Wreckage of the airliner that crashed in rebel-held east Ukraine. Photo: Getty
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Europe has a duty to act more effectively on the Russia Ukraine conflict

The Labour MP Mike Gapes argues that it is becoming increasingly likely the crashed airliner in Ukraine was shot down by Russian separatist fighters, and that it's time Europe took action on the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

We must await the outcome of inspections, satellite monitoring data and examination of the black box to be sure, but it seems increasingly likely a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile system, supplied by Moscow to pro-Russia separatist fighters in Eastern Ukraine, and perhaps even operated by Russian-trained personnel, shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight killing 298 people.

The enormity of this crime raises serious concerns and huge implications. 

As the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said, "This was not an 'incident', this was not a 'catastrophe', this was a terrorist act."

The US had already just imposed further tougher sanctions on Russia for continuing to provide weapons to the Russian separatist rebels. Although the EU sanctions regime is less tough, reflecting ongoing dependence of several states on Gazprom supplies, I think there will now be public pressure on governments here, in the Netherlands and elsewhere to do much more. But the problem we face is that Russia, despite its mounting economic problems and capital flight, still holds several cards. It is a permanent member of the Security Council, able and willing to use its veto to protect its position in Syria, Iran and elsewhere. And the British financial system, London property markets and Conservative party are still very happy to take money from Russian oligarchs.

Putin knows this very well but he also knows that Russia cannot afford to be regarded as a terrorist-backing rogue state. He must swiftly act to rein in the extremists in Donetsk and cooperate in an international investigation of this war crime. He should also work rapidly to end the conflict with Ukraine. But he probably will not do this because his whole strategy in Ukraine was based on pressure to keep it under Russian domination and prevent Ukraine associating with western countries through the EU. That is why he occupied and annexed Crimea, tearing up an agreement signed by Russia in Budapest in 1994, and why he has armed and supported separatist extremists in Ukraine.

If Putin does not change course, we face not just a new cold war but the danger of intensified armed conflict in parts of the former Soviet Union. The forthcoming NATO summit in Wales in September will be the most important for a generation. Is Europe prepared to act more effectively to stand up against terrorism or do we just want business as usual with Putin and his oligarchs?

Mike Gapes is Labour MP for Ilford South and is a member of the foreign affairs select committee

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Tony Blair won't endorse the Labour leader - Jeremy Corbyn's fans are celebrating

The thrice-elected Prime Minister is no fan of the new Labour leader. 

Labour heavyweights usually support each other - at least in public. But the former Prime Minister Tony Blair couldn't bring himself to do so when asked on Sky News.

He dodged the question of whether the current Labour leader was the best person to lead the country, instead urging voters not to give Theresa May a "blank cheque". 

If this seems shocking, it's worth remembering that Corbyn refused to say whether he would pick "Trotskyism or Blairism" during the Labour leadership campaign. Corbyn was after all behind the Stop the War Coalition, which opposed Blair's decision to join the invasion of Iraq. 

For some Corbyn supporters, it seems that there couldn't be a greater boon than the thrice-elected PM witholding his endorsement in a critical general election. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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