British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves Downing Street for Parliament on July 21 in London. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images)
LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday urged the EU to hit Russia with tougher sanctions over the downing of flight MH17, calling for a ban on military sales and criticizing France’s deal to build two warships for Moscow.
He called for wider measures targeting whole sectors of the Russian economy if President Vladimir Putin does not press Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin separatists to allow access to the crash site and reduce Moscow’s support for the rebels.
European Union foreign ministers meet on Tuesday to decide whether to broaden the current measures against Russia from so-called second tier sanctions, which include travel bans and asset freezes on figures linked to the unrest in Ukraine.
“We cannot go on doing business as usual with a country when it’s behaving in this way,” Cameron said in a statement to parliament on the crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight in which 298 people died.
“I think it is time to start to go into the tier three sanctions, so for instance future military sales I don’t think should be going ahead from any country in Europe,” he said, adding that Britain had already halted them to Russia.
Britain has long been been pushing for wider third-tier sectoral sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.
But it views Germany, with its dependence on Russian energy supplies, and France with its Mistral warship deal worth €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) as dragging their feet.
“Frankly in this country it would be unthinkable to fulfill an order like the one outstanding that the French have,” Cameron said.
France has so far refused to cancel the deal for the two warships.
Cameron said the EU should also consider sanctions against airlines and banks connected with Crimea, and extending the individual sanctions to “cronies and oligarchs” in Putin’s circle.
The British premier said the MH17 disaster, in which 10 Britons were among the victims, was a “defining moment” for Russia.
“President Putin faces a clear choice in how he decides to respond to this appalling tragedy. I hope he will use this moment to find a path out of this festering and dangerous crisis by ending Russia’s support for the separatists,” he said.
Cameron said there was evidence that Moscow had in the past month been training Ukrainian separatist rebels at a camp in southwest Russia “including training on air defense systems.”
It had also been sending heavy weapons across the border, he said.
“The picture is becoming clearer and the weight of evidence is pointing in one direction: MH17 was shot down by an SA11 missile fired by separatists,” said Cameron.