Pro-Russia rebels driving a tank through Donetsk today as international tensions increase over access to the MH17 crash site. Photo: Getty
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David Cameron: Russia faces tougher sanctions for MH17 crash

The Prime Minister warned President Putin to stop aiding separatists in Ukraine, as responsibility for the MH17 crash was laid at Russia's feet.

The Prime Minister has called for tougher sanctions on Russia, after detailing evidence that pro-Russian separatists were responsible for shooting down flight MH17.

Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, David Cameron demanded a ban on the sale of military wares from the EU to Russia and asset freezes on Putin's “cronies”.

He said that Russia cannot expect to keep enjoying access to European markets, capital, knowledge and technical expertise.

Noting the “reluctance” of some European countries to confront Russia about its involvement in the destabilisation of Ukraine, he said that they “should not need to be reminded of the consequences of turning a blind eye when big countries bully smaller countries.”

"It is time to make our power, influence and resources count," he added.

The Prime Minister confirmed he has spoken with Presidents Obama and Hollande and Chancellor Merkel, as well as the premiers of the Netherlands, Australia, Poland and Malaysia and said: “We're all agreed on what must happen.”

He called on Russia to exert influence on the pro-Russian separatists at the crash site to allow the repatriation of the bodies of the victims, “ensuring they are treated with dignity”. He also demanded uninhibited access for international investigators.

Russia must halt its support of separatists in the Ukraine too. Cameron said: “President Putin must use his influence to ensure an end to the conflict in Ukraine by halting supplies and training for the separatists.”

Pulling no punches, he made clear when the blame should be laid for the "appalling" crash: “The weight of evidence is pointing in one direction. MH17 was shot down by an SA11 missile fired by separatists.”

After paying tribute to the victims, Cameron said: “Alongside sympathy for the victims, there is anger. There is anger that this could happen at all. There is anger that the murder of men, women and children has been compounded by the sickening reports of looting of victims' possessions and interference with the evidence.

“And there is rightly anger that a conflict that could have been curtailed by Moscow has instead been fomented by Moscow.”

He added: “This has to change now.”

Earlier today Tony Blair called for a common EU defence policy in order to stand up to Russian aggression “on its doorstep”.

Giving the Philip Gould memorial lecture on the 20th anniversary of his selection to the Labour leadership, Blair said that Putin must realise that if pro-Russian separatists are proven to be responsible for the “hideous” shooting down of MH17, the Russian leader must “take responsibility.”

The Prime Minister also made a statement about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. He made clear that the current crisis was “triggered by Hamas raining hundreds of rockets" on Israeli cities and reiterated “Israel's right to take proportionate action to defend itself.”

He added, however, that when he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last night: “I urged him to do everything to avoid civilian casualties and bring the situation to an end.” 

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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