MH17 plane crash is 'defining moment' for Russia, says PM

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDavid Cameron: ''We must do what is necessary to stand up to Russia''

David Cameron has said the Malaysia Airlines crash in east Ukraine is a "defining moment" for Russia.

Some 298 people died, including 10 Britons, when flight MH17 crashed in a pro-Russian rebel-held area last week.

The PM said Moscow was fuelling the Ukraine conflict by arming the rebels, who are accused of downing the jet.

He said it was unlikely the plane was shot deliberately - but warned of "hard-hitting" sanctions if Moscow did not change course on Ukraine.

Mr Cameron said there was "anger" at what had happened and urged Moscow to stop training separatists and supplying them with weapons.

The UK is set to push for increased sanctions against Russia at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Tuesday.

'Clear choice'

Meanwhile, rebels in eastern Ukraine have handed over two flight-data recorders from the downed plane to Malaysian experts.

And a train carrying bodies from the crash site left a station at nearby Torez for the city of Kharkiv.

Mr Cameron called for "unfettered access" to the crash site for international investigators and for bodies to be repatriated.

Image copyright Various - most are family handouts
Image caption The 10 British victims (Clockwise from top left): John Alder, John Allen, Stephen Anderson, Robert Ayley, Cameron Dalziel, Glenn Thomas, Liam Sweeney, Ben Pocock, Richard Mayne and Andrew Hoare

Addressing MPs in the Commons, the prime minister said: "The context for this tragedy is Russia's attempt to destabilise a sovereign state, violate its territorial integrity and arm and train thuggish militias."

He said the "weight of evidence" pointed to the jet being shot by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists and that "a conflict that could have been curtailed by Moscow, has instead been fomented by Moscow".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have inspected train wagons where the bodies are being stored

He said: "President Putin faces a clear choice in how he decides to respond to this appalling tragedy. I hope he will use this moment to find a path out of this festering and dangerous crisis by ending Russia's support for the separatists.

"If he does not change his approach to Ukraine in this then Europe and the West must fundamentally change our approach to Russia."

Mr Cameron said the rest of the European Union could no longer "turn a blind eye" to the crisis.

If Moscow does not "change course", he said: "Russia cannot expect to continue enjoying access to European markets, European capital, European knowledge and technical expertise while she fuels conflict in one of Europe's neighbours."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The UN has called for a full international investigation into the crash

Deputising for Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has been meeting President Barack Obama in the United States, Harriet Harman, the party's deputy leader, said: "The evidence is growing that this was not simply a tragedy but a terrible crime."

Calling it a "moment of reckoning for Europe", she added: "Europe must show its sorrow but it must also show its strength."

And later Mr Miliband said: "I'm afraid what's been done so far has been proved to be inadequate. And I think that we need to show and follow the lead that has been taken by President Obama, and Europe needs to step up."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that the EU had so far failed to "act with the right collective resolve", but that there was "a change of mood" on sanctions.

In other developments:

  • The UN Security Council approved - with Russian support - a resolution calling for an international investigation into the crash
  • UK air crash investigators have started work after arriving in the Ukrainian capital Kiev
  • Two Metropolitan Police officers are also in Ukraine as part of the UK's disaster victim identification team
  • US President Barack Obama says the onus is on Russia to resolve the Ukraine crisis, saying it has "extraordinary influence" over the rebels
  • But Mr Putin warned Western powers not to use the incident to advance "vested interests" at Russia's expense
  • Mr Cameron also chaired a meeting of the National Security Council, which is made up of senior ministers and others, and co-ordinates efforts to safeguard UK security
  • The council "agreed that the UK should work with our European partners and the US to ensure that we do what is necessary to stand up to Russia and to make clear that they must take steps to put an end to the conflict in Ukraine", No 10 said
  • "The first step should be further EU sanctions at the Foreign Affairs Council tomorrow with a view to ratcheting up the pressure further on Russia in the future", it added
  • Chancellor George Osborne says fresh sanctions could harm the UK's economy - but has warned that not acting could be "much worse"
  • People are continuing to contribute to an online charity appeal set up by British student Richard Mayne, who was among those killed

Relatives of some of the UK passengers have called for their bodies to be returned home.

Jordan Withers, nephew of Glenn Thomas - who was among the 10 Britons on board - said the bodies of victims had been treated "inhumanely".

Minute's applause

Barry Sweeney, whose son Liam was also on board, told ITV's Good Morning Britain he hoped the 28-year-old was in a body bag, "because I don't want him to be lying there somewhere where there's nobody there to give him a good cuddle, you know".

A memorial service was held at St James' Park football ground earlier in honour of Liam Sweeney and fellow fan John Alder, who also died in the crash.

They had been travelling to New Zealand to watch the team.

The informal service, which included a poem to the fans, ended with a minute's applause. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has already said the forthcoming season will be dedicated to the pair.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Newcastle supporters - and fans of rivals Sunderland - laid shirts and flowers for Mr Alder and Mr Sweeney

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites