hague Tribunal," she added.

*************

Russia’s Message on Jet: Conciliation and Bluster

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
JULY 21, 2014   
IHT

MOSCOW — Russia presented a combination of conciliation and bluster on Monday over its handling of the downed Malaysia Airlines jet, with President Pig V. Putin seemingly probing for a way out of the crisis without appearing to compromise with the West.

On one hand, he offered conciliatory words in a video statement, oddly released in the middle of the night, while the separatists allied with Moscow in southeastern Ukraine released the bodies of the victims and turned over the black box flight recorders from the doomed aircraft to Malaysian officials.

However, two senior military officers forcefully demanded that the United States show publicly any proof that rebels fired the fatal missile, and again suggested that the Ukrainian military shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet despite the fact that Ukraine has not used antiaircraft weapons in the fight along its eastern border.

The snorting Pig seemed to respond to the outraged international demands growing daily that he intervene personally to rein in the rebels — particularly to halt the degrading chaos surrounding the recovery of the remains. But at the same time, Moscow did not concede that it was at fault.

“Pig Putin is trying to find his own variation of a twin-track decision, because he does not have a clear exit,” said Gleb O. Pavlovsky, a political consultant who once worked for the Kremlin.

The pressure continued to expand. President Obama delivered yet another personal rebuke to the evil Pig from the White House lawn over the intransigence of the rebels toward the international investigation, hours before they agreed to more cooperation. In addition, an initial expert analysis of photographs of the airplane’s fuselage found that the damage was consistent with being struck by the type of missile that U.S. officials said was used.

On Tuesday, Russia faces the threat of far more serious sanctions from its main trading partners in Western Europe.

“Of course this is a strong blow to him, a strong blow to his strategy,” said Mr. Pavlovsky, referring to the fact that Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine have been discredited globally, due to suspicions that they shot down the aircraft and their handling of the crash site.

“It touches him too,” Mr. Pavlovsky said, “He wants to get out, but to get out without having lost.”

Mr. Obama called for the evil Pig to “pivot away” from the rebels, linking him directly to their abuse of the crash site.

“Russia, and President Pig Putin in particular, has direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation,” he said in brief remarks. “The Pig snorts that he supports a full and fair investigation and I appreciate those words, but they have to be supported by actions.”

The lying Pig's snorts were issued on the Kremlin website at 1:40 a.m. Monday on video, with analysts suggesting the timing was aimed more at Washington than Russia.

His usual swagger seemed absent; instead he looked pasty and unsure, avoiding talking into the camera directly and leaning on a desk.

The statement did not break new ground, either. The Russian leader repeated his support for a thorough international investigation, and said Russia would pursue its efforts to move the fight over the future of southeastern Ukraine from the battlefield to the negotiating table. The Pig did not address directly any accusations of Russian complicity in downing the aircraft.

By the end of the day there was one small diplomatic victory. The Malaysian government dealt directly with the leadership of the Russian-supported Donetsk People’s Republic, the breakaway faction in southeastern Ukraine, in negotiating the release of the bodies and the flight recorders.

Amid all the negotiating, the Ukrainian government pressed its attack on Donetsk, firing on rebel positions in the northwest of the city and killing at least three civilians. Ukraine denied that it hit civilian areas, but heavy damage in the city cast doubt on that assertion.

In his snorts, the stinking Pig also warned that he was suspicious of all the criticism directed at the Kremlin. “No one should and no one has the right to use this tragedy to pursue their own political goals,” he said.

The evil Pig often seethes with distrust and anger that the United States seeks to exploit any opening to weaken Russia, a widespread sentiment in Russia reflected in his high approval ratings. The entire Ukraine confrontation is rooted in his determination to stop the West from wresting Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit.

Russians, too, exhibited a certain defensive anger about the current accusations, convinced that the West leapt to condemn them no matter what the issue.

Anastasia Lukina, 30, a sales manager in Moscow, said either side might have shot down the plane. “So the West says it wants a full investigation, but they’ve already accused us of killing those people?” she said. “We all know what the conclusion to that investigation will be. So why even bother pretending? Russia is the world’s scapegoat.”

That is the theme of much of coverage on state-run television, which has also aired all manner of theories lifted from the dark corners of the web.   

An updated summary of what is known and not known about the crash.

The Kremlin actually spent months using state-run television to build the case that the Kiev government are a pack of “fascists,” bent on killing the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. It has softened that message somewhat in recent weeks, but not abandoned it.

Hence two senior Russian military commanders, sitting in a vast briefing room and dwarfed by the giant electronic screens overhead, used various satellite images and charts to raise a series of rhetorical questions that suggested that Ukraine and the United States deliberately plotted to shoot down the passenger jet. The unusual bilingual briefing was broadcast live on state-run television.

“According to U.S. declarations, they have satellite images that confirm that the missile was launched by the rebels, said Lt. Gen. Andrei Kartopolov, of the Russian General Staff. “But nobody has seen these images.”

He called for them to be released, hinting that they were taken by an experimental military satellite that was orbiting over eastern Ukraine on Thursday because Washington knew what it would photograph.

Among other accusations, the Russians said a Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet that was airborne at
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« Reply #139 on: Jul 22, 2014, 06:27 AM »

continued...

at the time briefly approached the same 33,000-feet altitude as the Boeing 777 and was within range to bring it down with an air-to-air missile.

As for Russia, it had nothing to do with arming the militiamen, General Kartopolov said. “I would like to emphasize that the Russian Federation did not deliver to the militiamen Buk antiaircraft missile systems, nor any other types of weapons or military equipment,” he said.

Ultimately, Russian policy might actually tilt according to what emerges from the investigation. If there is even a hint of doubt, Moscow might cling to both its support for the rebels and claims of its own virtue, analysts suggested.

“If there is not 100 percent proof, then Russia will continue to say” that they are not at fault, said Alexei V. Makarkin, an analyst at the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. “If there is 95 or even 99 percent, then Russia will not agree with it. They can continue to support the insurgents in the east.”


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« Reply #140 on: Jul 22, 2014, 06:35 AM »

MH17 Crash Puts Russia's Support of Rebels under Scrutiny

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 13:10

The downing of the MH17 flight over rebel territory in Ukraine has put Moscow's support of the separatists under more scrutiny than ever amid allegations the plane was blasted out of the sky with a Russian-supplied missile system.

The US, whose relations with Moscow have dropped to a post-Cold War low over the Ukraine crisis, has led the charge.

"It's pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists," Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday.

But Moscow has denied the allegations, with a senior member of Russia's military general staff, Lieutenant-General Andrei Kartopolov, dismissing images that allegedly show Buk missile systems being transferred from Russia into Ukraine as fake.

"I want to stress that Russia did not give the rebels Buk missile systems or any other kinds of weapons or military hardware," he told reporters on Monday at a briefing, armed with slides, charts and images.

Observers say that separatists fighting Ukrainian troops in the east of the ex-Soviet republic would not be able to do so without support from Moscow.

"Without Russia, the rebels wouldn't have tanks or heavy artillery. The decisions (to supply rebels with weapons) are made at the governmental level," said Alexander Konovalov, president of the Institute of Strategic Assessments.

"This is being done under pressure from political groups that are even more anti-Western than the stinking Pig Putin is," he added.

The Malaysian plane crash, which killed 298 people flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, has increased perceptions of Russia's involvement with the rebels, said Maria Lipman, a political analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center.

"Russia has become a participant in the conflict in the eyes of the world, one who can control the rebels and with whom lies responsibility for this tragedy," Lipman said.

The Kremlin has always kept a certain level of official distance from the separatists -- the rat faced Pig Putin has never met with the leaders and did not recognize the independence of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" and "Lugansk People's Republic".

Russia even urged the separatists not to hold a referendum on secession from Ukraine -- a call they ignored, creating what observers say was an impression of disobeying Moscow's orders.

The Kremlin also snubbed the rebel leaders' calls to absorb Ukraine's separatist eastern regions into Russia and to send in peacekeeping troops when the armed conflict with Kiev intensified.

"It was admitted that Russia is involved in the conflict, but the extent of the involvement was concealed," said Lipman.

"Russia did not hide that consultations were held with rebel leaders, some of whom are also Russian citizens, and are partly financed by Russian businessmen."

Russian newspapers and television channels close to the Kremlin have sided with the pro-Russian rebels since the beginning of their uprising -- something they would not have done without Moscow's blessing.

When one of the separatist leaders, Denis Pushilin, claimed in June that he was received by the evil Pig's  powerful advisors, Vladislav Surkov and Sergei Glazyev, this was widely reported in the Russian media although not confirmed by the Kremlin.

Russian media has regularly reported on links between businessmen close to the Kremlin and rebel leaders such as the self-appointed prime minister of the Donetsk Republic, Alexander Borodai, and his defense minister Igor Strelkov -- both Russian citizens.

Unconfirmed media reports suggested that the rebel leaders are backed by a so-called "party of war" within the Russian leadership -- allegedly led by the Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

But despite the increased scrutiny, shit stain Pig Putin has very limited room for maneuver between domestic political pressure and criticism from the United States and Europe, said Lipman.

"He can't give in to the West. Public opinion and apparently political elites expect something else from him – an anti-Western stance and support for pro-Russian rebels," she said.


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« Reply #141 on: Jul 22, 2014, 06:59 AM »

Jet Wreckage Bears Signs of Impact by Supersonic Missile, Analysis Shows

By C. J. CHIVERS
JULY 21, 2014
NYT

A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart.

The wreckage, photographed by two reporters for The New York Times in a field several miles from where the largest concentration of the Boeing’s debris settled, suggests that the destruction of the aircraft was caused by a supersonic missile that apparently exploded near the jet as it flew 33,000 feet above the ground, according to an analysis of the photographs by IHS Jane’s, the defense consultancy.   

The damage, including the shrapnel holes and blistered paint on a panel of the destroyed plane’s exterior, is consistent with the effects of a fragmenting warhead carried by an SA-11 missile, known in Russian as a Buk, the type of missile that American officials have said was the probable culprit in the downing of the plane.

It is impossible from these photographs of the damaged plane to determine what specific model of missile was used. But the SA-11 is a member of a class of weapon that carries a fragmenting warhead with a proximity fuze. If a missile like that functioned as designed, it would cause damage like that evident in the debris of Flight 17.

“The perforation holes that are visible indicate that they are consistent with a foreign object entering from the exterior of the aircraft to the interior of the aircraft, given the contour of the aluminum around a majority of the perforations as well as the visible blistering of the paint around some of the holes themselves,” Reed Foster, an analyst at IHS Jane’s, wrote in an assessment provided to The Times.

He added: “Most of the smaller holes look to be caused by a high-velocity projectile, as opposed to simple shearing or tearing caused by the forceful separation of the panel from the airframe.”

Mr. Foster also noted that the shrapnel damage was different from what he would expect after an aircraft engine explosion, which could cause “longer, thinner, oblique tears across the aircraft skin.”

His observations were consistent with the profile of surface-to-air antiaircraft missiles designed to destroy fast-moving military aircraft at high elevations.

Rather than striking an aircraft directly, missiles in this class fly a course that is designed to intercept the targeted aircraft and explode beneath it, creating a cloud of shrapnel.

At the end of the missiles’ flight, they act “more like a shotgun than a rifle,” Mr. Foster said, adding: “one is attempting to put as many consistently sized, low-drag fragments into the airframe as possible.”

Based on the capabilities of an SA-11, when pitted against a civilian passenger jet, which has no defenses against an incoming missile, the results would be devastating.

The SA-11 is large and far-reaching: Roughly 18 feet long and 1,500 pounds before launch, according to an American ordnance document, its missiles can travel tens of thousands of feet into the air. Much of each missile’s weight is taken up by the fuel required to propel the weapon to supersonic speeds, and to give it its altitude and range.

But behind each missile’s antenna and guidance system is a warhead packed with 46 pounds of high explosive.

Standard military hand grenades often contain two to seven ounces of explosive, depending on the model. Variants of 155-millimeter artillery shells often hold a little more than 20 pounds of explosives.

The explosive fill of an SA-11 is encased in a double sleeve of molded aluminum that has been preformed into a diamond-patterned grid, Mr. Foster said.

After the burnout of motors, the missile, which would then weigh about 800 pounds, would approach the targeted aircraft and a proximity fuze would detonate its warhead, causing its sleeves to shatter into diamond-shaped bits about the size of a quarter. Depending on the model, the standoff for the blast might be 30 to 100 meters, Mr. Foster said, or about 100 to 300 feet.

This design was intended by Soviet and Russian engineers to ensure hits against smaller, faster and highly maneuverable Western military aircraft, including fighter and attack jets. That way, even if the targeted aircraft eluded the missile or the direct effects of its blast wave, a piece of shrapnel from the cloud might be enough to damage an engine or sever fuel and hydraulic lines.

A large passenger jet flying at a consistent speed and an unchanging course would be a target of an entirely different sort than a fighter jet, and could be expected to be hit by the blast and a large load of the shrapnel.

In the minutes before it was struck, Flight 17 was traveling at a steady elevation and speed across Ukraine, according to data from FlightRadar24, an online flight tracker. Its passengers and crew would have settled into the tedious routines of a typical long-haul international flight.

The damage visible on the small piece of wreckage indicate a sudden end to the aircraft’s journey: Its thin skin was riddled with shrapnel and rocked by the force of a nearby high-explosive blast, twice the power of the blast of a modern artillery shell.

Traveling at more than 500 miles an hour, the plane, very quickly, would shear apart, and be a plane no more.


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« Reply #142 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:55 AM »

Russia Toughens Penalties on Political Protests

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 16:34

Russia on Tuesday toughened the penalties for unsanctioned political protests, introducing criminal penalties of up to five years in jail for multiple violations.

The rat face President Pig Putin signed into law changes which place unsanctioned protests and rallies alongside instigating mass unrest in the criminal code.

"The repeated violation of the established procedures for the organization or holding of rallies, gatherings, demonstrations, marches or picketing" is now considered an offence under the criminal code, the Kremlin said on its website.

Russian authorities often deny permission for public gatherings of opposition and human rights groups, and those who go ahead and hold meetings are often broken up by police.

The amendments "were adopted in order to establish criminal responsibility in case of repeated violations of public order or during mass demonstrations," it added.

Those who organize or actively participate in more than two unsanctioned public meetings and protests within six months can now be prosecuted and will face punishments of up to five years in jail or a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($29,000, 21,000 euros).

The law also doubled the amount of time protesters can be held under administrative law, from 15 to 30 days, for violations that include hampering public transport and exceeding the declared number of participants at a protest.

Shit stain Pig Putin, following his election to a third presidential term in 2012 that was marred by mass demonstrations, has signed a number of laws restricting the right to protest.

In April a law introduced a minimum term of four years in jail for causing large disruptions to public order, a charge several activists now face.

Russia has also tightened restrictions on non-governmental organizations, with those that receive international funding now obligated to register as "foreign agents".

Five prominent human rights and environmental defense groups were added to the foreign agents list this week, placing them under stricter financial audits and requiring them to mark all their materials as being produced by foreign agents.


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« Reply #143 on: Jul 22, 2014, 08:40 AM »


Russians fed conspiracy theories on Ukraine crash

By LAURA MILLS
Associated Press

MOSCOW —

An assassination attempt against Russian President Pig V. Putin. A desperate ploy to draw the West into the battle for Ukraine's east. A botched mission to commit mass murder against Russian citizens.

Russian news consumers are getting plenty of explanations for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which killed 298 people. While they vary wildly in content, all point the finger at Ukraine. None admits the possibility that Russia may bear responsibility.

The story of the airline tragedy that is unfolding for Russians differs starkly from the one that people are following in the West. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told American TV viewers that rebels shot down the plane with Russian weaponry, Russians were being fed a diet of scenarios about forces in Ukraine conspiring to commit an atrocity in the skies.

Yekaterina Andreyeva, one of Russia's most famous TV anchors, delved into one theory hours after news of the crash broke: Our Pig, traveling home from Brazil, passed along the same flight path as the Malaysian passenger jet less than one hour before it was hit -- suggesting an assassination attempt.

By Friday morning, the assassination theory was replaced by other scenarios.

One focused on the Buk missile launcher that Ukraine says brought down the plane. State-owned Rossiya TV pinned blame on Kiev by saying the rebels did not own one, while Ukraine recently deployed a Buk launcher to the area. An Associated Press journalist saw a Buk launcher -- which rebels have bragged about owning in social media -- in rebel-held territory near the crash site hours before the plane was brought down.

Rossiya further said that the red, white, and blue of the Malaysia Airlines logo "resembles the Russian tricolor" -- hinting at a Ukrainian attempt to blow up a Russian passenger jet.

Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's most-read tabloid, took another tack. It claimed that Ukrainian air traffic controllers redirected the Malaysia Airlines plane to fly directly over the conflict zone, publishing pictures from flight-tracking websites that appeared to show fluctuations in the plane's route.

Russia media have suggested that Ukrainian authorities orchestrated the downing to make it look like a rebel attack, in hopes it would be the catalyst for luring Western powers into military intervention.

Russian state-controlled television, which is where a majority of Russians get their news, tends to toe the official line and abrupt changes in language on the air can reflect changes in Kremlin strategy. In June, Putin began soft-pedaling his rhetoric on Ukraine after recognizing May 25 presidential elections, in an apparent attempt to stave off Western sanctions.

After the airline tragedy, rat faced Pig Putin led the shift to a more aggressive tone.

"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," the filth called Pig Putin said. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."

Outrage has grown in the West over what appears to be a bungled start to the investigation. Rebels allowed a group of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe only a superficial inspection of the crash site on Saturday before firing warning shots when two Ukrainian members of the group attempted to study wreckage.

In Russia, meanwhile, news reports repeat that the rebels have been cooperating with the observers -- and blame Kiev for stalling the arrival of international investigators.

"Yesterday the OSCE group worked in the field all day at the scene of the plane crash," First Channel's Sunday broadcast began. "So far the Ukrainian authorities do not want to send a group of international specialists to Donetsk."


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« Reply #144 on: Jul 22, 2014, 10:16 AM »

Russian NGOs Decry 'Foreign Agent' Label

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 17:24

Russian NGOs on Tuesday vowed to appeal against being labelled as "foreign agents" under a law Western rights groups condemned as a "stranglehold" on freedom of expression.

The Russian justice ministry on Monday added five prominent non-governmental organizations to its register of "foreign agents," which requires them to mark all their paperwork accordingly and undergo stricter audits.

Russia in 2012 introduced a law requiring all organizations engaged in political activity with even a trickle of foreign funding to register as "foreign agents," a term with connotations of Cold War espionage.

Rights groups have battled ever since to avoid using the label.

The newly registered groups are Memorial, a Moscow-based human rights organization that works extensively with Soviet archives to chronicle repressions in the era; Ecodefense, an environmental group whose focus is nuclear power plants; and three legal advocacy groups: Agora, Public Verdict, and Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms.

The groups told Agence France Presse that they will not comply with the ministry's orders despite risking heavy penalties.

"We will appeal against (the ministry's) decision, but will continue to operate as before," said Yan Rachinsky, one of the founders of Memorial.

"There may be fines and difficulties arising from that."

Amnesty International called the justice ministry's decision a "further sign of the authorities’ growing stranglehold on freedom of expression".

Thirteen organizations have already filed complaints to the European Court of Human Rights over the law, which is seen as deliberately vague and designed to target specific groups the Kremlin considers oppositional.

In particular, the law defines any form of public campaigning as political activity, even when it is in non-political spheres like health and education.

The law had already pushed some groups to close and reformat their activities.

Golos, an organization that monitors elections and was instrumental during the 2011 parliamentary polls and 2012 presidential polls that led to Vladimir Putin's ascent to a third historic term, now defines itself as a "movement".

"We don't recognize the term 'foreign agent'," said Natalia Taubina of Public Verdict. "We are not agents."


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« Reply #145 on: Jul 23, 2014, 04:50 AM »

MH17: US intelligence says Russia 'created conditions' for plane disaster

US officials stop short of blaming crash directly on Moscow and say separatists likely shot down plane by accident

Spencer Ackerman in New York and Shaun Walker in Donetsk
The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 23.36 BST      

US intelligence officials accused Moscow of "creating the conditions" that resulted in the death of 298 people aboard the Malaysian Airlines jet shot down last week over a part of Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

But in a partial declassification of US intelligence on Tuesday, officials stopped short of laying the blame for the disaster directly at the door of Russia. The assessment of the US intelligence community is that the separatists shot the plane down by accident.

The newly declassified information largely reaffirmed an account given last Friday by Samantha Power, US ambassador to the United Nations, saying that a missile from an SA-11 anti-aircraft battery in separatist territory shot down the plane.

Officials said training given by Russia to its separatist proxies on air-defense weapons, which they have used in recent weeks to shoot down about a dozen aircraft, was a contributing factor. Ukrainian forces fighting the separatists have yet to fire a surface-to-air missile, intelligence officials said, as their conflict is on the ground.

Some of the evidence provided by US intelligence – whose fiscal 2013 budget was $68bn – included Facebook posts. "After it became evident that the plane was a civilian airliner, separatists deleted social media posts boasting about shooting down a plane and possessing a Buk (SA-11) surface-to-air missile system," a senior intelligence official said in the briefing, held on condition of anonymity. The Guardian was not invited to the briefing, a transcription of which was later made available.

Despite enormous international opprobrium placed on Moscow since the crash, intelligence officials said that they believed Russia continues to arm the separatists. They alleged that rocket launchers, other artillery pieces and tanks have transited through a "training facility" in south-west Russia associated with supplies for the separatists.

While the Guardian cannot independently confirm the allegation, satellite imagery released by US intelligence and dated Monday from the Rostov base seems to depict columns of materiel not present in a photo dated two days earlier.

An account by US intelligence of the Buk missile's trajectory puts its origin at the town of Snizhne, not far from the Russian border. Images posted on social media from Snizhne seem to depict a mobile Buk system.

An investigation into the destruction of MH17 has barely got under way. Separatists handed over the flight recorder of the plane to Malaysian authorities late on Monday.

US intelligence officials indicated that their timed release of preliminary information was designed to counter claims from the Russian military they consider obfuscatory.

"We are seeing a full-court press by the Russian government to instruct affiliated or friendly elements to manipulate the media," an intelligence official said.

On Tuesday, international experts began the process of identifying the bodies of those who died in the disaster, after a train carrying their remains arrived in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Interpol, the international police agency, said one of its teams had begun preliminary identification work on the remains, which will all be flown to the Netherlands this week for fuller identification.

The train, which included three refrigerated wagons, had been loaded by rebels and local emergency workers at Torez station, near the crash site. The rebels said there were 282 bodies and 87 "other fragments" on board and that 16 bodies are yet to be found.

However, on Tuesday night Dutch officials said only 200 bodies had arrived in Kharkiv.

The European Union said on Tuesday that it would expand its sanctions blacklist to target Pig Putin's inner circle and draw up further broad measures including an arms embargo and financial restrictions on Russian businesses.

*****************

U.S. to release intelligence data on downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 14:56 EDT

US intelligence officials were expected to present data Tuesday backing up the theory that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was blown out of the sky Thursday by what is believed to have been a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.

“There has been a lot of evidence that’s already been presented that paints a pretty compelling picture,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“I do expect that you’ll hear from intel officials later today who will have some more data to present and some more evidence to indicate — I guess some more evidence to educate you about what we know so far about that situation.”

Earnest did not go into more detail about what was to be released.

The United States has alleged that the plane was shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile system from an area in eastern Ukraine controlled by the Moscow-backed separatists.

“The Ukrainian military was not operating anti-aircraft weapons in that area at that time,” Earnest reiterated.

On Monday, Obama voiced outrage that the probe into the downing of the airliner was being hampered by Ukrainian rebels and demanded that the Russian Pig force them to cooperate, saying Moscow had “direct influence over these separatists.”

The evil Pig Putin, who has borne the brunt of international fury, pledged Tuesday to “do everything” to influence the separatists and ensure a full probe into the crash.

Moscow had earlier slapped down accusations that it had supplied the alleged missile system, with a senior defense official intimating that Kiev may have been responsible for its downing.

*****************

EU announces further sanctions on Russia after downing of MH17

Proposals will not be applied immediately as Putin urges rebels to cooperate with investigators for the first time

Julian Borger in Brussels, Alec Luhn in Moscow and Richard Norton-Taylor   
The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 22.26 BST   

The European Union will expand its sanctions blacklist to target Pig Putin's inner circle and draw up further broad measures including an arms embargo and financial restrictions on Russian businesses, EU foreign ministers have decided following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

However, the new sanctions will not be applied immediately. The EU has threatened punitive measures before without being able to find a consensus to implement them. And even if an arms embargo were imposed it would not be retrospective, so would not affect France's plans to deliver assault ships to Russia.

EU officials insisted that Tuesday's decision on sanctions marked a significant step towards new punitive measures. The list of Pig "cronies" to be sanctioned has to be ready by the end of the month. The broader sanctions on "access to capital markets, defence, dual use goods, and sensitive technologies" are conditional on Russian cooperation with the MH17 investigation, a halt to "the increasing flow of weapons, equipment and militants across the border", and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the border area.

On Tuesday, the rat face Pig Putin agreed for the first time to urge the rebels to cooperate with the investigators, but he also condemned western sanctions and called on Kiev to implement a ceasefire. "We have been called on to put pressure on the rebels in the south-east. We will of course do everything that is in our power," the Russian president snorted, speaking before a long table of officials and army and intelligence officers.

Although none of the agreed European sanctions takes immediate effect, advocates of increased pressure on Moscow claimed that the measures agreed at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels represented a sharp response to the shooting down of the plane, and predicted that some of the new sanctions were almost certain to be imposed.

"What I have heard today is a clear political commitment by the foreign ministers in response to this outrage to act," the new UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond told the BBC. "I would expect to see that process now moving forward at pace unless the Russians deliver on all the demands we have made."

"I think Europe has woken up," Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister said. "None of these things – capital markets, defence, dual use items, has ever been mentioned in EU documents. Some of this will happen."

There will be a meeting of EU ambassadors on Thursday, who will approve a widening of the targeted sanctions list to include close associates "who actively provide material or financial support to or are benefiting from the Russian decision makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine." The final list of names will probably not be announced until next week.

The meeting will hear proposals for an arms embargo and financial restrictions, but it is not clear whether a further foreign minister meeting or even an extraordinary summit would be needed to give them the green light.

European officials will also look into the possible designation of separatist groups such as the Donetsk People's Republic as terrorist organisations, if it was determined they were involved in the shooting down of MH17. Officials said that such a step was far from imminent and would require watertight proof.

The Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, whose country lost 193 citizens in the attack, described the package as "quite forceful".

British officials said the tone of the EU statement had toughened considerably in the course of the day, in part because of harrowing accounts from the scene of the crash presented to the ministers, as well as accounts of tampering with the site. Bildt said there were reports of items being inserted into the scene in an effort to confuse the investigation.

A British official said: "There is chatter that the SVR [Russia's Foreign Intelligence Services] and the FSB [its secret police] are planting just enough disinformation to fuel a thousand grassy knoll conspiracy theories, to muck up the forensics on the scene."

The official said that the proposed European arms embargo would not be retrospective as so would not apply to France's agreed sale of two Mistral helicopter carrier ships to Russia worth €1.2bn (£950m). "That would involve returning the money, and we understand that is difficult for them," he said.

In his most in-depth expression of his foreign policy since a speech celebrating the annexation of Crimea in March, the shit stain painted sanctions as unjustified and ineffective.

"Russia is being given what almost amounts to ultimatums: let us destroy part of the population that is ethnically, culturally and historically close to Russia, or we'll adopt some sanctions against you. It's strange logic, and of course it's absolutely unacceptable," he said.

The Pig also said outside forces would use intelligence services, the media and non-governmental organisations to destabilise Russia and make it "pliant in deciding issues in favour of the interests of other governments".

Although the evil Pig Putin promised his government would not "tighten the screws", his comments suggested that the Kremlin's information war would continue. Russian media have presented a far different view of the Malaysia Airlines disaster, focusing on theories hinting that the Ukrainian or US governments downed the plane.

***************

Ukrainians, Awaiting International Action After Crash, Fear Complacency

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
JULY 22, 2014
IHT

KIEV, Ukraine — From the moment it became clear that a civilian jetliner had been shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people and jolting the world’s attention to the country’s battle with Russian-backed insurgents, many Ukrainians, including senior officials here in the capital, have been awaiting a forceful international response. They are still waiting.

The United States quickly declared that the missile had been fired from separatist-controlled territory, and the Ukrainian and American governments each said that they had credible intelligence that Russia had supplied the surface-to-air weapon that destroyed the plane, as well as the training and expertise needed to fire it. 

But while President Obama made a strong statement on Monday rebuking Russia and the rebels it supports for delaying the recovery of bodies of victims and evidence, it was not clear what, if any, action would be taken. On Tuesday, European officials in Brussels agreed to draw up targets for additional economic sanctions but stopped short of imposing new penalties.

Although the investigation is in its early stages, the lack of any swift concrete response — and the aggressive denials by Russia — have left many Ukrainians fearful of complacency by other nations.

“Actually it looks like they will not impose any strict sanctions,” said Svitlana Khutka, an associate professor of sociology at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kiev. “Why? Because they say they are very concerned, deeply concerned, very, very concerned, very much concerned, so very deeply concerned,” Ms. Khutka said in an interview. “You just don’t believe that they are concerned, because it is quite evident that they have their own interests.”

“We see something here like this realpolitik,” she said, “which actually just demonstrates that Ukraine somehow has to defend itself by itself.”

Even President Petro O. Poroshenko, reluctant to offend allies in the West, has subtly expressed growing exasperation in recent days. He has urged the United States Congress to designate the main separatist groups in eastern Ukraine as terrorist groups, a step he took without first seeking approval from the White House.

And after a call on Tuesday with the prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, Mr. Poroshenko urged an additional international response. “The Ukrainian president emphasizes that further efforts must be focused on preventing Russia from supporting terrorists,” Mr. Poroshenko’s office said in a statement, adding that he “hopes for international contribution.”

Many Ukrainians have also watched with dismay as insurgent leaders used their control of the wreckage site and of the plane’s voice and data recorders to gain new international stature — even winning praise from the Malaysian government for their cooperation.

“Earlier this evening, I spoke to Alexander Borodai, who is in command of the region where the tragedy occurred,” the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, said in a live television address announcing that a deal had been reached to allow the remains of victims to be brought by train to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which is controlled by the central government.

Further legitimizing Mr. Borodai and his separatists, the flight recorders were turned over to Malaysian emissaries at a late-night ceremony in Donetsk, guarded by rebels carrying machine guns. Copies of a signed memorandum of understanding were exchanged, and one of the Malaysian officials, Col. Mohamed Sakri, thanked “his excellency Mr. Borodai.”

A Russian citizen who lived in Moscow as an investment consultant, Mr. Borodai is regarded as a terrorist in Kiev, reviled by officials here in the same way that Qaeda commanders are despised in the United States. He is among a number of Russian citizens who are the leaders of the main separatist groups in eastern Ukraine, including Igor Strelkov, who is believed to have direct ties to the Russian military intelligence service.

An updated summary of what is known and not known about the crash.

In recent days, as the expected international response has failed to materialize — and Russia has stepped up its assertions that the Ukrainian military could have downed the jetliner, Ukrainian officials here have become increasingly incensed, objecting even when journalists refer to the insurgents as rebels, or pro-Russian separatists.

“Not rebels,” the Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, said during a news conference on Monday. “Russian-led guerrillas; they are not rebels.”

“This is a global conflict and a global threat,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said Monday, in a statement that seemed as pleading as it was declarative. “Russia is on the dark side. And this is our priority, a key priority, of the entire world: to stop Russian aggression.”

Mr. Yatsenyuk recounted a litany of evidence he said indicated Russian involvement in providing the surface-to-air missile that destroyed the plane, including what the Ukrainian intelligence service has described as intercepted telephone conversations between insurgent leaders and Russian intelligence agents, as well as social media posts shortly after the plane was hit, in which the insurgents boasted of having downed another Ukrainian military plane.

“We have got the intercept telephone calls between the Russian-led guerrillas and Russian FSB agents,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said, adding, “On the Internet, this bunch of idiots posted a chat saying that we downed a Ukrainian military plane and then they eliminated it in 30 seconds.”

Asked if he expected cooperation from the shit stain called Pig Putin of Russia, Mr. Yatsenyuk, said: “I expect nothing from the Russian government. What they can do? They can supply weapons. They can send well-trained agents. They can support these guerrillas, but they have to stop. And President Putin needs to realize that enough is enough. This is not a conflict just between Ukraine and Russia. This is an international and global conflict after they shot down MH17.”

Mr. Borodai’s ability to conduct negotiations by telephone with the Malaysian prime minister, perhaps with the assistance of the Russian Foreign Ministry, was all the more remarkable when compared with the Ukrainian government’s inability to control events in the area of the wreckage site.

In its own efforts to gain cooperation in recent days, Volodymyr Groysman, the deputy prime minister, who is leading the Ukrainian government’s response to the downed jetliner, sent a letter to separatist commanders. It was addressed “To whom it may concern.”

Ukrainian officials have expressed particular exasperation at the lack of an international response — given that citizens of 11 countries were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament, said he could understand Malaysian officials, so distant from Eastern Europe, not understanding the Ukrainian conflict. But he said European officials should be more forceful. He compared them to the mule in a philosophical dilemma that dies of hunger and thirst, caught indecisively between food and water set an equal distance apart.

“I think Malaysian officials are very far from the reality in Ukraine,” Mr. Ariev said. “But European reaction seems apprehensive. Some E.U. leaders, like a Buridan’s ass, still couldn’t make a choice between Russian gas and freedom and democratic values.” He added, “The world is still very hesitant to call Russian leader Putin as a supporter of terrorism. The facts for MH 17 are clear.”

******************

Flight MH17: identification begins after bodies from crash site arrive in Kharkiv

Interpol says it has begun preliminary work on remains, which are to be flown to the Netherlands this week

Shaun Walker and Harriet Salem in Donetsk
The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 23.10 BST   

International experts have begun the process of identifying the bodies of those who died in last Thursday's Malaysian Airlines plane crash, after a train carrying their remains arrived in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday.

Interpol, the international police agency, said one of its teams had begun preliminary identification work on the remains, which will all be flown to the Netherlands this week for fuller identification.

The train, which included three refrigerated wagons, had been loaded by rebels and local emergency workers at Torez station, near the crash site. The rebels said there were 282 bodies and 87 "other fragments" on board and that 16 bodies are yet to be found.

However, on Tuesday night Dutch officials said only 200 bodies had arrived in Kharkiv.

The train came to a halt in the grounds of a weapons factory shortly before midday on Tuesday/yesterday. The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said he expected the first of the bodies to arrive in Eindhoven on Wednesday. He said that the identification of some bodies would be quick but warned grieving families of victims that the identification of some could take "weeks or even months".

Ukraine has given the Netherlands the lead role in investigating the cause of the crash. More than half of the 298 victims were Dutch citizens.

Two black boxes from flight MH17 handed to Malaysian officials by rebels on Monday night will be examined by UK accident investigators, it was announced yesterday.

British experts at the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) will retrieve data from the flight recorders for analysis, following a request from the government of the Netherlands, David Cameron said on Twitter.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport, of which the AAIB has been a part since 2002, said: "They're confident that, depending on the level of damage, they will be able to retrieve the information within 24 hours …"

Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been on the scene since the suspected shooting down of Flight MH17 but are there only to observe rather than to investigate. On Tuesday they were joined by a three-man Malaysian delegation, one from Malaysian Airlines and two from the country's civil aviation authority.

The crash site has still not been cordoned off, and journalists and locals were free to roam the debris on the fifth day since the crash. OSCE spokesperson Michael Bociurkiw said that his team found more body parts at the site during the day. "Today at the side of the road there were human remains in a small plastic bag that had not been picked up," he said.

In response to accusations that the rebels had been trying to cover up evidence at the site, Bociurkiw said that while there was a "marked change" in parts of the crash site, there was no evidence of major tampering. The OSCE has taken thousands of photographs of the site in the past few days and will hand them over to investigators.

"Two days ago as we left the site we saw men with power saws hacking into the part of the fuselage where the cockpit is … but that could have been part of the effort to recover human remains."

Bociurkiw said the Malaysians were happy with the access they had been given and said they "have not seen any evidence of major parts [of the plane] missing".

Western governments have criticised the lack of access to the site for investigators, and on Tuesday the White House demanded that international investigators be given "immediate and full access", with spokesman Josh Earnest saying there was not enough cooperation. The rebels, however, dispute this, saying any international experts are welcome at the site, but few have arrived due to security fears.

A spokesperson for the Dutch foreign ministry said the few Dutch experts who briefly visited the crash site on Monday had left due to security concerns, but that a delegation will go back to the site as soon as possible.

Fierce fighting has continued to flare across eastern Ukraine. On Monday, as what are believed to be the final 20 bodies were transported from the crash site to the train station in Torez, Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, ordered a ceasefire within a 40km (24 mile) radius around the area. However, the boom of artillery was again audible at the crash site on Tuesday.

Fighting around Donetsk airport and railway station on Monday, just outside the ceasefire zone, reportedly killed three civilians and further complicated transportation arrangements, according to the rebels.

Details of the negotiations between Malaysia and the separatist authorities in Donetsk that led to a handover of the black box flight recorders in the early hours of Tuesday morning also began to emerge during the day.

Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, negotiated with a Malaysian delegation into the early hours of Tuesday morning. The result appeared to be a deal that secured the safe passage of the MH17 victims' bodies out of the rebel-held territory, the handover of the black boxes, and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators. But in return the Malaysians seemed to offer the rebels a semblance of legitimacy.

Col Mohamad Sakri, part of the Malaysian delegation, thanked "his excellency Mr Borodai" for agreeing to the transfer.

The Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, on Tuesday said "there were risks involved" in making the deal with the separatists, for which he had spoken by telephone to Borodai. "We felt an obligation to explore all avenues to break the impasse, and secure the return of the remains and the black boxes. After meeting the families, I felt that we owed it to them to act," he said in a statement.

Razak said the recorders would be held in Malaysian custody while an international investigation team was formalised. It later emerged that the Malaysians planned to hand the boxes to the Dutch, who will send them to Britain for expert analysis. The Ukrainians have released recordings that they say show separatists scrambling to find the black boxes and hand them to Moscow, which the rebels have said are faked. Razak confirmed that the boxes appeared to be in good condition.

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Rebels Return 80 Fewer Bodies than Promised from MH17, Experts Say

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 22:27

International monitors on Tuesday said body parts still lay scattered at eastern Ukraine's unsecured crash site of downed flight MH17, as Dutch experts said they were given 80 fewer corpses than promised by the rebels.

"There were human remains that had not been picked up," said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observer mission after visiting the scene, amid reports of the wreckage being rearranged.

"What struck us is that we did not monitor any recovery activity in place," he said, pointing out that OSCE observers saw human remains in at least two areas at the sprawling crash site in rebel-held territory.

Pro-Russian insurgents said Monday they had released the bodies of 282 victims after they were sent by refrigerated train to the government-controlled town of Kharkiv, some 300 kilometers to the northwest.

But Dutch experts now in possession of the corpses said Tuesday they had only counted 200 on the morgue train.

"We are sure of having 200 bodies and body parts, that is all that I know," said Jan Tuinder, the head of the Dutch delegation told journalists.

Flight MH17 was apparently brought down by a missile on Thursday with 298 people on board, including 193 Dutch citizens.

Five days after the incident, OSCE monitors said they noticed "changes" in the arrangement of the wreckage.

"We did observe changes at the site. The fuselage has been moved. It appears that the cone section is split in two and it appears that the tail fin has been moved," Bociurkiw said.

Western leaders have complained that rebels have been tampering with vital evidence at the site.

But Bociurkiw said there should be no "rush to conclusions" and the changes "could have been part of the effort to recover remains".

Fifteen monitors from the European security body visited the site for a fifth day on Tuesday, accompanied for the first time by a senior official from Malaysian Airlines and by two Malaysian civil aviation experts.

"There was no security perimeter. We also noticed that the vast amount of personal belongings of passengers has been removed from the scene," he added.

"The Malaysian experts observed that the heat from the impact was so intense that it melted the wings," which were made of aluminium, he said.

**************

Ukraine Says Dutch Ready to Send Police to MH17 Site

by Naharnet Newsdesk
23 July 2014, 12:13

The Netherlands and other countries that lost citizens in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are proposing sending police officers to secure the crash site in rebel-held east Ukraine, authorities in Kiev have said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the offer was made by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte "to provide security at the crash scene and surrounding area in order to ensure an independent international investigation into the reasons for the catastrophe."

"Rutte noted that he intended, together with Australia and other countries whose citizens were victims on plane MH17, to propose sending a civilian police mission to Ukraine under the auspices of the U.N.," the Ukrainian presidency said in a statement following a phone talk between the two leaders late Tuesday.

The first batch of bodies from the downed jet were flown out from east Ukraine to the Netherlands Wednesday, after rebels controlling the crash site finally released them under intense international pressure.

But body parts of more victims remain strewn around the scene and leaders across the globe have expressed outrage over the alleged tampering with evidence at the unsecured site by insurgents accused of shooting down the plane.

International monitors said that the first group of overseas investigators to reach the scene Tuesday had found some of the debris from the jet moved and apparently cut apart.

Rebels have handed over the first black boxes from the downed jet to Malaysian experts, with the flight data recorders being sent to Britain to be decrypted.

Some 298 people from a dozen nations were killed when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was apparently blown out of the sky Thursday over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile.

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Russia Struggles with Half Million Refugees of Ukraine Conflict

by Naharnet Newsdesk
23 July 2014, 07:21

Russia is struggling with a flood of refugees who already number half a million from the fighting in eastern Ukraine, and many appear increasingly likely to stay, officials and activists said.

Widely viewed by the West as having fomented the conflict by providing support to pro-Russian separatists -- a charge Moscow denies -- Russia now faces the growing challenge of caring for the refugees.

"Since April 1, over 515,000 people have arrived from southeastern Ukraine," the head of Russia's migration service (FMS) Konstantin Romodanovsky said this week.

The influx has become a burden for southern Russian regions that border Ukraine, in particular Rostov, and Moscow is now trying to address the situation of caring for them at the federal level.

Russian authorities have organised some 400 refugee camps to offer temporary accommodation, and so far running the facilities has been up to the local authorities, stretching their capacities to the limit.

Since June 4, more than 220,000 refugees have crossed the border from Ukraine to the Rostov region, and currently the flow continues at about 2,000 people per day, Governor Vassily Golubev said Tuesday.

"Rostov and other frontline regions are working at maximum capacity," said Ella Pamfilova, who heads Pig Putin's human rights council.

"They do everything possible -- both the authorities and the volunteers... but the problems will only get worse," she said.

"There is growing fatigue, and when winter arrives everything will be much more difficult," she told Agence France Presse, adding that the biggest problem was uncertainty.

- 'They lived through shock' -

The Russian government said Tuesday it would step up its contribution to support refugees in border areas, taking the total amount to nearly five billion rubles ($141 million, 104 million euros).

"They lived through a shock, many of them through tragedy, losing their loved ones. In Russia they are looking for protection and support," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a government meeting to discuss the issue.

"It is our task to give them our utmost attention and necessary help."

Romodanovsky said that over 80 percent of the refugees remain in border areas, but the government has begun to move some camps to other areas, particularly in the centre of the country, with the hope that this may help the refugees if they choose to settle in Russia.

"The flow of refugees is not abating. Many want to return to their homes when the conflict ends, but increasingly these families want closure, and intend to stay in Russia," said Pamfilova.

-- Many may stay --

More than 144,000 have turned to Russian authorities for special refugee status, and of those, 38,000 people have demanded asylum, recent FMS figures show.

The Russian government ordered late Tuesday simplified measures for reviewing requests for refugee status.

"We do not rule out that most of them want to eventually demand Russian citizenship," Romodanovsky said.

Anna Serdyukova of the Civil Assistance NGO which is helping refugees in the Rostov region, said there has been a change of attitude among refugees.

"In June, many of them said: 'We'll stay here a while and then return home.' Today many fewer of them think like that," she added.

The authorities are also working on measures to simplify the process for Ukrainian refugees, most of whom are Russian-speaking, to obtain Russian nationality.

Caring for the refugees may pose short-term costs, but the migrants could bring long-term benefits to Russia which is facing a demographics crisis, analysts said.

"Russia is short of people and workers, and here you find tens of thousands who share our mentality, our language and our culture," said Yevgeny Gontmakher, a deputy director at the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


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« Reply #146 on: Jul 23, 2014, 05:03 AM »


Ukrainians report sightings of missile launcher on day of MH17 crash

In Torez, some say missile's journey through town has been a hot topic but people are scared of talking to outsiders

Shaun Walker in Torez
theguardian.com, Tuesday 22 July 2014 18.02 BST   

Claims by pro-Russia separatists in east Ukraine that they have never been in possession of the missile launcher apparently used to down flight MH17 are looking increasingly flimsy, as several witnesses told the Guardian they had seen what appeared to be a Buk missile launcher in the vicinity of the crash site last Thursday.

The sightings back up a number of photographs and videos posted online that put the Buk system close to the crash site on the day of the disaster. Just before lunchtime last Thursday, prior to the Malaysia Airlines plane's takeoff, a Buk was driven through Gagarin Street, one of the central thoroughfares of Torez, witnesses said.

Torez would later be the town where bodies of the victims were loaded on to refrigerated train cars. The tarmac on Gagarin Street is strewn with ruts made by tank treads, and locals say armoured vehicles controlled by separatists driving through the town have become a regular occurrence in recent weeks. The convoy last Thursday was different, however.

"We were inside and heard a noise much louder than usual," said one shopkeeper, who did not want to be identified. "We came running out and saw a jeep disappearing into the distance with something much larger in front of it. Later, customers said it had been a missile carrier."

In another shop further down the street, there was talk of a convoy of two jeeps and a missile launcher covered in a net driving past in the direction of the town of Snizhne. "I've never seen anything like it," said a middle-aged woman. She said her husband showed her a photograph of a Buk launcher afterwards and she realised that was indeed what she had seen. A group of men also said they had seen a Buk.

There have been suggestions that the missile was fired from fields on the outskirts of Snizhne. Many in Torez did not want to speak about the Buk or claimed not to have heard anything about it. Others said the missile's journey through the town had been a talking point in recent days, but people were scared of divulging too much to outsiders. None of those who reported sightings of the Buk wanted their names published.

Armed rebels at a checkpoint outside the entrance to Snizhe were turning away cars with journalists on Tuesday, saying they had received orders not to let the press into the town.

Ukrainian intelligence has suggested that the missile launcher was provided by Russia and taken back across the border after the deadly attack on MH17. "It is most likely that the machinery which fired the missiles at Malaysian aircraft will be destroyed and the people who committed the act of terror will be annihilated," said Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine's interior minister.

Russia has denied giving the rebels a Buk launcher, and suggested the Ukrainian army had a number of Buk systems in the vicinity. They have also claimed that a Ukrainian fighter jet was in the vicinity of MH17 at the time of the crash.

The self-styled prime minister of the Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai, again denied that the rebels were responsible for the crash in a statement to the press in the early hours of Tuesday morning, before he handed the flight's black box recorders to a visiting Malaysian delegation. Ukraine had the "technical ability and the motive" to carry out the attack while the rebels had neither, he said.

However, the rebels had downed a number of Ukrainian planes in the area in recent weeks, and while the presence of the Buk in rebel-controlled territory on the day of the crash does not prove that rebels launched the missile, it does show they are lying about not having any of the systems under their control.

US officials have said they have satellite evidence that a missile was launched at MH17 from the region of Snizhne last Thursday, and were due to make the evidence public later on Tuesday.


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« Reply #147 on: Jul 23, 2014, 06:02 AM »

Pig Putin’s Crime, Europe’s Cowardice

By BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY
JULY 22, 2014
NYT Editorial

TANGIER, Morocco — IN eastern Ukraine, Pig V. Putin has been playing with fire.

He has mobilized the worst elements to be found in the region.

He has taken thugs, thieves, rapists, ex-cons and vandals and turned them into a paramilitary force.

He has permitted ad hoc commanders of separatist groups to kill or chase off intellectuals, journalists and other moral authorities in the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk.

He has watched as a vodka-soaked rabble army destroys or takes over public buildings, hospitals, schools and municipal offices of the country it is pretending to liberate.

He has allowed a veritable gang war to take hold — without caring that he is losing control of the forces that he has unleashed, with rival bands pitted against one another and carving out fiefs amid the growing anarchy.

Most troubling of all: To this underworld without structure or discipline, to these undisciplined louts who know only the law of the jungle, to this new brand of fighting force that has only the dimmest idea of war and no idea, God knows, of the laws of war — to this motley collection Pig utin, the Russian president, gave a terrifying arsenal with which the amateur soldiers were unfamiliar and with which they have been playing, like kids with fireworks.

We know that Russia supplied vast quantities of heavy weaponry to the separatists and trained them to use the SA-11 surface-to-air missile system — the kind believed to have been used to bring down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

One can envision the victorious gang celebrating with its trophy, playing with it as if it were a toy — one that can reach altitudes of over 70,000 feet.

One can similarly imagine Russian military officers — not so secretly assigned by the Kremlin to watch over the missiles and their use by amateur artillery crews targeting Ukrainian military aircraft — being overtaken by events and seized with panic.

One can even imagine their consternation when Igor Strelkov, the self-proclaimed defense minister of the Republic of Donetsk, claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian military plane — which turned out to be Flight 17.

We know what happened.

Whatever the outcome of the eventual investigation — an investigation made well nigh impossible by these dogs of war who follow no creed and no law, who, as they horrified the world by leaving the bodies of their victims abandoned in fields or heaped in poorly refrigerated train cars, as they reveled in their 15 minutes of fame by deploring before the news cameras of the world that the 298 lost souls had had the bad taste to “land” on people’s houses or in reservoirs used for drinking water, were also purloining the plane’s black boxes, organizing the export to Russia of possibly compromising debris, and casually stripping the bodies of objects of value — whatever the outcome of the investigation into all of this, an undeniable result was carnage, a war crime, an attack on Ukraine, the Netherlands and Malaysia all at once.

For all of these reasons, it was hard not to side with Ukraine’s president, Petro O. Poroshenko — who, it is worth noting, has shown in the terrible days since the crash the qualities of composure, dignity and authority that he exhibited during his campaign for office — when he asked the international community to classify as terrorist organizations the “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk.

It is also hard not to agree with Mr. Poroshenko when, several hours after the tragedy, speaking unemotionally and with no trace of hate, he reminded France’s president, François Hollande, that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had been blacklisted by the world for his suspected involvement in a similar attack on a commercial airliner, Pan Am Flight 103, over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988.

Faced with this new Lockerbie, will we in the West do no more than beg Pig Putin to provide “free and complete” access to the crash site and offer “full cooperation” in the recovery of remains?

Have we not a moral obligation to draw logical conclusions about a crime for which, because of his incendiary and irresponsible policies, deeply unworthy of the president of a great power, Pig Putin is, in the end, wholly responsible?

Under the circumstances — with Pig Putin having not yet agreed to back off in Ukraine, much less in Crimea — how can France morally justify its plan to deliver to Russia two Mistral-class warships, now being fitted out in the western port of St.-Nazaire? Do we want them to become the crown jewels of a Russian fleet off Sebastopol and, perhaps, Odessa?

To see the European Union acting so pusillanimously is very discouraging. France wants to hold on to its arms contracts for the jobs they are supposed to save in its naval shipyards. Germany, a hub of operations for the Russian energy giant Gazprom, is petrified of losing its own strategic position. Britain, for its part, despite recent statements by Prime Minister David Cameron, may still not be ready to forgo the colossal flows of Russian oligarchs’ ill-gotten cash upon which the City, London’s financial district, has come to rely.

In European parlance, this is called the spirit of Munich — appeasement. And it is a disgrace.

***************

Russia Starts Reinforcing Naval Fleet in Crimea

by Naharnet Newsdesk
23 July 2014, 11:17

Russia announced Wednesday that it had begun expanding and modernizing its Black Sea fleet based in Crimea with new ships and submarines, just months after annexing the peninsula from Ukraine.

"Today we have started forming a powerful Black Sea fleet with an absolutely different level of air service, coastal missile and artillery troops and marines," said Alexander Vitko, the Black Sea fleet commander, in a message to servicemen.

"We are preparing bases and crews to serve on new ships and submarines."

Vitko said the modernization of the fleet "lays the foundation for the future of the fleet, both in the short term and looking far ahead."

Russia's Black Sea fleet had a base at the historic port city of Sevastopol in Crimea under an agreement with Ukraine before Russia annexed the peninsula in March.

President Pig "I am not a shit stain" Putin said at a meeting with the national security council Tuesday that Russia will bolster its defences to counter the creeping influence of NATO close to its borders.

"It is necessary to implement all of the country's defense measures fully and promptly, including of course in Crimea and Sevastopol, where we have to de facto create military infrastructure from scratch," he said.

Shit stain Pig Putin attended a naval parade there on May 9 Victory Day this year, when thousands crowded the harbour to watch war ships carry out manoeuvrs.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said in May that Russia's only warm-water fleet would get new ships and submarines this year.

Russia earlier this month announced plans to develop Sevastopol up to 2030, including building a power station to reduce its dependence on electricity from Ukraine.

It has also announced an ambitious project to build a bridge connecting Crimea to southern Russia.


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« Reply #148 on: Jul 24, 2014, 05:58 AM »

MH17: Ukraine separatist commander 'admits' rebels had Buk missile system

Alexander Khodakovsky reportedly told news agency rebels may have received Buk from Russia, then changes story

Shaun Walker in Donetsk
The Guardian, Wednesday 23 July 2014 23.28 BST   

A top rebel commander in eastern Ukraine has reportedly said that the armed separatist movement had control of a Buk missile system, which Kiev and western countries say was used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane last week.

Alexander Khodakovsky, who leads the Vostok battalion – one of the main rebel formations – said the rebels may have received the Buk from Russia, in the first such admission by a senior separatist.

"That Buk I know about. I heard about it. I think they sent it back. Because I found out about it at exactly the moment that I found out that this tragedy had taken place. They probably sent it back in order to remove proof of its presence," Khodakovsky told Reuters.

Russian news agencies later said people close to Khodakovsky denied he made the admissions. Khodakovsky himself told Life News, a Russian news agency with links to Moscow's security services, that he was misquoted and had merely discussed "possible versions" with Reuters. Khodakovsky said the rebels "do not have and have never had" a Buk.

As two further Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down, apparently by missiles fired from within Russia, Khodakovsky appeared to imply that MH17 was indeed downed by a missile from the Buk, assuming the interview with Reuters is confirmed. He blamed Ukrainian authorities, however, for allowing civilian jets to fly over its airspace when the rebels had such capabilities.

"The question is this: Ukraine received timely evidence the volunteers have this technology, through the fault of Russia," he said. "It not only did nothing to protect security, but provoked the use of this type of weapon against a plane that was flying with peaceful civilians."

Other leaders have repeatedly denied the rebels had a Buk, despite photographic and video evidence of one in the area of the crash last Thursday. There are rivalries and hatred between many of the rebel formations and Khodakovsky is believed to be out of favour with Igor Strelkov, the main commander of the Donetsk rebels.

However, his apparent admission about the Buk chimes with evidence on the ground. This week the Guardian also spoke to witnesses who said they saw a missile-launching system that looked like a Buk drive through Torez, near the crash site, last Thursday, a few hours before the plane was downed.

Khodakovsky said he did not know where the missile system had come from but it may have come from Russia. He added the separatists had seized several Buk systems from Ukrainian bases, but none of them were operational.

"I'm not going to say Russia gave these things or didn't give them," he said, according to Reuters. "Russia could have offered this Buk under some entirely local initiative. I want a Buk, and if someone offered me one, I wouldn't turn it down. But I wouldn't use it against something that did not threaten me. I would use it only in circumstances when there was an air attack on my positions, to protect people's lives."

The apparent admission came as the first bodies arrived in the Netherlands, after a long journey from Torez by train to Kharkiv, and then by plane to the Netherlands. Separatists said they loaded 282 bodies on to the train, but Dutch experts suggested the number actually handed over could be much lower. Monitors at the crash site say there are still human remains lying on the ground.

So far, only monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have visited the site, but in purely reporting function rather than any investigative role.

They were accompanied once by a three-man Dutch forensic team who monitored the transfer of bodies to the train but did not investigate the causes of the crash, and for the past two days by a small Malaysian delegation. There is still no security cordon around the site. The Dutch have taken the leading role in the international investigation, with the Dutch safety board taking charge of the team. On Wednesday, they said unfettered access to the crash site was crucial.

Spokesman Tjibbe Joustra told the Associated Press that around 25 investigators have arrived in Kiev and are analysing information from the crash site, including photographs, satellite images and radar information. However, they have not yet visited the site.

"We haven't yet got guarantees about security for our way of working," said Joustra. "If we go we have to be able to move freely. We hope to be able to get to the site soon."

It is unclear what they are waiting for. The rebels have said they are happy for any investigators to arrive and work at the site, and while the area is unquestionably dangerous given the ongoing military action in the vicinity, it is unlikely to become safer any time soon.

OSCE spokesperson Michael Bociurkiw said his team would do the best they can. "There has been a lot of talk about why there have been so few experts … We again feel that the work that remains to be done should be done by those far better qualified than us, yet in their absence we will continue to do the basic monitoring that we can."

The Dutch safety board also said that early examination of the black boxes from MH17, which have been sent to Britain for decoding, showed no evidence they had been tampered with. The black boxes were handed to a Malaysian delegation earlier this week in Donetsk by the region's self-declared prime minister, Alexander Borodai, who used the occasion to accuse Ukrainian forces of downing the plane.

Also on Wednesday, Ukraine's security council said two of its Su-25 military jets had been shot down, and added that the planes could have been brought down by missiles fired from inside Russia's borders.

"Two of our jets were hit at an altitude of 5,200 metres. According to preliminary information, the missiles were launched from the territory of the Russian Federation," the council said in a statement.

The planes were flying far lower than the altitude above 10,000 metres where MH17 was when it was shot down, but still out of usual range for the Manpad shoulder-launched missiles the rebels are known to possess.

Footage purporting to be from the crash scene of one of the planes showed a group of rebels arriving to find the burning wreckage.

One of them said the pilot had parachuted out before the plane crashed and the men set off to search for him.

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Ukraine jets downed near MH17 site by ‘missile from Russia’

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 13:34 EDT

Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down Wednesday in the rebel-held area where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed were hit by missiles fired from Russian soil, Ukraine’s military said.

“According to preliminary information, the rockets were launched from Russian territory,” Kiev’s National Security and Defence Council said in a statement.

The planes came down close to the village of Dmytrivka, some 45 kilometres (25 miles) south-east of the MH17 crash site towards the Russian border, as they were providing air support for government infantry, the statement said.

The security council added that the Su-25 jets were flying at an altitude of 5,200 metres.

Pro-Russian rebels have insisted on several occasions that they were not equipped with weapons capable of hitting targets above an altitude of 2,500 metres.

However, a spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic told AFP its fighters had shot down the two aircraft.

An AFP crew trying to reach the scene were turned back by rebels who fired shots near their car some 10 kilometres from Dmytrivka.

The press office for Kiev’s military campaign against the insurgents had earlier blamed “pro-Russian bandits” fighting in Ukraine for downing the jets.

The pilots from both jets managed to parachute out, it said, giving no further details about their condition.

The downing of the government jets comes just six days after the insurgents were accused of shooting down the Malaysian passenger plane using a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board.

Pro-Russian rebels battling government troops in the east had previously taken out a string of Ukrainian military aircraft during their 15-week insurgency.

Kiev alleged last week that an airforce transport plane was shot down from across the Russian frontier while another Su-25 jet was gunned down by a Russian plane.

The rebels have denied that they attacked flight MH17 as it flew at some 10,000 metres, accusing the Ukrainian military of being responsible for hitting the jet.

The latest incident came after a ceasefire was declared by both sides in the immediate vicinity of the Boeing 777 crash site, where Malaysian experts and international monitors were examining the airliner’s wreckage on Wednesday.

Earlier, the first 40 bodies recovered from MH17 were flown out of the government-held city of Kharkiv bound for Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

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Ukraine Fighting Rages as EU Mulls Russia Sanctions

by Naharnet Newsdesk
24 July 2014, 12:38

Fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels raged Thursday near the crash site of Malaysian flight MH17, as experts in Britain begin analyzing crucial data from the downed airliner's black boxes.

A Dutch team leading the probe into the downing of MH17 was stuck in Kiev, unable to join a handful of international investigators at the site, after two warplanes were shot down Wednesday just 45 kilometers from the impact scene in insurgent-held territory.

As the EU prepares to hit Russia with further sanctions over allegations it is arming the separatists accused of downing MH17, dozens more bodies are to be flown to the Netherlands, a day after the first 40 corpses arrived in the grieving nation.

Experts say many remains are still lying in the vast crash site where recovery work has grounded to a halt a week after the disaster, with Dutch authorities saying they can only be sure that 200 corpses have been recovered from the 298 people killed on board.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that there was still a need for a rigorous search of the debris zone.

"On the site it is still clear that nothing is happening without the approval of the armed rebels who brought the plane down in the first place," he said.

"There has still not been anything like a thorough professional search of the area where the plane went down, and there can't be while the site is controlled by armed men with vested interest in the outcome of the investigation."

Rebels and government forces have declared a ceasefire in the immediate vicinity of the site, but just beyond, fierce fighting was ongoing.

Ukrainian military said that rockets were being fired "from the Russian side," hitting locations close to Lugansk airport and in several areas in the Donetsk region.

Mortar shells also rained down on Avdiyika in Donetsk region, the army said, without giving details of casualties.

An AFP crew seeking to access one of these combat hotspots Wednesday was turned back by rebels, who fired at their car.

Kiev said the missiles that downed two fighter jets were fired from Russian territory, and that while the pilots ejected safely, there was no information about their whereabouts.

As government troops push on with their offensive to wrest control of east Ukraine's industrial heartland from the pro-Moscow separatists, the Red Cross warned both sides to abide by the Geneva Conventions, declaring that it considered the country to be in a state of civil war.

In Brussels, the EU was looking at punishing Russia, which it accuses of fanning the rebellion in Ukraine's east by arming the separatists.

The bloc said Tuesday it will decide on a list of Russian individuals and entities which it would sanction for providing "material or financial support" to those responsible for the March annexation of Ukraine's Crimea territory and destabilizing the east of the country, where MH17 came down.

The rat faced Pig Putin is staring down fresh European sanctions just a week after the last round was unveiled over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, which has seen East-West tensions spike to their highest point in years.

U.S. intelligence officials have said they believe the rebels mistakenly shot down the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with a surface-to-air missile provided by Russia.

British experts succeeded in downloading the data from the black boxes -- handed over by the rebels following intense international pressure -- and are set to start examining the vital contents.

Kiev said the Netherlands and other countries that lost citizens are proposing to send police to secure the crash site, amid reports by international monitors at the scene that debris has been moved increased fears that evidence was being tampered with.

The arrival of the first bodies from the crash in the Netherlands -- which lost 193 citizens -- on Wednesday brought the grief-stricken nation to a standstill, with a solemn ceremony held at the Eindhoven airport before 1,000 bereaved relatives and members of the Dutch royal family.

Dozens more bodies are due to be flown Thursday to the Netherlands, where they would undergo an identification process that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned could take months.

Dutch police have been visiting the bereaved to retrieve DNA samples from items such as hairbrushes, and obtain details of tattoos and fingerprints, as well as consulting medical and dental records to help with the identification.

**************

Russia Calls on U.S. to Show Proof of Missile Claims

by Naharnet Newsdesk
24 July 2014, 10:42

A senior Russian official called Thursday on the United States to prove its claims that the Malaysian passenger airliner shot down last week was hit by a missile fired from rebel-held territory in Ukraine.

"They've said U.S. intelligence has technical data and satellite photos which show that the missile was launched from rebel-held territory. The question is where is this data", Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in an interview with Russia-24 television.

U.S. officials have in recent days said that satellite and other "technical" intelligence confirmed the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 with 298 people on board was hit last Thursday by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile from an area controlled by the pro-Russian rebels.

A senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Tuesday in Washington that: "It's a solid case that it's a SA-11 that was fired from eastern Ukraine under conditions the Russians helped create."

Washington has accused Russia of supplying pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine with weapons, a charge Moscow denies.

Russian military officials on Monday said their flight records showed a Ukrainian fighter jet was close to the Malaysian passenger airliner just before the Boeing 777 crashed on July 17 and that Kiev was operating radar stations used for missile systems.

Pro-Russian separatists have shot down a number of Ukrainian military aircraft in recent weeks.

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Netherlands mourns as bodies of MH17 plane crash victims are flown home

Dutch royals and premier Mark Rutte join relatives at Eindhoven airport to receive 40 coffins arriving from Ukraine disaster site

Philip Oltermann in Eindhoven and Amsterdam
The Guardian, Wednesday 23 July 2014 20.53 BST   

Coffin carried, MH17 victim at Eindhoven, Netherlands
A coffin of a person who died on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is moved at Eindhoven airbase, Holland.

As the first coffin was lowered from the planes on the runway, silence fell over Eindhoven military airport. The only sound came from a row of flags whipping in the wind at half mast.

Almost a week after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot from the skies above Ukraine, 40 bodies arrived on Wednesday in the Netherlands, the country that bore the heaviest toll in the crash.

King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, joined about 1,000 relatives and friends of the victims, who gathered at the airport for a ceremony receiving the two military transport planes.

A lone trumpeter played the Last Post as troops in dress uniform saluted then carried the wooden caskets to a row of hearses. They drove from the airport under military police escort to an army barracks in the central city of Hilversum where forensic experts were waiting to begin the painstaking task of identifying the remains.

Crowds gathered on bridges along the 65-mile route to throw flowers on to the convoy of 40 hearses.

The Dutch government had declared a day of national mourning – the first since the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962 – and at 4.07pm a minute's silence was requested across the country.

Two-hundred and ninety-eight passengers and crew were killed when the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpar was shot down last Thursdaya week today. The Dutch victims numbered 193. In a nation of just 16 million, few have been unaffected by the disaster.

"Holland is a small country. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who died in the crash," said Peter, who was waiting at Schipol airport. "It has completely changed how we look at the conflict in the Ukraine. Everybody talks about it: neighbours, colleagues, relatives."

Some have inevitably described the biggest aviation disaster in Dutch history as "Holland's 9/11" – a misleading term, not least because the Dutch passengers on flight MH17 are not thought to have been targeted deliberately.

And yet, relations between the Netherlands, home to the majority of the victims, and Russia, accused by some of aiding those who carried out the attack, have in recent days become increasingly fraught.

At Schiphol airport, where on the day after the crash there was still a sense of business carrying on as usual, the mood was now different.

The impromptu shrine outside terminal three, little more than a pile of flowers on Friday, had grown into a sea of bouquets, teddy bears and candles. A letter to one of the victims described him as a "kind, gentle and funny person". The card read: "Even in death he's still a better bloke than all of us."

A woman named Miranda said she had come to the airport specially to lay down flowers. She used to live in Asia, she said, and had a lot of friends who regularly flew with Malaysia Airlines. Something in her attitude, and that of friends, towards Russa, had altered over the last week, she said. "At first we were numb but now there are a lot of angry feelings coming up."

In a widely shared article, the writer Bas Heijne criticised his government's "overtly cautious, strangely muted" response to the disaster. The Dutch, Heijne argued, had always defined themselves somewhere on a scale of pragmatism and moralising, "the Dutch merchant and the Protestant preacher".

In recent years the merchant had gained the upper hand; wagging the finger at countries like Russia, many politicians and businessmen warned, only damaged the economy. So the government had done little to defend itself when the evil Pig Putin accused the Netherlands of "promoting paedophilia" or when Dutch Greenpeace activists were arrested for getting too close to a Russian oil platform. "For too long," Heijne wrote, "the Dutch government has coddled the dictator in Moscow."

Other commentators accused Dutch leaders of letting commercial interests get in the way of diplomatic consequences. Last year Russia exported goods and services worth $70bn to the Netherlands. If one country could seriously hurt Putin with trade sanctions, said one analyst in the German newspaper Die Welt, it was the Netherlands.

Frustration with the delayed return of the air crash victims' bodies, and reports in the Dutch media that the crash site had been looted, have affected the country's mood. Where at first there had been calm and composure, there were now also flashes of anger.

Hans de Borst, whose 17-year-old daughter, Elsemiek, died in the crash, wrote an open letter to the stinking PIg Putin and pro-Russia separatists, which he put on Facebook: "Aforementioned misters, I hope you're proud to have shot her, amongst other, young life and future. And that you will be able to look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow morning."

Politicians have adjusted their rhetoric accordingly. "All of the Netherlands feels their anger," said Rutte on Sunday, after meeting relatives. "All of the Netherlands feels their deep grief. All of the Netherlands is standing with the next of kin."

Frans Timmermans, the foreign minister, previously hesitant about calling for sanctions, adopted a notably firmer stance at a meeting of ministers in Brussels on Monday: "There is no Dutch blockade of further sanctions. The Netherlands wants the European Union [to make] a united, and also strong, clear, statement against the unrest in eastern Ukraine."

As if to symbolically underline Holland's newfound resolve, the row of flags at Eindhoven airport included a Ukrainian, but no Russian, flag, even though there were no Ukrainian nationals among the victims.

At Schiphol, the Hoogewoud family had stopped off to leave flowers after seeing off their youngest daughter, who was flying to Thailand.

Marloek, the older daughter, said a Spanish friend had sent her a Facebook message after the crash expressing hope that the Dutch government would press charges against the pro-Russian separatists. "But that's not people's first reaction here."

Her father, Ferdinand Hoogewoud, said: "How can we expect politicians in Russia or the Ukraine to take responsibility after two days, when it took the Netherlands two decades to own up to its role in Srebrenica?" Only a day before the MH17 crash a Dutch court had ruled that the government was liable for the deaths of about 300 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia.

"The crisis in the Ukraine used to feel very far away," observed Hoogewoud. "Now it's our problem too. We can't push it away."

*************

British Experts Examine Second MH17 Black Box

by Naharnet Newsdesk
24 July 2014, 13:42

British investigators have started examining the second black box from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which was shot down over Ukraine, the transport ministry said Thursday.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in Farnborough, southwest of London, is looking at the flight data recorder, which records information from instruments on the plane.

On Wednesday AAIB experts downloaded "valid data" from the first black box, the cockpit voice recorder, which should give them hours of the pilots' conversations.

"They have started examining the Flight Data Recorder," a Department for Transport spokesman told AFP on Thursday.

"The analysis of any data will be done by an international team led by the Dutch."

The boxes -- which are actually orange in color -- were delivered to Farnborough by the Dutch Safety Board (OVV), which is leading an international investigation into the crash in which 298 people died, 193 of them Dutch.

Pro-Russian rebels controlling the crash site handed the boxes over to Malaysian officials on Tuesday, following an international outcry over the treatment of the wreckage and the bodies of the victims.

The OVV said on Wednesday that the data from the cockpit voice recorder data "was successfully downloaded and contained valid data from the flight. The downloaded data have to be further analyzed and investigated".

If the second black box also contains "relevant information" then the data from both boxes will be combined, it said.

The OVV is coordinating investigation teams from eight different countries, including Russia.

Western governments say the evidence points to the Boeing 777 plane having been shot down with a missile by pro-Russian separatists.

**************

MH17 crash site: Australian foreign minister pushes for access

Julie Bishop says negotiations are under way amid reports Australian police and troops may be deployed to area

Gabrielle Chan and agencies
theguardian.com, Thursday 24 July 2014 03.29 BST   

The crash site of MH17 remains under the control of Russian-backed separatists and negotiations for access for international investigators are under way, the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has said.

The Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, and Bishop will be meeting Ukrainian leaders to build on government discussions with a range of leaders over how best to secure the site.

The Australian prime minister’s office refused to confirm reports on Thursday that a federal police taskforce protected by Australian troops could be deployed in days, saying discussions were ongoing.

Bishop and the Australian governor general, Peter Cosgrove, attended a memorial ceremony at Eindhoven air force base to mark the arrival of the first plane carrying the remains of the victims of the air disaster.

Cosgrove said it was important that victims’ remains were received by “their respective nations”.

"There is a long road ahead but now we can care for those taken from us in this unthinkable tragedy, and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Cosgrove said.

"Today I say to Australian mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, mates – many of your loved ones are now in friendly arms.”

The Dutch and Australian foreign ministers will meet Ukraine’s leaders in Kiev to discuss the implementation of the UN security council resolution.

Australia’s special envoy, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, will brief the foreign ministers and they will meet the Australian government inter-agency team. There are now 200 Australian officials from various agencies in the Netherlands and Ukraine.

Bishop also met the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, in the Netherlands to discuss progress on the international investigation.

Meanwhile, hundreds gathered at a multi-faith service in St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, to pay their respects to those killed in the disaster.

The service brought together religious leaders from across the city to lead prayers for the victims and their families.

The head of the Anglican church in Australia said those left behind deserved to know why their loved ones died.

"From what we know, someone gave orders to destroy MH17. It cannot be true that no one knows what happened," the Anglican primate, Archbishop Philip Freier, told the congregation on Thursday.

Freier said the families faced a frustrating wait to find out if the people who shot the plane down would face justice.

"What might not always be satisfied in this world, will certainly find its true measure in the judgment of God," he said.

Freier said the bodies should be returned so families could grieve and say goodbye properly.

The Victorian premier, Denis Napthine, read a poem by the Dutch-American Henry van Dyke, as candles were lit to commemorate those who died.

Sheikh Moustapha Sarakibi said a Muslim prayer, Hojun Futen gave a Buddhist blessing, and Cantor Bruce Levin sang a Jewish lament.

Malaysia’s consul general, Mohamad Rameez Bin Yahaya, and the Dutch honorary consul, Hans Nieuwland, lit candles as a tribute to the many who died from their countries.

*****************

MH17: Dutch mayor wants Shit Stain Pig Putin's daughter Maria deported

Pieter Broertjes called for 29-year-old to be expelled from the Netherlands in wake of plane disaster but later apologised

Philip Oltermann in Amsterdam, and Shaun Walker in Donetsk
The Guardian,
Wednesday 23 July 2014 13.46 BST   

Dutch frustration with Russia in the wake of the MH17 crash is taking on an increasingly personal note, as some called for the shit stain Pig Putin's daughter to be deported from the Netherlands.

Pieter Broertjes, the mayor of the city of Hilversum, used a radio interview on Wednesday morning to call for 29-year-old Maria Putin, who is said to live in Voorschoten with her Dutch boyfriend, to be thrown out of the country.

More than half of the 298 people killed when the Malaysia Airlines plane crashed in eastern Ukraine last week were Dutch.

Broertjes later apologised for his remarks via Twitter, saying they were "not wise", but adding that "they stemmed from a feeling of helplessness that many will recognise".

A plane carrying the first 50 victims of the crash is expected to arrive this afternoon at Eindhoven airport, from where they will be transported to army barracks in Hilversum. The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning and will mark the bodies' arrival with a minute's silence across the country.

Ukrainians living in Holland have also called for a peaceful protest outside the Pig's daughter's flat, according to De Telegraaf newspaper. It published a photograph of the apartment complex where Maria is said to live alongside the article on Monday.

Very little is known about the Russian president's two daughters, Maria and Yekaterina, who are completely sheltered from media attention and have never been officially photographed as adults.

But there have been persistent rumours linking Maria with Dutch citizen Jorrit Faassen. Dutch media claimed that Pig Putin visited the couple last year, something his spokesman denied.

Faassen has held senior roles in the Russian firms Gazprom and Stroytransgaz, a pipeline manufacturer, and hit the headlines when he was reportedly assaulted by the bodyguards of Russian banker Matvei Urin in a road-rage incident in Moscow in 2010. Urin was later arrested and jailed for fraud.

*****************

How harsher sanctions could help Rad Faced Pig Putin turn Russia back into the Soviet Union

By The Conversation
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 13:16 EDT

By Richard Connolly, University of Birmingham

The downing of flight MH17 has caused attention to shift once again to the prospect of even harsher penalties being imposed upon Russia by Western countries. Up to this point, sanctions have been limited to individuals within or close to Russia’s ruling elite, as well as a few associated companies. While these sanctions may weaken support within Russia’s elite for the current course of foreign policy, the effect on economic activity in Russia has been relatively muted.

The most recent discussions among European leaders led to an expansion of the existing list of Russians subject to asset freezes and visa bans. But a decision on whether to apply so-called “third tier” sanctions – that is, sanctions applied to whole sectors of the Russian economy, or export bans on technology that might be used in Russia’s defence or energy sectors – was once again postponed, although this may change if Western countries lose patience with what they consider to be Russian intransigence in Ukraine.

With these discussions ongoing, it is useful to consider what might happen if Europe and the US were to impose an enhanced package of economic sanctions.

Aiming high

A useful starting point is to consider the objectives of Western policy makers in applying sanctions in the first place. The “surgical” nature of sanctions imposed so far suggests that Western governments do not intend to seriously harm Russia’s economy or its people.

Instead, the array of measures so far chosen – focused as they are on individuals and entities with close ties to Pig Putin, his inner circle, and those with direct ties to the conflict in Ukraine – has likely been selected to inflict pain on key members of Russia’s ruling elite, in the hope that this will force them to pressure Putin to change his foreign policy.

This strategy is based on certain assumptions about the nature of Russia’s political system. By focusing sanctions on the elite, Western policy makers are showing that they think it is those at the top, and not the wider electorate, who determine the direction of foreign policy in Russia. Any future escalation of sanctions to encompass Russia’s strategic sectors – defence, energy and finance – might be viewed as a logical step in ramping up pressure on the elite.
Strengthening the regime

But what if “third tier” sanctions have the opposite effect, and instead of weakening elite support for Putin they cause a strengthening of the current regime? This could happen because sanctions have specific distributional effects in oligarchic regimes like Russia, and can serve to bolster the state and enrich politically important individuals and organisations. This could happen if the leadership in Russia decides to use sanctions as an opportunity to transfer economic resources to key political allies.

To illustrate this point, consider how Russia might respond to an embargo on Western defence or dual-use technology to Russia. While existing supply chains would be interrupted, it would offer the leadership the chance to shift more resources to develop domestic industries instead.

This wouldn’t be great from an economic point of view, as it is unlikely that Russia would be able to produce goods as well or as efficiently as Western firms any time soon. But from a political perspective, the diversion of extra resources to the domestic defence industry would create a constituency that would benefit from sanctions. In the context of Russia’s ongoing rearmament programme, this outcome could increase defence industry support for the current leadership.

While this may sound counter intuitive, it is precisely what happened in South Africa after the imposition of the UN arms embargo in 1977. The sanctions were supposed to help end apartheid, but they had the unintended effect of strengthening the country’s manufacturing sector. In particular, the creation of the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR) in response to the embargo proved to be a boon for the ruling regime. Domestic high-technology capabilities were enhanced, and ARMSCOR became a major player in the global arms market. Most importantly, it enabled the regime to secure support from a key constituency that was a direct beneficiary of sanctions.
Going solo?

Major sanctions could lead to something similar happening in Russia’s vital energy sector. It is widely acknowledged that Russia will require access to foreign technology and know-how in the future if is to exploit the geologically harder to reach oil and gas deposits in the Arctic and the Far East. But if sanctions denied this, Russia might opt to expand direct state ownership of the industry, and form partnerships with state-owned companies from friendlier countries (China, for instance) to develop indigenous solutions to existing geological challenges.

Again, this solution would not be as economically efficient as current arrangements to access technology and know-how through joint ventures with the likes of BP and Exxon-Mobil. But those charged with managing an energy industry dominated even more by the state than it is now would arguably become even more powerful, not less.

Taken together, the hypothetical scenarios briefly outlined here would represent a reversal from the path of reintegration with the global economy that Russia has undergone over the course of the last twenty years. Instead, a self-sufficient, quasi-autarkic relationship with the global economy could emerge. Although Russia would remain far more open that it was during the Soviet era, it would be a deeply worrying step backwards for those hoping the country would become an open and active part of the global economy.

From South Africa to Iraq or Zimbabwe, sanctions do not always work as intended. Unless carefully tailored to the situation in Moscow, a policy designed to alter Russian behaviour in Ukraine may instead end up achieving an entirely unintended and undesirable outcome: the strengthening of the current regime, and a reassessment of Russia’s role in the global economy.


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Pig "I am not an evil shit stain" Putin signs law requiring mass storage of Russians’ personal Internet data

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:51 EDT

President Pig Putin on Tuesday signed a law requiring Internet companies to store all personal data of Russian users at data centres in Russia, a move which could chill criticism on foreign social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

These companies, which do not have offices in Russia, have become a vital resource for opposition groups and refuse to hand over user data to governments.

The use of Russian data centres would make them and other Internet companies subject to Russian laws on government access to information.

The Kremlin said the law was aimed at “improving the management of personal data of Russian citizens on computer networks” and that companies which do not comply with the legislation would be blocked.

Lawmakers who introduced the bill had complained that data stored abroad was at risk of being hacked and stolen by criminals.

The law could also cause problems for Russian companies such as tourism websites and airlines that rely on foreign-based online booking services.

Russia’s Association of Electronic Communication (RAEC), a group that lobbies on behalf of Internet companies, warned earlier this month that “many global Internet services would be impossible” under the new law.

Internet companies have also warned that the two years before the measures come into force is not sufficient time for them to find or build data centres on which to store the data.

The Internet data law comes amid a number of measures cracking down on public dissent in Russia, including introducing jail terms of up to five years for repeated participation in unsanctioned protests and restrictions on the activities of non-governmental organisations.

It is also in line with other recent Internet restrictions, including a requirement for bloggers to register as media if they have more than 3,000 followers and a law directed against “extremist” language that could see Russians go to jail for up to five years for retweeting “offensive” information.


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