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Ukraine

Pressure grows on Russia to reduce tensions in Ukraine

There is growing international pressure on Moscow to use its influence on pro-Russian separatists following the shooting down of flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine. A reduction of tension in Ukraine is being urged.

MH17 crash site

Two days after flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine with the loss of all 298 people on board, the Ukrainian government has accused both Russia and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine of destroying evidence to cover up their alleged guilt in the shooting down of the Boeing 777 airliner.

The government in Kyiv said it had "compelling evidence"a Russian SA-11 radar-guided missile battery was brought across the border from Russia and manned by three Russian citizens. The Ukraine government said the truck-mounted system was driven back over the border after the attack.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, calling for his cooperation.

Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper: "Moscow may have a last chance now to show that it really is seriously interested in a solution."

"Now is the moment for everyone to stop and think to themselves what might happen if we don't stop the escalation," Steinmeier said.

Observers from Europe's OSCE security agency visited part of the crash site again on Saturday but were hampered once again by armed men identifying themselves as being from the self-declared People's Republic of Donetsk.

Half of the victims on the plane were Dutch citizens. Prime Minister Mark Rutte also spoke with Putin on Saturday. Afterwards Rutte said "He has one last chance to show he means to help."

Ten victims on the plane were from Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron joined with Rutte on calling on the European Union to review its ties with Russia, raising the possibility of further sanctions against Moscow. The EU would need to "reconsider its approach to Russia in light of evidence that pro-Russian separatists brought down the plane," Cameron's Downing Street office said on Saturday.

Kerry and Lavrov

Also on Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Their offices reported afterwards the two men had agreed to try and get both sides in Ukraine to reach a consensus on peace.The State Department said Kerry urged Russia to take "immediate and clear actions to reduce tensions in Ukraine."

Such actions would be to "call on pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to lay down arms, release all hostages and engage in a political dialogue toward peace with the Ukrainian government; to halt the flow of weapons and fighters into eastern Ukraine; and to allow OSCE observers to help secure the border," the State Department said.

jm/av (Reuters, AFP)

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