MH17 crash: Blame game developing between Russia and Ukraine

MH17 crash: Blame game developing between Russia and Ukraine
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

PETALING JAYA - The blame game has emerged after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was suspected to have been shot down by a long-range Soviet-era SA-11 ground-to-air missile.

The Ukraine government accused pro-Moscow militants, aided by the Russian military intelligence officer, of firing the missile that brought down the Boeing 777. While, Russia is pinning the blame on Kiev.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who had stepped up an offensive in the east, spoke to United States President Barack Obama and sought to rally world opinion behind his cause.

"The external aggression against Ukraine is not just our problem but a threat to European and global security," he said in a statement.

After the downing of several Ukrainian military aircraft in the area in recent months, including two this week, Kiev had accused Russian forces of playing a direct role.

Separatists were quoted in Russian media last month saying they had acquired a long-range SA-11 anti-aircraft system.

On the other end, Russia which Western powers accuse of trying to destabilise Ukraine to maintain influence over its old Soviet empire, has accused Kiev's leaders of mounting a fascist coup.

It says it is holding troops in readiness to protect Russian-speakers in the east - the same rationale it used for taking over Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pinned the blame on Kiev for renewing its offensive against rebels two weeks ago after a ceasefire failed to hold.

The Kremlin leader, who is at loggerheads with the West over his policies towards Ukraine, called the downing of MH17 a "tragedy", but did not disclose who brought the Boeing 777 down.

News of the disaster came as Obama was on the phone with Putin, discussing a new round of economic sanctions that Washington and its allies have imposed to try to force Putin to do more to curb the revolt against the new government in Kiev.

Obama warned of further sanctions if Moscow did not change course in Ukraine, the White House said.

Obama also spoke to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as well as other leaders, said evidence from the crash must remain in Ukraine so international investigators have a chance to look at all of it.

The White House said the United States was willing to contribute immediate assistance to the investigation, and CNN reported that FBI and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials would be heading to Ukraine in an advisory role.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement on its website that a "contact group" of senior representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE had held a video conference with the separatists, who pledged to cooperate with Ukrainian authorities in the investigation.

Kiev complained that separatists prevented Ukrainian officials from reaching the site.

Pro-Russian separatists in the region said on Thursday they had found one of the "black box" recorders.

Rescue workers recovered a second flight recorder on Friday, a Reuters cameraman on the scene said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called for a transparent international investigation. The UN Security Council will discuss the issue on Friday.

Flight MH17 disappeared from radar screens in eastern Ukraine on Thursday at around 1415 GMT, hours after the Boeing 777, bound for Kuala Lumpur, had taken off from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

The Boeing 777 carrying a total of 298 people is believed to have been accidentally shot down by a Buk ground-to-air missile while the plane was travelling at an altitude of 33,000 feet, 50km from the Ukraine-Russia border.

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