Malaysia plane crash: France threatens Russia with ‘consequences’

France warned Russia on Sunday there would be “consequences” if Moscow did not put pressure on pro-Kremlin separatists in Ukraine to allow unfettered access to the crash site of flight MH17.

“If Russia does not immediately take the necessary measures, consequences will be drawn by the European Union at the Foreign Affairs Council, which takes place on Tuesday,” the French presidency said in a statement after the leaders of France, Germany and Britain held a conference call. 

According to the statement, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and David Cameron agreed to call on their Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to pressure the rebels into allowing rescuers and investigators “free and total access to the site of the MH17 flight disaster to accomplish their mission”. 

“Russia must understand that resolving the Ukrainian crisis is more than ever an imperative after this tragedy, which has outraged the entire world.” The Malaysia Airlines jet is believed to have been shot down by a surface-to-air missile on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board.

Meanwhile, an Air India plane flying less than 25 kilometres from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 when it was downed had tried to make contact with the pilots, a newspaper said Sunday.

The Times of India said Ukrainian air traffic controllers had asked the Air India pilots to try and establish contact with the Malaysia Airlines jet, which had stopped responding to its calls. 

No response
The Air India plane, which was flying from Delhi to Birmingham and was less than 25 kilometres from Malaysia MH17, received no response, according to the paper. “The AI Dreamliner was less than 25km from the Malaysian aircraft when the latter was hit by a missile,” an unidentified airline source told the newspaper. 

“When the pilots learned of the cause of the crash later, they were stunned.” According to the newspaper, it is standard practice for air traffic controllers to ask pilots of aircraft in the vicinity to get in touch with pilots who have stopped responding. 

The newspaper also said that minutes before the crash, the Air India pilots heard air traffic controllers give the Malaysian plane a “direct routing”. This allows a plane to fly straight rather than tracking from one navigation point to another, and saves time and fuel. 

An Air India spokesman declined to comment on the report. The report comes despite a denial by India’s civil aviation ministry last week that the Air India plane was close to the Malaysian jet, which was cut down over Ukraine’s troubled eastern region on Thursday. Ukraine accuses Moscow of helping pro-Russian rebels to shoot down the Malaysian plane, killing 298 people. – AFP

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