Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe: Obama
US 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 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 Russian President Putin "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 US sanctions could come, saying "the costs for Russia's behavior will only continue to increase."
"Now is the time for President 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."
© 2014 AFP