Vladimir Putin has issued a defiant warning that the MH17 crash must not be used for ‘selfish political ends’ and urged separatists to allow international experts access to the crash site.
Wearing a dark suit and looking tired and drawn during a rare television address, the Russian president insisted ‘all people’ in Ukraine had a responsibility to the families of the 298 passengers and crew who died last week.
But he added: ‘No-one has the right to use this tragedy for any kind of vested interest in the political sense. Such incidents should unite people rather than separate them.’
His comments came just hours after David Cameron issued a stark warning to Putin that his billionaire ‘cronies’ will have their assets frozen in London unless Russia co-operates with the investigation.
Rows of bodies: Bagged victims can be seen above lined up in front of a truck yesterday at the crash site, ready to be moved to the refrigerated train
Final indignity: Rescue workers, pictured above, loaded the corpses onto trucks at the crash site in eastern Ukraine, which were then taken to refrigerated train carriages nine miles away
There are already representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk working there, as well as representatives of the emergencies ministry of Ukraine and others. But this is not enough.
This task force is not enough. We need more, we need a fully representative group of experts to be working at the site under the guidance of ICAO, the relevant international commission.
We must do everything to provide security for the international experts on the site of the tragedy. We need to do everything to provide its [ICAO commission’s] safety, to provide the humanitarian corridors necessary for its work.
In the meantime, nobody should and has no right to use this tragedy to achieve their narrowly selfish political goals.
We repeatedly called upon all conflicting sides to stop the bloodshed immediately and sit down at the negotiating table.
I can say with confidence that if military operations were not resumed on June 28 in eastern Ukraine, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.
During his television address this morning, Putin said it is necessary for ‘all people’ involved in the current conflict in Ukraine take responsibility for their actions.
He said there was a duty to: ‘improve their responsibility to their own people, and to the people of the countries whose representatives have been victims of this crash’.
Putin added, ‘We need to do everything to ensure the security and safety of the observers and the experts working at the crash site.’
The comments came as Chancellor George Osborne said the UK was prepared to take an ‘economic hit’ in order to put pressure on Moscow over its involvement in the Ukraine crisis.
Cameron, meanwhile, is due to make a statement to MPs later spelling out what measures he believes should be taken following the apparent shooting downing of the plane by rebels.
In what was described by Downing Street as a ‘frank’ conversation last night, the Prime Minister told Mr Putin his support for insurgents in eastern Ukraine had ‘contributed to an appalling tragedy’ and the delay in experts being able to investigate was ‘indefensible’.
The chaos surrounding the handling of the crash has compounded the grief of families all around the world bereaved by the crash, who have been left unable to arrange funerals or properly mourn their dead.
Victim’s relatives have made emotional appeals for the bodies to be returned as soon as possible, amid reports that the refrigeration in the carriage has only been inconsistently working.
Earlier the bodies of almost 200 victims of the MH17 plane disaster were seen decaying for a fourth day in a refrigerated train.
Since the bodies of the 298 victims fell from 33,000ft after their plane was struck by a surface-to-air missile, they were left in the open in sweltering heat for three days before being gathered up in bags, bundled on to trucks and driven away.