The Cable

Putin Under Pressure to Make Separatists Give Up Crash Site

World leaders expressed disgust at the treatment of the Malaysia Airlines crash site by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and increased their demands that Russian President Vladimir Putin do more to rein them in.

Anger grew over the weekend as reports surfaced that separatists had barred international inspectors from taking bodies from the site and had even looted some of the luggage strewn across a broad swath of land near the site where the plane went down. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry summed up the frustration Sunday morning.

"Here's what's currently bothering everybody: Drunken separatists have been piling bodies into trucks and removing them from the site," Kerry said Sunday morning on CBS's Face the Nation.

Kerry said the armed groups were limiting international access to the site, hampering the recovery and investigation efforts.

"We only had 75 minutes of access to the site on Friday, three hours of access yesterday, despite Mr. Putin and Russia saying they were going to make every effort to make sure that there would be a full and fair investigation," Kerry said.

Kerry's comments added to a growing chorus of fury about the treatment of the remains and the evidence at the crash site.

"I was shocked at the pictures of utterly disrespectful behavior at this tragic spot. It's revolting," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Saturday, according to Reuters. Out of the 298 people killed in the crash of MH17, 193 were Dutch citizens.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama's administration said it had increasingly strong evidence to bolster its case that the separatists shot down the plane with a Russian missile. The U.S. Embassy in Kiev released a statement saying the United States had confirmed the authenticity of audio released by the Ukrainian government of separatists discussing the downing of the civilian plane.

"We know that the Russians have armed the separatists, trained the separatists, support the separatists, and have to date not publicly called on the separatists to stand down or be part of the solution," Kerry said.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in the Sunday Times that if Ukrainian separatists shot down the plane, Russia would be responsible.

"If this is the case then we must be clear what it means: this is a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them," he wrote.

Kerry and European Union leaders called for Putin to make the separatists give up control of the site or face being further shut out by the West and being hit by new economic sanctions. They didn't specify whether they would start targeting whole sectors of the Russian economy or stick with the current targeted sanctioning of individuals and companies, but Cameron said Europe should be bolder. "We sometimes behave as if we need Russia more than Russia needs us," he said.

"Russia risks becoming a pariah state if it does not behave properly," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Sky television.

Kerry said that there are other sanctions the United States could put in place, and the EU is expected to unveil new targets when European foreign ministers meet Tuesday in Brussels. Still, it remains unclear what steps the West will be willing to take that would be able to effectively change Moscow's course. Russia's economy has suffered some damage from the earlier measures, but not as much as many Western officials had hoped.

"Our hope is that President Putin will put the actions behind his words so that we can join together in order to help end this separatist effort, bring them into the politics of Ukraine, and try to help Ukraine to be able to move forward," Kerry said.

Photo by BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

The Cable

Death Toll Spikes in Gaza With No End in Sight

Secretary of State John Kerry called on Hamas to put down arms to stop the ground war in Gaza, but in a candid moment seemed frustrated that Israel's offensive was causing so many civilian deaths.

In a round of Sunday morning interviews, Kerry focused on what Hamas should do to put an end to the nearly two-week long conflict that killed at least 60 more Palestinians Sunday. At least 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting Sunday, bringing the military's death toll so far to 18.

The intensity of the combat in Gaza -- and he growing civilian death toll -- brought the first significant criticism of Israel by Arab governments, who had surprised and angered many Palestinians because of their relative silence on the combat. On Sunday, though, the head of the Arab League blasted the Israeli offensive as "war crime" and a "dangerous escalation."

The reticence stems from the fact that regional leaders -- particularly in Egypt -- quietly share Israel's hatred of Hamas and hope to see the group's military capabilities significantly degraded.

In his comments on the Sunday shows, Kerry indicated that Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, deserved the bulk of the blame for its barrages of rockets into Israel and for rejecting an Egyptian cease-fire offer to the two sides.

"What they need to do is stop rocketing Israel and accept the ceasefire," Kerry said on ABC's "This Week."

"Hamas has to understand, you can't just sit there and claim a moral rectitude or the higher ground while you're busy rocketing people and capturing people and digging tunnels to attack them and this has to stop," Kerry said.

But in a phone conversation, caught on tape by Fox News before an interview, Kerry seemed to criticize Israel's operation for hitting civilians in what was supposed to be a targeted strike to close down tunnels that Hamas fighters burrowed into Israel. More than 400 Palestinians have died in the fighting, the majority civilians.

"It's a hell of a pinpoint operation," Kerry said, on a cell phone call, apparently unaware that his microphone was already on. When confronted by Fox host Chris Wallace, Kerry didn't back away from his comments.

"It's tough to have these kind of operations. I reacted, obviously, in a way that anybody does with respect to young children and civilians," Kerry said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also speaking on "This Week," said that his government warned Palestinian civilians to leave Gaza with leaflets, phone calls and text messages, but Hamas urged them to stay.

"We regret any civilian deaths but those lay entirely at Hamas' door," Netanyahu said.

Kerry said the Obama administration is considering what to do next, and whether or not he should go to the Middle East to try to help broker a ceasefire.

"We have been working very closely with all of the parties and in touch with them and if the president deems that this is the moment that is appropriate, we will go immediately," Kerry said on CBS's "Face the Nation."