MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the Ukrainian government for the crash of a Malaysian Airlines jet that was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 295 people on board.
The government in Kiev is responsible for the fighting in eastern Ukraine between government troops and pro-Russian rebel forces which caused the downing of the civilian aircraft, Putin said at a cabinet meeting last night, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin. Putin has repeatedly denied Russian involvement in the fighting in Ukraine.
Mr Putin said Ukraine bore responsibility for the downing of a passenger plane, saying it would not have happened if Kiev had not resumed a military campaign against separatists.
"I want to point out that this tragedy wouldn't have happened if there was peace in this land, or at least if fighting hadn't resumed in the southeast of Ukraine," Putin said. "And undoubtedly, the state on whose territory this happened is responsible for this awful tragedy."
The government in Kiev blamed the attack on pro-Russian rebels. The separatists denied the accusation. Ukraine's state security service said it intercepted phone conversations among militants discussing the missile strike, which knocked Flight 17 from the sky near the eastern town of Torez, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Russian border. The Boeing Co. 777 was en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.
The plane crashed in the main battleground of Ukraine's civil war, threatening to further raise tensions just days after the U.S. said the rebels are getting weapons from Russia and tightened sanctions against the country.
Mr Putin said he asked the relevant government agencies to help investigate the plane disaster.
"We will do everything — everything — within our power, at least, so that an objective picture of what happened is available to our public and the public of Ukraine and the world," Putin said, according to the transcript.
"Such things are absolutely unacceptable."