The papers: MH17 - 'Russia in the dock'

Repercussions of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 continue to dominate the newspapers.

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The Observer says that hopes for "a proper investigation" of the crash site in eastern Ukraine "faded into chaos" with separatist militiamen hindering access to the area for outside investigators.

The paper says "experts" of "unknown provenance" were at the site, which was a "horrific scene".

The Sun on Sunday says crash investigator Michael Bociurw has described the "grisly spectacle" with many bodies remaining where they landed as looking like "the world's biggest crime scene".

Mr Bociurw who is at the scene with a team from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said his 24-strong civilian team had been "obstructed by heavily armed rebels", the paper continues.

Another OSCE expert tells the Sun "we encountered armed personnel who acted in a very impolite and unprofessional manner.

"Some of them even looked slightly intoxicated."

The Sunday Telegraph's report from the village of Grabovo, which was where much of the wreckage from the disintegrating plane landed, says "masked rebel gunmen, some bearing shoulder patches identifying themselves as loyal to the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic, continued to swarm the area."

The Ukrainian government, the paper notes, has accused the fighters of "destroying evidence" of "their culpability for the disaster".

Alexander Borodai, leader of the Donetsk separatist government, tells the Independent on Sunday that he has "encouraged international investigation" of the crash and he denied any access had been blocked.

Many western experts and the Ukrainians are suggesting that Russian regulars - rather than the Donetsk separatists - may have operated the sophisticated Buk guided missile system believed to have downed flight MH17.

The Sunday Times reports that Britain, Australia and other countries that lost nationals in the crash are drawing up a UN Security Council resolution which would demand Russia ensures access to the crash site for independent investigators.

But the paper says "people close to the Kremlin said there was anger there at the immediate international condemnation of Russia - and predicted it would push [President] Putin into a bunker mentality".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Vladimir Putin: a 'sinister leader' according to the Sunday Telegraph

In the Sunday Express comment section, exiled Russian historian Yuri Felshtinski says "the tragedy of MH17 will do nothing to stop Putin in his plans to re-establish a new Soviet Union.

"I think Putin will understand that there is no going back now and he will make his move.

"Ukraine is only the first stage; it is the beginning of a wider campaign to increase Russia's strength.

"He will move to other countries, such as Moldova and Belorussia where there is a strong Russian population."

Historian Mark Almond writing in the Daily Mail says the West should "shame Putin" but you should only "push his back to the wall at your peril".

"Rash responses dictated by emotional outrage won't bring back the dead - but could pile up new corpses," he adds.

John Kampfner in the Sunday Telegraph headlines his commentary piece "Putin is a pariah. He must now be treated as such".

Kampfner writes: "Russia's wealth is tied up in western banks. Its companies listed on global stock exchanges. Its oligarchs own prestigious properties in London, Courchevel and the Cote D'Azur.

"The country that helped them get rich is led by one of the most sinister politicians of the modern age.

"That is Mr Putin's strength and his weak spot. And it is where the West needs to act."

Centre stage

The MH17 tragedy brings out the political big-hitters to write columns in Sunday's papers.

In the Sunday Times, David Cameron says "this is an atrocity made in Moscow."

The prime minister continues "the growing weight of evidence points to a clear conclusion: that flight MH17 was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile fired from a rebel-held area.

"If this is the case then we must be clear what this means: this is the direct result of Russia destabilising a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them."

He continues "some international crises are insoluble. Not this one. If Vladimir Putin stops the support to the fighters in eastern Ukraine and allows the Ukrainian authorities to restore order, this crisis can be brought to an end.

"Of course there must be proper protections for Russian-speaking minorities. These issues can be addressed. But the overriding need is for Russia to cease its support for violent separatists."

Mr Cameron says many in the West behave as if we need Russia more than Russia needs us "and the access we provide to European markets, European capital, our knowledge and technological expertise".

He concludes "in six weeks' time Britain will host a Nato summit... at which the relationship with Russia will again take centre stage. It is up to Russia which path that relationship takes."

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, the new Defence Secretary Michael Fallon says: "I don't think we are at the start of World War Three, but Nato has to respond. It's clearly a threat to Nato's eastern flank and that's why we must offer as much reassurance as we can, particularly to the Baltic states."

Mr Fallon added: "There is no prospect of us putting boots on the ground in Ukraine, though we can assist with technology, surveillance and technical support."

When the Mail asked the minister what would be the British stance if Ukraine asked Nato for help, he says "that's for Nato to respond to - I won't be drawn."


Last week opened with David Cameron's cabinet reshuffle - and this one begins with the Sundays discussing its merits.

The Independent on Sunday runs a poll from ComRes which suggests just 24% of the public think the appointments made in the reshuffle were decided "on merit" - and 56% thought they were made "for spin".

"Worryingly for the prime minister," the paper says, "only 20% of people think the reshuffle improved their view of the Conservative Party".

The Sunday Express runs another poll - by Vision Critical - which shows, the paper says, "Cameron's 'window dressing' reshuffle fails to woo voters".

The Express's poll suggested only 3% of people were more likely to vote Tory after the reshuffle, with 30% of respondents saying the move was only made "to bolster appearances".

Former Conservative home secretary Ann Widdecombe tells the paper "It's hardly a surprise that people are sceptical about the reasons behind appointing so many women to the cabinet, given all the briefings about quotas that were going on beforehand.

"Women were lined up. It's no wonder it all backfired, as your poll shows."

The Sun claims Mr Cameron's effort to give his top team a new look was "nearly derailed" by a series of rows which included - the paper claims - Employment Minister Esther McVey staging "a sit-in" in the PM's office until he agreed she could attend Cabinet meetings.

Nigel Nelson, writing in the Sunday People, said the reshuffle meant some "talented middle-aged men [were] sacrificed to make way for less talented but telegenic younger women".

"Men are now frightened to say that," he continues. "They get the social media equivalent of being clubbed over the head and dragged by their hair back to the cave if they do."

Nelson - the People's political editor - says the House of Commons is a "female-friendly" place these days, but is still not "family friendly".

He suggests ending late-night sittings would do more to encourage women into Parliament than positive discrimination ever will.

Nothing in politics - or polling - is ever straightforward, and the Sunday Telegraph runs its own poll, undertaken by ORB International, which seems to contradict the Express and Independent's verdict.

The survey suggests, the paper says, that 59% thought Mr Cameron's reshuffle was "a step in the right direction", with even 45% of Labour supporters telling the pollsters they thought it would benefit the Conservatives.

In an analysis piece, Iain Martin writes "the reshuffle was all about the Tory high command jettisoning anything - and anybody - they conclude might get in the way of Mr Cameron winning [the next election]".

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