As a train carrying the remains of victims from Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 moves away from the pro-Russian separatist controlled area of the plane crash site and to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, European Union foreign ministers have met today in Brussels to discuss the downing of the commercial Boeing 777 jet carrying 298 passengers and to consider imposing tougher sanctions against Russia for supporting the pro-Russian separatists accused by the West of shooting down the Malaysian jet.
EU foreign ministers are deciding if they want to match the United States’ recent decision last week to sanction Russia’s largest companies and a list of wealthy Russians with direct ties to the Russian president’s inner circle.
UK PM David Cameron along with other EU leaders are also urging for an arms embargo on Russia after France moved ahead in selling at least one of its Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia.
The current sanction list on the table in Brussels fall short of the sector focused stage 3 sanctions that are capable of crippling Russia’s economy but could also boomerang and hurt the gas dependent economies of the European Union since Russia supplies the EU with roughly 30 percent of its gas.
However, the proposed sanctions still send a strong message to Russian President Putin and his powerful business allies about the consequences of Russia’s decision in March to take over Crimea and then support the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, moves that have hurt the Russian economy that teeters near recession and has witnessed investment capital flee the country.
Russia still denies that it is supporting the pro-Russian separatists despite western and Ukrainian intelligence that shows Russia supplying pro-Russian separatists with military equipment.
On Monday, Russia attempted to dismiss Western claims that Russian sponsored separatists were responsible for shooting down flight MH-17 as Russia’s state controlled media continues to send out stories about Ukraine’s military shooting down commercial flight MH-17, mistaking the large Boeing 777 for a Russian spy plane.
The Ukrainian government in Kiev has flat out rejected these Russian media reports.
Secretary of State John Kerry laid out a case on Sunday’s NBC’S Meet the Press for supporting the view that pro-Russian separatists were responsible for shooting down flight MH-17, saying that the U.S. detected a surface to air missile launched in the separatists controlled region during the time of the plane crash.
When speaking on Meet the Press, Secretary Kerry claimed that “we picked up the imagery of this launch” while acknowledging that the U.S. had earlier evidence of a SA-Buk weapons system being sent to the region from Russia.
“We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar” Kerry added.
Kerry said that they detected the separatists were bragging about shooting down the plane moments after it crashed.
“We also know, from voice identification, that the separatists were bragging about shooting it down afterwards” Kerry said.
Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, head of Ukraine’s Security Service, said that Ukraine’s government was able to obtain intercepted phone calls between members of Russia’s intelligence agency and pro-Russian separatists that includes a discussion of the plane being shot out of the sky, according to the Kiev Post.