Prime Minister David Cameron has told Vladimir Putin he must ensure access to the MH17 crash site so victims of the disaster can hold proper funerals for their loved ones.
The Prime Minister spoke to the Russian president for the first time since MH17 was brought down, apparently by pro-Moscow rebels, in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people on board, including Blackpool man Glenn Thomas, 49.
Mr Cameron, who was left frustrated by Mr Putin’s refusal to speak to him until today, said he had “made clear” his demands in the phone call which came as the European Union looked set to impose tougher sanctions on Russia over its support for rebels in Ukraine.
The Prime Minister said: “I’ve just spoken to president Putin. I made clear he must ensure access to the crash site so the victims can have proper funerals.”
Rebels in eastern Ukraine took control of the bodies recovered from the downed Malaysia Airlines aeroplane.
Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Borodai said the bodies recovered from the crash site would remain in four refrigerated train cars in the rebel-held town of Torez, nine miles from the crash site, until the arrival of an international aviation delegation.
A No 10 spokeswoman said Mr Cameron had made clear to Mr Putin that the shooting down of MH17 was “totally unacceptable” and Russia’s failure to cease support for the separatists had “contributed to an appalling tragedy”.
Mr Cameron told the president that the “world was now watching” and he “must change course and work to bring stability to eastern Ukraine”, the spokeswoman said.
She said: “The Prime Minister spoke to president Putin this evening and made clear that the shooting down of MH17 was totally unacceptable.
“The evidence suggested that pro-Russian separatists were responsible and the Prime Minister made clear that if Russia wants to put the blame elsewhere they would need to present compelling and credible evidence.
“The PM made clear that our priority is to get experts to the crash site so they can recover and repatriate the victims and collect any evidence necessary for the investigation.
“The PM emphasised that the families of 298 individuals need to know that everything is being done to make this happen and called on president Putin to use his influence on the pro-Russian separatists to ensure this happens. The delay and restrictions so far were completely unacceptable and indefensible.
“The PM said that the tragedy had brought into sharp focus the consequences of destabilisation in eastern Ukraine.
“The G7 and EU had repeatedly called on president Putin to cease support for the separatists and to work with the rest of the world to find a peaceful resolution. Russia’s failure to do so had contributed to an appalling tragedy.”