WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Sunday turned up the heat on Russia for its support of Ukrainian separatists accused by the United States of shooting down a Malaysian passenger plane.
“This is the moment of truth for Russia,” Secretary of State John Kerry said. “Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists, and Russia has not yet done the things necessary in order to try to bring them under control.”
In addition, he said the administration was hopeful that the shootdown would galvanize support in Europe for increasing sanctions on Russia over its overall actions in Ukraine.
“We hope this is a wake-up call for some countries in Europe that have been reluctant to move,” Kerry said.
In a round of television interviews, Kerry cited a mix of U.S. intelligence and social media reports that he said “obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists” firing a Russian-provided SA-11 surface-to-air missile that brought the plane down, killing nearly 300 passengers and crew.
“It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists,” he said.
Kerry said U.S. intelligence had authenticated tapes of intercepted phone calls between separatists discussing the aftermath of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in contested territory in eastern Ukraine.
Video of an SA-11 launcher, with one of its missiles missing and leaving the likely launch site, has been authenticated, he said.
He added that separatists had shot down about 12 aircraft over the past month, and had bragged in the phone intercepts about Thursday’s attack until they realized it was a commercial jet.
Kerry demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin live up to his commitment to press for a full and independent international investigation into the jet’s downing and use his influence with the separatists who have taken the plane’s black box flight recorders and removed the victims’ bodies.
“This is a very, very critical moment for Russia to step up publicly and join in the effort in order to make sure there is a full-fledged investigation,” Kerry said.
More broadly, he accused Russia of “playing” a dual-track policy in Ukraine of saying one thing and doing another. That, he said, “is really threatening both the larger interests as well as that region and threatening Ukraine itself.”
Putin and other Russian officials have blamed the government in Ukraine for creating the situation and atmosphere in which the plane was downed, but have yet to directly address the allegations that the separatists were responsible or were operating with technical assistance from Moscow.
Kerry made his comments in appearance on five talk shows: CNN’s “State of the Union,” ”Fox News Sunday,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and ABC’s “This Week.”
MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer