cbc.ca (© Copyright: (C) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.cbc.ca/aboutcbc/discover/termsofuse.html#Rss)
Updated: Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:21:35 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Canada to sanction Russia



An armed pro-Russian separatist gestures to reporters at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (© Grabovo)

An armed pro-Russian separatist gestures to reporters at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 21, 2014. The downing of the airliner with the loss of nearly 300 lives has sharply escalated the crisis in Ukraine, and may mark a pivotal moment in international efforts to resolve a situation in which separatists in the Russian-speaking east have been fighting government forces since protesters in Kiev forced out a pro-Moscow president and Russia annexed Crimea. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev (UKRAINE - Tags: DISASTER POLITICS TRANSPORT MEDIA TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3ZILQ Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

Canada is ready to level more sanctions against Russia in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Eastern Ukraine, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Monday.

Baird, speaking to reporters by teleconference from London, said new sanctions will be introduced against individuals and entities, as well as entire sectors of the Russian economy. Baird told reporters the new sanctions will be similar to those already imposed by the U.S.

- LIVE BLOG | On mobile? Follow the story here

While Baird didn’t directly blame Russia for downing the plane, he said it must take some responsibility.

“The Kremlin may not have pulled the trigger, but it certainly loaded the gun and put it in the murderer’s hand,” he said.

Baird also called on pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine to immediately vacate the crash site to allow international investigators the chance to look through the wreckage without fear.

"I am very, very disturbed by the reports of the careless, even callous, way in which the crash site has been treated. It's time for these pro-Russian forces to immediately withdraw from the area and let Ukrainian and international authorities get on with their investigating and forensic work."

A total of 298 people, including one Canadian, were killed when MH17 crashed near Donetsk last week.

Obama: Burden on Putin

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama also addressed Russia's role in the MH17 crash, saying the "burden" now falls on Russian President Vladimir Putin to tell Ukrainian separatists to allow investigators full access to the crash site. 

Obama also blasted Ukrainian rebels for removing and tampering with bodies and wreckage at the crash site.

“What exactly are they trying to hide?” Obama asked.

The U.S. president did not announce any new sanctions, but warned Russia that it could face increasing isolation from the international community if the separatists continue to be a threat.

The U.S. has sent crash investigators to Ukraine to help study the crash, Obama added, before calling for “full, unimpeded access” to the crash site for investigators on the ground.

Earlier Monday, the Dutch prime minister said "all political, economic and financial options" are on the table if access doesn't improve to the area in Eastern Ukraine.

Mark Rutte told parliament on Monday that his government's priority is to recover and identify the bodies. Of all on board at the time of Thursday's downing of the plane,193 were Dutch.

"It is clear that Russia must use her influence on the separatists to improve the situation on the ground," Rutte said.

Dutch team wants bodies moved

Also Monday, experts from the Dutch National Forensic Investigations Team told armed separatists guarding train cars full of bodies from the downed jet that the train must be allowed to leave within hours.

"We got the promise the train is going," said Peter Van Vilet, the team’s leader, adding he didn’t know a time element.

The Dutch team has also pressed for rebels to seal the train cars parked in the rebel-held town of Torez.

In the Netherlands, Dutch prosecutors opened an investigation into MH17’s downing, on suspicion of murder, war crimes and intentionally downing an airliner, a spokesman said.

Based on the Law on International Crimes, the Netherlands can prosecute any individual who committed a war crime against a Dutch citizen. As part of the investigation, a Dutch public prosecutor is conducting an investigation in Ukraine, a spokesman said.

‘Powerful’ evidence

Australia, meanwhile, pressed for a UN resolution calling for uninhibited access to the rebel-controlled crash site. It also asks for the full co-operation of all countries in the region, including Russia.

In the government-controlled eastern city of Kharkiv, another team of experts came to the government crisis centre focused on the crash. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the team included 23 Dutch, two Germans, two from the United States, one from the United Kingdom and three representatives from the Australian Embassy.

The United States presented what it called "powerful" evidence Sunday that the rebels shot down the Boeing 777 with a Russian surface-to-air missile. That evidence included video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site; imagery showing the firing; phone calls claiming credit for the strike and phone recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

"A buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence ... it's powerful here," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists," he added.

The head of counterintelligence for Ukraine's SBU security service, Vitaliy Najda, said Saturday the Buk launchers came from Russia, and called on Russia to supply the names and ranks of the service personnel "who brought about the launch of the missile" so they could be questioned by investigators.

He said the rebels could not have operated the sophisticated weapon without Russian help. Nayda did not provide specific evidence for his claim.

Yatsenyuk said Monday "it is crystal clear that any Russian drunken guerrilla cannot manage this system.”

more video