Russia blasts U.S. for implicating rebels in jet crash

170 experts are working “under barrel of a gun” on site, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council said

Published: Updated:

Russia heavily criticized Washington on Saturday after U.S. President Barack Obama said that a missile fired from territory controlled by Moscow-backed rebels downed the Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the U.S. administration sought to pin the blame on separatists and Russia without waiting for the results of an investigation.

“The statements of representatives of the U.S. administration are evidence of a deep political aberration of Washington’s perception of what is going on in Ukraine,” Agence France-Presse reported Ryabkov as telling Russian news agencies.

“At least, that is how the relevant statements can be interpreted,” the foreign ministry quoted him as saying.

He added: “Despite an obvious and indisputable nature of the arguments provided by rebels and Moscow, the U.S. administration is pushing its own agenda.”

Ryabkov reiterated accusations that Washington had triggered tensions in the ex-Soviet country by meddling in its domestic affairs and provoking an uprising that ousted Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in February.

“In the geopolitical frenzy and attempts to apply methods of social and political engineering everywhere, the United States acts like a bad surgeon: to cut deeper at first, and then stitch up sloppily so that it would hurt for a long time.”

Deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin added: “The White House clearly established who’s guilty even before the investigation of the Boeing catastrophe,” he said on Twitter.

While Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed on Saturday that both countries will use their influence on the two sides of the Ukraine conflict to end hostilities, Moscow said it would retaliate against Washington’s most recent sanctions over Ukraine by denying entry to several U.S. citizens.

“Retaliatory measures definitely will be taken. First of all, a similar number of Americans will be prohibited from entering (Russia),” the ministry’s spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was quoted in a statement as saying.

Ukraine’s accusations

Meanwhile, Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of helping the rebels to destroy evidence at the crash site, a charge the rebels denied.

The government in Kiev said the rebels have removed 38 bodies from the crash site and have taken them to the rebel-held city of Donetsk, the Associated Press reported on Saturday. It said the bodies were transported with the assistance of specialists with distinct Russian accents.

The rebels are also “seeking large transports to carry away plane fragments to Russia,” the Ukrainian government said in a statement Saturday.

However, a separatist leader Alexander Borodai In Donetsk denied that any bodies had been transferred or that the rebels had in any way interfered with the work of observers.

He said he encouraged the involvement of the international community in assisting with the cleanup before the conditions of the bodies worsens significantly.

‘Under barrel of a gun’

Meanwhile, Spokesman for the Ukrainian Security and Defense Council Information Center Andriy Lysenko said on Saturday that 170 Ukrainian experts are working “under barrel of a gun” at the crash site.

Lysenko said “the search operation is complicated because of the presence of armed terrorists in the area.”

He added: “They continue to impede the work of the Ukrainian rescue personnel by keeping them under the barrel of a gun. “

Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels have agreed to set up a security zone around the crash site.

Britain criticizes Russia

Britain also criticized Russia for not exerting enough influence over pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“We’re not getting enough support from the Russians, we’re not seeing Russia using their influence effectively enough to get the separatists, who are in control of the site, to allow the access that we need,” Reuters quoted Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond Hammond as telling reporters.

“This is not about Russia and the West -- this is about the whole community demanding that the proper access is made available to this site, the victims are properly recovered and evidence is secured.

“The world's eyes will be on Russia to see if she delivers on her obligations in the next couple of hours.

“We are demanding that the Russians use their influence to ensure that access is granted. That’s the only way we can get to the truth and bring those accountable to justice.”

He said it was clear that monitors at the crash site had not been given full access by the separatists, and some areas were not possible to reach at all.

Hammond said Russia’s ambassador to London would be called into the Foreign Office so Britain's views can be expressed in no uncertain terms.

Merkel, Putin agree on probe

In the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed for an international investigation into the downing of the Malaysian plane, and for rapid access to the crash site, Berlin said on Saturday.

The two leaders, who spoke on the telephone, “agreed that an international, independent commission under the direction of ICAO (United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization) should quickly have access to the site of the accident... to shed light on the circumstances of the crash and move the victims,” said a German government statement.

A Kremlin statement on the same phone call said that “both sides stressed the importance of a thorough and objective investigation of all circumstances relating to what has happened.”

(With AFP and Associated Press)