Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Canada to strengthen sanctions on Russia

Canada is ready to level more sanctions against Russia in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Eastern Ukraine, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says.

U.S. presents 'powerful' evidence that Russia supplied weaponry used to shoot down jet

An armed pro-Russian separatist waves back reporters at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine on Monday. The international community called on the rebels to leave the scene immediately so investigators can begin piecing together how the plane went down. (Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters)

Canada is ready to level more sanctions against Russia in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Eastern Ukraine, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Monday.

Baird, speaking to reporters by teleconference from London, said new sanctions will be introduced against individuals and entities, as well as entire sectors of the Russian economy. Baird told reporters the new sanctions will be similar to those already imposed by the U.S.

While Baird didn’t directly blame Russia for downing the plane, he said it must take some responsibility.

“The Kremlin may not have pulled the trigger, but it certainly loaded the gun and put it in the murderer’s hand,” he said.

Baird also called on pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine to immediately vacate the crash site to allow international investigators the chance to look through the wreckage without fear.

"I am very, very disturbed by the reports of the careless, even callous, way in which the crash site has been treated. It's time for these pro-Russian forces to immediately withdraw from the area and let Ukrainian and international authorities get on with their investigating and forensic work."

Baird was speaking prior to a press conference by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in which he said the rebels have now agreed to grant international investigators access to the site. Razak also said the pro-Russia Ukrainian separatists had agreed to hand over the plane's two black boxes.

A total of 298 people, including one Canadian, were killed when MH17 crashed near Donetsk last week.

Obama: Burden on Putin

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama also addressed Russia's role in the MH17 crash, saying the "burden" now falls on Russian President Vladimir Putin to tell the separatists to allow a proper independent investigation to proceed. 

U.S. President Barack Obama said Russia must use its influence over the Ukrainian separatists to ensure they leave the MH17 crash site and stop tampering with the investigation. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

Obama also blasted Ukrainian rebels for removing and tampering with bodies and wreckage at the crash site.

“What exactly are they trying to hide?” Obama asked.

The U.S. president, who also spoke ahead of Razak, did not announce any new sanctions but warned Russia that it could face increasing isolation from the international community if the separatists continue to be a threat.

The U.S. has sent crash investigators to Ukraine to help study the crash, Obama added, before calling for "full, unimpeded access" to the crash site for investigators on the ground.

Earlier Monday, the Dutch prime minister said "all political, economic and financial options" are on the table if access doesn't improve to the area in Eastern Ukraine.

Mark Rutte told parliament on Monday that his government's priority is to recover and identify the bodies. Of all on board at the time of Thursday's downing of the plane,193 were Dutch.

"It is clear that Russia must use her influence on the separatists to improve the situation on the ground," Rutte said.

The train carrying the remains of many of the crash victims left the city of Torez shortly before 1 p.m. ET headed for the Eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. From there, the bodies will be flown to Amsterdam..

Dutch team wants bodies moved

Peter van Vliet of the Dutch National Forensic Investigations Team, inspected the bodies of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 victims on Monday, and said he was told they soon would be moved to a safer location. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty)

Earlier Monday, experts from the Dutch National Forensic Investigations Team had told armed separatists guarding train cars full of bodies from the downed jet that the train must be allowed to leave within hours.

The Dutch team had also pressed for rebels to seal the train cars.

In the Netherlands, Dutch prosecutors opened an investigation into MH17’s downing, on suspicion of murder, war crimes and intentionally downing an airliner, a spokesman said.

Based on the Law on International Crimes, the Netherlands can prosecute any individual who committed a war crime against a Dutch citizen. As part of the investigation, a Dutch public prosecutor is conducting an investigation in Ukraine, a spokesman said.

'Powerful' evidence

Australia, meanwhile, pressed for a UN resolution calling for uninhibited access to the rebel-controlled crash site. It also asks for the full co-operation of all countries in the region, including Russia. The UN Security Council was to vote on a resolution related to the MH17 disaster at 3 p.m. ET Monday.

Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists.- John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state

Also on Monday, a team of international experts arrived at a crisis centre serving as a base of operations for  the crash investigation in the government-controlled eastern city of Kharkiv. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the team included 23 Dutch, two Germans, two Americans, one Briton and three representatives from the Australian Embassy.

The United States presented what it called "powerful" evidence Sunday that the rebels shot down the Boeing 777 with a Russian surface-to-air missile. That evidence included video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site; imagery showing the firing; phone calls claiming credit for the strike and phone recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, right. and Dutch ambassador to Ukraine Kees Klompenhouwer paid their respect to MH17 victims in Kyiv on Monday. Dutch prosecutors have opened an investigation into the plane's downing, on suspicion of murder and war crimes. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

"A buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence ... it's powerful here," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists," he added.

The head of counterintelligence for Ukraine's SBU security service, Vitaliy Najda, said Saturday the Buk launchers came from Russia, and called on Russia to supply the names and ranks of the service personnel "who brought about the launch of the missile" so they could be questioned by investigators.

He said the rebels could not have operated the sophisticated weapon without Russian help. Nayda did not provide specific evidence for his claim.

Yatsenyuk said Monday "it is crystal clear that any Russian drunken guerrilla cannot manage this system."

With files from CBC News and Reuters