Cameron to meet families of victims of downed airliner

John Alder

Liam Sweeney

First published in News

DAVID Cameron will meet the families of British victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines plane today as officials push for far-reaching economic sanctions against Russia.

The Prime Minister will meet the families at Downing Street to express his condolences and to discuss the international response to the plane's crash in eastern Ukraine earlier this month.

It is not known exactly who Mr Cameron will meet, but two of the victims were Newcastle United fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney.

Mr Cameron, along with US president Barack Obama, German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Francois Hollande and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, are also hoping EU ambassadors can push forward towards stronger sanctions on Russia, widely seen as shouldering some of the blame for the apparent shooting down of flight MH17.

The leaders yesterday agreed to press for a final deal on far reaching economic sanctions against Moscow, targeting Russia's defence, energy and financial sectors.

A No 10 source said that they now hoped to see them move on the so-called "Tier 3" measures at today's meeting of EU ambassadors, although the source acknowledged that it would require agreement of all 28 nations.

If agreed, the measures are expected to go beyond the existing travel bans and asset freezes against individuals and hit Russia's access to European capital markets and trade in the defence sector and sensitive technologies in the energy sector.

Ukraine, backed by Britain, the US, and other Western allies, have blamed pro-Russian separatists for bringing down MH17 in a surface-to-air missile strike - a claim denied by the separatists and their allies in Moscow.

An international police team failed for a second time to reach the site of the crashed Malaysia Airlines airliner amid continued fighting in the area between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Ukrainian security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said data from the aircraft's flight data recorders showed the Boeing 777 suffered "massive explosive decompression" after it was hit by fragments he said came from a missile.

Alongside the push for tougher sanctions, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced that more than 1,300 British troops will take part in a major Nato exercise in eastern Europe in autumn.

The UK will send a full battle group to take part in Exercise Black Eagle in Poland this autumn, in the largest British commitment to the region since 2008.

Since Russia's annexation of Crimea, the UK has deployed RAF Typhoon jets to the Nato Baltic air policing mission, as well as participating in smaller-scale army exercises across Europe.

At the end of August light infantry troops from 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, will take part in the US-led Exercise Sabre Junction, which is also taking place in Poland.

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