Circumstantial evidence suggests Russia provided the missile Ukrainian rebels used to shoot down a Malaysian airliner on July 17, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said today in television interviews.
“There’s a build-up of extraordinary circumstantial evidence,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing.”
The top U.S. diplomat appeared on five Sunday network talk shows and accused Russia of supplying and training the rebels, even while withholding a final judgment until an investigation is completed of the plane crash that killed 298 people.
“There are an enormous array of facts that point at Russia’s support for and involvement in this effort,” Kerry said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “Russia has armed the separatists. Russia has supported the separatists. Russia has trained the separatists.”
The U.S. has intelligence that a convoy of 150 vehicles “of artillery, armored personnel carriers, multiple rocket launchers, tanks, crossed over from Russia into this area and these items were all turned over to the separatists” a few weeks before the plane was shot down, Kerry said.
Ukraine has blamed Russia for supplying separatists with a Russian-made Buk-M anti-aircraft missile system, which U.S. officials say was used to shoot down the airliner.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied supplying arms to the rebels, and some separatists have denied shooting down the commercial jet.
The State Department has criticized Russian-backed separatists for refusing to give international investigators adequate access to the crash site.
“The fact that the separatists are controlling this in a way that is preventing people from getting there, even as the site is tampered with, makes its own statement about culpability and responsibility,” Kerry said on CNN.
Putin is facing scornful world opinion for his response to the airliner downing at a time when the U.S. and Europe are trying to punish him for annexing the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and supporting the rebels of eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and Europe tightened economic sanctions last week, while pressure grows for even stronger measures.
“I don’t know how anybody can say our response has been anything but timid and cautious,” Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday” today.
Kerry declined to say whether the U.S. would help arm the Ukrainian government or further increase sanctions, though he said all options except a military response are under review.
“The president is prepared to take additional steps, and we are discussing with the Ukrainians right now what they need, what else we can do,” he said on Fox.
The plane’s downing should serve as “a wake-up call for countries in Europe,” with which the U.S. will consult as it considers further sanctions, Kerry said on ABC.
Representative Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who heads the House intelligence committee, said the U.S. should broaden sanctions and help the Ukrainian military with training, intelligence and logistical support.
“It’s time to end Putin’s gamesmanship in Ukraine,” Rogers said on ABC.
Representative Peter King of New York, a Republican on the Homeland Security and Intelligence committees, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the U.S. should impose “very severe economic sanctions” and consider symbolic actions such as canceling the 2018 World Cup in Russia and banning landing rights to Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said U.S.-Russian relations have returned to Cold-War levels.
“I think the world has to rise up and say we’ve had enough of this,” Feinstein said on CNN.
Kerry called on Putin to stop arming the rebels and letting them cross the Russia-Ukraine border.
“This is a moment of truth for Mr. Putin and for Russia,” Kerry said on NBC. “Russia needs to step up and prove its bona fides, if there are any left, with respect to its willingness to put actions behind the words.”
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