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Britain to seek further EU sanctions on Russia after plane disaster

Source: Reuters - Sun, 20 Jul 2014 10:07 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* EU Foreign Affairs Council meets on Tuesday

* Foreign Secretary: Russia risks becoming 'pariah state'

* Russia should use influence to ensure access to crash site (Adds comment from later interview)

LONDON, July 20 (Reuters) - Britain will seek to persuade other European nations at an EU meeting on Tuesday to ratchet up sanctions on Russia over the downing of a Malaysian jet carrying 298 passengers, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Sunday.

Ukraine has accused Russia and pro-Moscow rebels of destroying evidence to cover up their guilt in the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner that has intensified a showdown between the Kremlin and Western powers.

"We will ... seek to get our European partners to agree to go further in terms of sanctions if Russia hasn't radically changed its position by then," Hammond told the BBC ahead of a meeting of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council on Tuesday.

In a separate interview, Hammond said that Russia could end up in international isolation if it did not use its influence over rebels to ensure safe access to the crash site and cooperate with international investigators.

"Russia risks becoming a pariah state if it does not behave properly," he said on Sky television.

Last week, EU leaders agreed to sanction some Russian companies and block new loans to Russia by multilateral lenders, but the measures still were less stringent than U.S. restrictions announced at the same time.

"Some of our European allies, have been less enthusiastic, and I hope that the shock of this incident will see them now more engaged, more willing to take the actions which are necessary to bring home to the Russians that when you do this kind of thing it has consequences," Hammond told the BBC.

He said that information so far pointed strongly to the conclusion that the plane had been shot down from territory held by pro-Russian separatists and that the missile was almost certainly supplied by Russia.

"The Russians have influence if not direct control over these people," he said. "They have been supplying them, they have been supporting them, they have been providing them with succour. They cannot deny their responsibility for the acts that these people are carrying out."

Hammond criticised Russia for "obfuscation and obstruction" over the events that led to the plane crash, saying it was essential for Russia to fully cooperate with international investigators and hand over any evidence it has. (Reporting by William James; Editing by Alison Williams and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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