MH17 crash: Ukraine accuses rebels of destroying evidence

MH17 crash: Ukraine accuses rebels of destroying evidence
A pro-Russian separatist looks at wreckage from the nose section of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane which was downed near the village of Rozsypne, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014.

DONETSK, Ukraine - Ukraine accused Russia and pro-Moscow rebels on Sunday of destroying evidence to cover up their guilt in the shooting down MH17 that has accelerated a showdown between the Kremlin and Western powers.

As militants kept international monitors away from wreckage and scores of bodies festered for a third day, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the rebels to cooperate and insisted that a UN-mandated investigation must not leap to conclusions. Moscow denies involvement and has pointed a finger at Kiev's military.

The Dutch government, whose citizens made up most of the 298 aboard MH17 from Amsterdam, said it was "furious" at the manhandling of corpses strewn for miles over open country and asked Ukraine's president for help to bring "our people" home.

After US President Barack Obama said the loss of the Kuala Lumpur-bound flight showed it was time to end the conflict, Germany called it Moscow's last chance to cooperate.

European powers seemed to swing behind Washington's belief Russia's separatist allies were to blame. That might speed new trade sanctions on Moscow, without waiting for definitive proof.

"He has one last chance to show he means to help," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after a telephone call to Putin.

Britain, which lost 10 citizens, said further sanctions were available for use against Russia. "If Russia is the principal culprit, we can take further action against them and make it clear this kind of sponsored war is completely unacceptable," Defence Minister Michael Fallon told the Mail on Sunday.

Prime Minister David Cameron, writing in The Sunday Times, said European countries should make their power count in dealing with the Ukraine crisis, "yet we sometimes behave as if we need Russia more than Russia needs us."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most powerful figure in the EU, spoke to Putin on Saturday, urging his cooperation. Merkel's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper: "Moscow may have a last chance now to show that it really is seriously interested in a solution."

"Now is the moment for everyone to stop and think to themselves what might happen if we don't stop the escalation."

Germany, reliant like other EU states on Russian energy and more engaged in Russian trade than the United States, has been reluctant to escalate a confrontation with Moscow that has revived memories of the Cold War. But with military action not seen as an option, economic leverage is a vital instrument.

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