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Putin Under Pressure to Make Separatists Give Up Crash Site

Putin Under Pressure to Make Separatists Give Up Crash Site

World leaders expressed disgust at the treatment of the Malaysia Airlines crash site by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and increased their demands that Russian President Vladimir Putin do more to rein them in.

Anger grew over the weekend as reports surfaced that separatists had barred international inspectors from taking bodies from the site and had even looted some of the luggage strewn across a broad swath of land near the site where the plane went down. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry summed up the frustration Sunday morning.

"Here’s what’s currently bothering everybody: Drunken separatists have been piling bodies into trucks and removing them from the site," Kerry said Sunday morning on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Kerry said the armed groups were limiting international access to the site, hampering the recovery and investigation efforts.

"We only had 75 minutes of access to the site on Friday, three hours of access yesterday, despite Mr. Putin and Russia saying they were going to make every effort to make sure that there would be a full and fair investigation," Kerry said.

Kerry’s comments added to a growing chorus of fury about the treatment of the remains and the evidence at the crash site.

"I was shocked at the pictures of utterly disrespectful behavior at this tragic spot. It’s revolting," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Saturday, according to Reuters. Out of the 298 people killed in the crash of MH17, 193 were Dutch citizens.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama’s administration said it had increasingly strong evidence to bolster its case that the separatists shot down the plane with a Russian missile. The U.S. Embassy in Kiev released a statement saying the United States had confirmed the authenticity of audio released by the Ukrainian government of separatists discussing the downing of the civilian plane.

"We know that the Russians have armed the separatists, trained the separatists, support the separatists, and have to date not publicly called on the separatists to stand down or be part of the solution," Kerry said.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in the Sunday Times that if Ukrainian separatists shot down the plane, Russia would be responsible.

"If this is the case then we must be clear what it means: this is a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them," he wrote.

Kerry and European Union leaders called for Putin to make the separatists give up control of the site or face being further shut out by the West and being hit by new economic sanctions. They didn’t specify whether they would start targeting whole sectors of the Russian economy or stick with the current targeted sanctioning of individuals and companies, but Cameron said Europe should be bolder. "We sometimes behave as if we need Russia more than Russia needs us," he said.

"Russia risks becoming a pariah state if it does not behave properly," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Sky television.

Kerry said that there are other sanctions the United States could put in place, and the EU is expected to unveil new targets when European foreign ministers meet Tuesday in Brussels. Still, it remains unclear what steps the West will be willing to take that would be able to effectively change Moscow’s course. Russia’s economy has suffered some damage from the earlier measures, but not as much as many Western officials had hoped.

"Our hope is that President Putin will put the actions behind his words so that we can join together in order to help end this separatist effort, bring them into the politics of Ukraine, and try to help Ukraine to be able to move forward," Kerry said.