Following the downing of flight MH17 over rebel held Eastern Ukraine last week, relations between the West and Russia became more strained as each side quickly attempted to apportion blame and responsibility for the tragic incident.
Experts suggest that the plane, flying at 32,000ft was shot down using a Russian made BUK missile system, a system in the armouries of both the Ukrainian government and until recently the rebels. The US has claimed it detected the missile launch and location of the missile system within rebel held territory via satellite.
Russia quickly came under criticism for potentially supplying and training the rebels with heavy weaponry such as the BUK systems. As the Ukrainian government was able to account for all 60 of their BUKs as well as missiles, the finger quickly pointed to Russia as the source of rebel controlled BUK systems.
The downing of the plane, in which 298 passengers lost their lives, involved citizens from Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Belgium, UK, France, Germany and Canada. The huge loss of innocent lives from across the world has soured relations with Russia and solidified a will in the West to bring an end to the conflict in Ukraine.
David Cameron called for tougher sanctions on Russia and criticised the lack of pressure the Russians were placing on the rebels as they appeared to tamper and disrupt the wreckage while hindering efforts for an international team of monitors to inspect the crash site. Cameron also called for an EU wide weapons export ban to Russia, which would see countries such as France having to cancel lucrative deals to build Russian warships.
Despite a ban on weapon export licences to the Russian Military since March, the UK has been accused of continuing to export arms to Russia, after a list of 200 weapons export licences revealed the UK continued to sell ‘commercial weapon components’ to Russia, including missile components.
Foreign affairs ministers from across Europe met on Tuesday to discuss EU wide sanctions against Russia with various members calling for a toughening up of existing sanctions, though larger players such as France and Germany warned against sector wide sanctions.
The EU commission is currently drawing up a list of potential new sanctions ranging from expanding previous restrictions against senior Moscow figures to more serious ‘phase 3’ sanctions which would see entire sections of the Russian economy cut off from EU markets. President Obama has also urged the EU to impose more sanctions, while Secretary of State John Kerry said that the downing of Flight MH17 by pro-Russian rebels, supplied by Russia has to be a wakeup call to members of the EU who are still playing catch up to US sanctions on Russia.