Secretary of State John Kerry made the rounds on the talk show circuit Sunday confirming the U.S. has “evidence” to conclude that Russia provided separatists in Eastern Ukraine with the weapons used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines jet last Thursday.
In an interview with CBS “Face the Nation” Kerry said the U.S. has drawn "definitive" conclusions about Russia's role in the attack on the commercial jet that resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people from all over the world.
Kerry said he knows "for certain" that a convoy of armed personnel carriers, rocket launchers, tanks and artillery crossed over the Russian border within the last month and was handed off to separatists. He added that separatists were receiving training from Russian military specialists on how to use the same system that was used to shoot down the plane.
"Now we have a video showing a launcher moving back through a particular area out into Russia with at least one missing missile on it, so we have enormous input about this, which points fingers," Kerry said. He added that there was an SA-11 surface to air missile right near the crash site before the plane was shot down. He also said that separatists were documented on social media bragging about shooting down the blame.
“The defense minister, so-called self-appointed of the People’s Republic of Donetsk, Mr. Igor Strelkov, actually posted a bragging statement on the social media about having shot down a transport. And then when it became apparent it was civilian, they quickly removed that particular posting,” Kerry said.
There is also video evidence, the Secretary added, showing that the surface to air missile system was moved back to Russia and is missing from Eastern Ukraine.
"So there's enormous amount of evidence, even more evidence than I just documented, that points to the involvement of Russia in providing this system, training the people on them," Kerry said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, has placed the blame on the Ukrainian government.
"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," Putin said in a statement. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."
Though Putin has denied that the Russian government had anything to do with the attacks, if Kerry’s conclusion is correct and Russia was indeed involved in the deadly attack on a commercial jet carrying 290 innocent civilians, Putin is going to have some serious explaining to do. Many have speculated that it was an accident, and that the commercial airliner was mistaken for a military plane.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said Sunday, “The nexus between Russia and the separatists has been established very clearly," Feinstein said on CNN. "The issue is: where is Putin? I would say, Putin, you have to man up. You should talk to the world. You should say this was a mistake, if it was a mistake.”
Meanwhile, Republicans spent last week outlining how to punish Russia if pro-Russian separatists are indeed found to be involved in the attack on Flight 17. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and others want increased "Iranian-type" sanctions on Russia, they also want to provide weapons to Ukrainian forces to help them defend themselves and restricting Russian planes from landing in the United States or Europe.
"So first, give the Ukrainians weapons to defend themselves and regain their territory," McCain said on Fox News last week. "Second of all, move some of our troops into areas that are being threatened by Vladimir Putin, other countries like the Baltics and others.”
Since tensions between Russia and the United States are high, Feinstein urged Germany to lead global response to the crisis.
"The world has to rise up and say, 'We've had enough of this,'" she said. "I think Europe has to come together. I think Germany in particular has to lead."
Kerry also addressed the intensifying conflict in Gaza and said he will be traveling this week to Egypt to attempt to broker a cease-fire agreement between the Israeli military and Hamas.
Sunday was the most violent day of the fighting so far. The New York Times reported that 87 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers had been killed today alone. More than 417 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since July 9, the majority of those being civilian deaths. Eighteen Israeli soldiers have been killed since last Thursday when the armed forced launched a ground operation.
The White House has expressed support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but is walking a fine line, cautioning that endorsing further actions could result in more civilian deaths.
Kerry also criticized Palestinian leaders for rejecting a cease-fire last week, but a remark caught on a hot microphone before he went on “Fox News Sunday” revealed that the Secretary of State is also very disturbed by the violence the Israeli military has inflicted on Palestinian civilians including children.
On the phone with his deputy chief of staff, Jonathan Finer, Kerry was heard saying
“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation. It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation. We’ve got to get over there. Thank you, John. I think, John, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.”
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