Secretary of State John Kerry gave the most detailed account yet of the circumstantial evidence indicating that Russia provided the missiles that shot down a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine, but denied that the administration has reached a conclusion about Russia’s involvement.
Appearing on five Sunday talk shows, Kerry also complained that drunken, Russian-allied separatists in Ukraine had been “unceremoniously piling bodies onto trucks” and then removing the victims’ remains and aircraft debris from the crash site.
“What’s happening is grotesque,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Demanding that Russia exert control over its separatist allies, he complained that evidence from the crash site is now “seriously compromised."
Kerry said that intelligence as well as social media provided a trail of data linking a Russian-supplied Buk-M11 missile system to downing of the plane. The electronic record shows, he said, that a Buk had been in the precise spot from which U.S. officials believe the rocket was launched just before the crash Thursday.
U.S. agencies also have pinpointed where the missile came from because “we know the trajectory,” Kerry said.
“There’s a buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence,” he said.
Russia had recently sent a caravan of 150 vehicles and weapon systems -- including missile launchers, artillery and tanks -- into the separatist-held part of eastern Ukraine, he said. And the Russian military was providing training to separatist militias on the sophisticated arms, he said.
Even so, Kerry deflected questions about whether the administration would punish Moscow for its role in the tragedy. He said that while the administration would consider more penalties, it was looking to Europe to abandon its reluctance to get tough with the Russians.
The Netherlands, which accounted for 189 of the 298 people aboard the downed plane, might lead Europe toward a more aggressive approach, he said.
Kerry also disclosed that he is about to leave Washington for Egypt to try to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. He defended Israel’s right to defend itself, yet denied on CNN that the administration was “comfortable” with Israel’s military campaign. Hundreds of Palestinians, including many children, have died in the fighting.
He said the administration has asked Israel to avoid civilian casualties “and Israel has said we will try to reduce whatever we can with respect to civilian involvement.”
Once the hostilities have stopped, it will again be time to try to work out a peace settlement between the sides, he said.