Over the weekend, both Britain and the US decided it was highly likely the Malaysian Airlines flight that crashed in east Ukraine was brought down by pro-Russian separatists.
In light of this, David Cameron spoke to the Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday evening, urging him to allow international access to the site of the crash. At present, the rebels controlling the area are not allowing proper access to the crash site, and they also removed the plane’s black boxes, which they have since agreed to hand over.
Cameron made clear to Putin that the bringing down of the flight was “totally unacceptable” and a source told the Mail that he also said to the Russian President: “Ten of my citizens have just been killed in a plane brought down by a missile fired by Russian separatists. I have been asking to speak to you since this happened. You clearly can play a role in exerting influence on the separatists to grant us access to the site.”
The PM has also been discussing stronger sanctions on Russia with his allies in the EU. The French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both agreed with the PM that the main priority is to gain unfettered access to the site to recover victims, but have also discussed a new, harsher approach to Russia by way of sanctions.
However, the BBC is reporting a “lack of appetite” among EU countries for expanding existing sanctions on Russia, which is apparently frustrating Downing Street.
Cameron will make a statement to the Commons later today. He’s good at these kind of statesmanlike addresses, and his enthusiasm for harsher sanctions made clear by No 10 is a decisive move in the right direction. However, there’s only so much he can do in this situation without his EU allies wholeheartedly on-side. Germany is more reticent about sanctions because of its reliance on Russian gas, and also its position as Russia’s biggest European trading partner.