الثلاثاء , مايو 18 2021

UK 'ready' for new Russia sanctions

There have been concerns that international monitors have not been allowed proper access to the crash site

Britain and its EU allies will push to tighten sanctions against Russia unless Moscow’s position on the Malaysia Airlines crash changes, No 10 has said.

The UK, France and Germany have agreed that EU foreign ministers meeting on Tuesday “should be ready” to impose further sanctions, a spokesman said.

Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels have accused each other of shooting down the Boeing 777, killing 298 passengers.

The Russian ambassador to the UK said sanctions would have a negative effect.

Prime Minister David Cameron is also due to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin later, Downing Street said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is chairing a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee.

‘Obfuscation and obstruction’

Ten Britons were among those killed when the Malaysian plane was downed on Thursday over eastern Ukraine.

Emergency workers at the scene say they have found 196 bodies at the crash site.

Among the 10 Britons believed to have died in the crash were (clockwise from top left): John Alder, John Allen, Robert Ayley, Andrew Hoare, Richard Mayne, Ben Pocock, Liam Sweeney and Glenn Thomas

Mr Hammond said the “unavoidable conclusion” was that the plane had been hit by a missile fired from rebel-held territory, “almost certainly a missile supplied by the Russians”.

Western countries have criticised pro-Russia rebels for restricting access to the crash site.

“What we’re seeing from the Russians is obfuscation and obstruction at the moment…” the foreign secretary told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Mr Hammond urged the Russians to hand any evidence to international investigators and “use their influence to allow international access to the site”.

He added: “There is one party in the world who clearly has the ability to snap his fingers and it would be done and that is Vladimir Putin.”

Downing Street said the prime minister, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande agreed in talks on Sunday that securing access to the crash site and ensuring specialist teams could recover victims should be top priority.

“They also agreed that the EU must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on Tuesday [at the Foreign Affairs Council],” a spokesman said.

Germany has previously rejected tougher sanctions against Moscow.

Andrew Hoare and his Dutch wife Estella were among the passengers on flight MH17

Robert Ayley’s family released this picture of him with his wife Sharlene

Glenn Thomas was travelling to Australia for an international conference

Tributes have been paid on social media sites to University of Leeds student Richard Mayne

Mr Hammond said “some of our European allies have been less enthusiastic” in the past about dealing with Russia over its involvement in Ukraine, adding: “I hope that the shock of this incident will see them now more engaged, more willing to take the actions which are necessary to bring home to the Russians that when you do this kind of thing there are consequences.”

The US and EU had already brought in sanctions against Russia over its involvement in Ukraine – and these were increased shortly before Thursday’s disaster.

Analysis, Theo Leggett, business reporter, BBC News

The EU is Russia’s biggest trading partner, so if it had the will, Brussels could inflict considerable economic damage on Moscow. But Europe would also feel the pain.

That’s why European sanctions so far have been measured, largely targeting individuals with asset freezes and visa bans.

The energy market is crucial. Europe gets about a third of its gas from Russia. If the EU bought less Russian gas, it would certainly harm the country’s economy, which is very reliant on sales of natural resources.

But replacing those supplies would be very difficult in the short term, and expensive. Likewise, there is a risk that Russia could retaliate against sanctions in other areas by restricting gas exports.

Britain also has a great deal to lose if sanctions are tightened. Russia is a significant buyer of UK exports. Oil giant BP owns 20% of Russian energy firm Rosneft, which also benefits pension funds which have invested in BP.

London is a prime destination for Russian businesses seeking investors and capital, providing lucrative fees for banks, consultants and lawyers, and Russian oligarchs own large chunks of prime London real estate.

Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko said extending sanctions on Moscow would “only encourage the Ukrainian authorities to continue violence”.

Six UK air accident investigators have been sent to the region and two Metropolitan Police officers arrived on Sunday to assist with identifying and recovering the bodies of those killed.

John Allen was one of 10 British victims of the crash

All 10 British victims believed to have been on board have now been identified. The final victim is understood to be 44-year-old Stephen Anderson, a drilling technician who worked for Maersk Drilling.

One of the British victims – John Allen, 44 – died alongside his wife Sandra and sons Christopher, Julian and Ian – who are listed in the passenger list as having Dutch nationality – his law firm said.

Fifty-nine-year-old banker Andrew Hoare also died, along with his Dutch wife and their two children, Jasper, 15, and Friso, 12.

The family, who lived in Luxembourg but made frequent visits to England, had been on their way to Malaysia for a holiday.

His brother Hugo said Somerset-born Mr Hoare was a “devoted family man”.

“He’s one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. His smile could light up a room,” he said.

The families are believed to have died along with Britons Robert Ayley, John Alder, Liam Sweeney, Glenn Thomas, Richard Mayne, Ben Pocock, and Cameron Dalziel, who was born in Zimbabwe but travelling on a British passport.

Meanwhile, a Newcastle-based charity, the Percy Hedley Foundation, which has been looking after a child feared to have lost family on MH17, said it had received confirmation this was not the case and the relatives were safe.

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