The European Union inched towards introducing economic sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s Russian “cronies” over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 yesterday, as the bodies of the dead were finally released by Ukrainian separatist rebels.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels agreed “concrete proposals” to draw up a list of the Russian president’s associates who would be subject to punitive measures, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
The first names will be considered at a meeting tomorrow, where ministers will also look at broader sanctions such as arms embargoes and access to capital and hi-tech goods.
The announcement came after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that a train carrying some of the 298 passengers and crew killed on Thursday - which included 10 Britons - had arrived in the Ukrainian government-controlled city of Kharkiv.
The first bodies are due to be repatriated by air to the Netherlands today, he said.
Interpol said its team had started preliminary attempts to identify passengers from MH17, which was apparently shot down by Russia-backed separatists as it flew from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to Kuala Lumpur.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is to retrieve data from the flight recorders for “international analysis” after a request from the Dutch government.
Speaking after the meeting of EU ministers, Mr Hammond said: “What I have heard today is a clear political commitment by the foreign ministers in response to this outrage to act.
“I would expect to see that process now moving forward at pace unless the Russians deliver on all the demands we have made.
“The cronies of Mr Putin and his clique in the Kremlin are the people who have to bear the pressure because it is only them feeling the pressure that will in turn put pressure on the Russian government.
“If the financial interests of the group around the leadership are affected the leadership will know about it.”