US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference, June 23, 2014, in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Kerry links Russian-backed separatists to plane shootdown


Secretary of State John Kerry laid out evidence Sunday linking the Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine to the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and denounced Russia for arming and training the rebels.

Kerry said that U.S. intelligence pointed to the use of a SA-11 surface-to-air missile to down the plane. Evidence suggested Russia had supplied the separatists with the weapon, he added. “It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists,” Kerry said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Photos of the MH17 crash site after jet was shot down over Ukraine
Photos from the crash site where a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down Thursday in Ukraine, near the Russian border. All 295 people on board are believed dead.

“We know with confidence—with confidence—that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point and time. So it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.”

Kerry added that separatist leaders had bragged on social media about the attack, only to delete their posts once they discovered it was a civilian aircraft. “Now drunken separatists are stacking bodies on the back of trucks, removing material from the site,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Volodymyr Groysman, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, said Sunday that 192 bodies have been loaded on a train, but says the government is still negotiating with the separatists for the train to depart the region. “We are inviting any experts from abroad who want to take part in the investigation,” Groysman said at a news conference. “But, unfortunately, we cannot grant their security on the territory controlled by the militants. We also haven’t received such guarantee from the Russian Federation.”

On ABC, Kerry urged Russia to step up and “start being part of the solution instead of part of the problem.” In addition to arming and training the separatists, he said, “Russia continues to refuse to call publicly for the separatists to engage in behavior that would lend itself to a resolution of this issue.”

UP, 7/20/14, 8:00 AM ET

Report: Pro-Russian rebels take bodies from MH17 crash site

NBC’s Kristen Welker, Kitty Higgins, Michael Weiss and Bob Hager discuss the reports that bodies are being moved to an undisclosed location from the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site.

The U.S. had imposed new sanctions on Russia over its support for the separatists before the plane was shot down. Kerry said President Obama was “absolutely willing to consider” further action but did not elaborate upon what that might be. 

GOP Rep. Michael McCaul, chair of the House Homeland Security committee, said Obama was responsible for getting Russia to cooperate. “The president of the United States is the only person who can stop Putin from this act of aggression that’s playing out in this region,” he said on CNN.

“Germany and Europe need to stand with the United States, but only the United States can lead that effort,” McCaul added. 

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, agreed on CNN that U.S.-Russia relations were at Cold War levels. “And I would say, Putin, you have to man up.”