Malaysia Airlines crash: UK demands unhindered site access

John Alder, John Allen, Robert Ayley, Andrew Hoare, Richard Mayne, Ben Pocock, Liam Sweeney and Glenn Thomas 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

The UK is demanding "swift and unhindered" access to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in east Ukraine amid claims that pro-Russian rebels are obstructing inquiries.

British air accident investigators are in Ukraine where 298 people died when the Boeing 777 was downed on Thursday.

Downing Street believes it may have been hit by a missile fired from an area held by the separatists.

All 10 British victims believed to have been on board have now been identified.

The final victim to be identified is understood to be former RAF search and rescue co-ordinator Stephen Anderson, 44.

'Eyes on Russia'
OSCE monitors (right) and a pro-Russian gunman at the crash site. Photo: 19 July 2014 Pro-Russian fighters in control of the crash site have restricted investigators

As diplomatic pressure on Russia grows, Downing Street announced an agreement between the UK and Australia, which accounted for 27 of the dead.

Prime Minister David Cameron and his counterpart Tony Abbott agreed the two countries would apply "further pressure" at the UN Security Council "for swift and unhindered access to the crash site".

Mr Cameron also spoke to Dutch PM Mark Rutte about the crash in which 193 Dutch nationals died.

They "agreed that the EU will need to reconsider its approach to Russia in light of evidence that pro-Russian separatists brought down the plane", Downing Street added.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the "world's eyes" were now on Russia to make sure it delivered for the victims.

Philip Hammond Philip Hammond: 'Russia must deliver'

Downing Street said it was "increasingly likely" the Malaysian aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from near Torez, an area of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists.

Mr Hammond said the Russian government was not using its influence to push the rebels to allow investigators access to the crash site.

"That's the only way we can get to the truth and bring those accountable to justice," he said.

"The world's eyes will be on Russia to see if she delivers on her obligations in the next couple of hours."

The Russian ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office on Saturday afternoon and was urged to use his country's influence "to secure access to the crash site", the FCO said.

But according to the Russian embassy, Alexander Yakovenko insisted it was "counterproductive for governments to announce their versions of the disaster".

In a statement, the ambassador accused the UK of "putting pressure on the future investigation" into the incident.

Much-loved
John Allen John Allen was one of 10 British victims of the crash

Six UK air accident investigators have been sent to the region and experts from the Metropolitan Police are due to arrive in Ukraine on Sunday to assist with identifying and recovering the bodies of those killed.

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 announced.

"He was a person with many talents, and in addition to his professional contribution to our firm he generously shared his musical and athletic abilities with us as well," the tribute to the "much loved colleague" said.

Fifty-nine-year-old Andrew Hoare, who worked in banking, also died in the crash with his Dutch wife and two children, aged 14 and 12.

"He was a warm, funny and wonderful man whose smile and character lit up a room," his brother Hugo Hoare 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.

Glenn Thomas Glenn Thomas was a former BBC journalist and press officer for the World Health Organisation

Mr Thomas's twin sister said: "He wasn't just our brother.. he was someone that everybody really loved.

"Whoever met him, he touched everyone's hearts. He'd just talk to people and they were his friends."

Father-of-two Mr Ayley, 28, was originally from Surrey and living in New Zealand, his family said, adding he "touched many lives".

Undated family handout photo of Robert Ayley with his wife Sharlene Robert Ayley - pictured with his wife Sharlene - was named earlier among those killed

A Newcastle-based charity, the Percy Hedley Foundation, has said it is caring for a disabled child whose mother, father and siblings were on the plane. The foundation declined to give details of the child's identity, nationality or age

Analysis

Britain, along with other EU countries and the US, is co-ordinating a massive campaign of diplomatic pressure on Moscow to persuade President Putin to assist with the recovery of bodies and evidence from the site.

Today Mr Cameron spoke to Dutch PM Mark Rutte; both men agreed the EU "will need to reconsider its approach to Russia".

So what could that mean?

Currently the EU has travel bans in place against several dozen Russian officials including the deputy prime minister. There are also asset freezes in place and a number of bilateral meetings between EU states and Russia have been cancelled.

The European Investment Bank has been asked to suspend the signing of finance agreements in Russia.

UK government sources suggest there is now a "hardening of attitudes" around sanctions. The US has recently extended its list of measures against Russia and the pressure has mounted on the EU to follow suit.

If Russia does not now co-operate, the clamour for a real step-change in action will grow.

Sanctions

Downing Street said Mr Cameron and US President Barack Obama had agreed an independent investigation should get under way as soon as possible.

They also discussed possible new sanctions on Moscow, a No 10 spokesman said.

The latest figures released by Malaysia Airlines show the aeroplane was carrying 189 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians, 44 Malaysians (including 15 crew) and 10 Britons, as well as a number of other nationalities.

Among the British passengers believed to have died were:

  • Newcastle United fans Mr Alder and Mr Sweeney, who were travelling to New Zealand to watch the football team's pre-season tour of the country and described by the club as among their "most loyal supporters". Sunderland supporters have raised more than £6,000 to pay for a floral tribute to the pair
  • Mr Thomas, 49, a press officer for the World Health Organization travelling to an international conference on Aids in Australia and who colleagues said would be "remembered for his ready laugh and his passion for public health"
  • Mr Pocock, a student at Loughborough University, who had been heading to Australia to study, and whose family were said to be "devastated" by his loss
  • Mr Mayne, a student at Leeds University, originally from Leicestershire, whose death attracted a wide range of tributes from his former school and university as well as Market Bosworth Rugby Club which he played for.
  • Forty-four-year-old Stephen Anderson is reported to have attended school in Inverness and served 23 years with the RAF, including running the search and rescue team at Lossiemouth in Moray.

British nationals concerned that a friend or relative may have been involved in the disaster should contact the Foreign Office on 020 7008 1500.

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