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Dutch PM: Last chance for Putin

July 19, 2014

The Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte has urged Russia to "take responsibility" after pro-Russian separatists hindered access to the site where Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crashed killing 298 people.

MH17 Flugzeugabsturz Absturzstelle Ukraine Separatist 19.7.2014
Image: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin had "one last chance to show he means to help," said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, minutes after what he described as a "very intense" conversation with the Russian leader.

Rutte told journalists in The Hague on Saturday that "he (Putin) must now take responsibility," after pro-Russian separatists hindered access to the crash site. Of the 298 people who died, 192 were Dutch citizens.

"The Netherlands and the world will see that he does what needs to be done," Rutte added.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Germany's mass circulation "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper that he was "incredibly angry" that "something like this is again possible in the heart of Europe."

He said it ultimately made no difference "if the downing of the plane was deliberate or a terrible coincidence." Whoever used weapons of the kind that shot the plane meant that they "had factored in a disaster."

Observers from Europe's OSCE security agency visited part of the crash site near the rebel-held village of Hrabove for a second day on Saturday and again found their access hampered by armed men from the forces of the self-declared People's Republic of Donetsk. An OSCE official said, however, they saw more than on Friday.

Britain's new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond accused Russia of not using its influence over the separatists enough. "We are demanding that the Russians use their influence to ensure that access is granted."

Independent investigation

Earlier on Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had talked to Putin on the phone, while US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The leaders agreed that a commission, led by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), should be set up to allow "quick access to the crash site."

Kerry and Lavrov agreed that "it is necessary to ensure an absolutely unbiased, independent and open international investigation of the Malaysian airliner crash in eastern Ukraine on July 17," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Rethink EU Russia approach

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte agreed on Saturday that the European Union will have to re-evaluate its approach to Russia.

"The PM and PM Rutte agreed that the EU will need to reconsider its approach to Russia in light of evidence that pro-Russian separatists brought down the plane," Cameron's office said in a statement.

ng/msh (Reuters, AFP)