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RUSSIA

Spain calls for answers on Malaysian jet crash

UPDATED The Spanish prime minister said on Friday "the world has a right to know" who fired the missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines plane in pro-Russian separatist territory in eastern Ukraine.

Spain calls for answers on Malaysian jet crash
The wreckage of the flight near Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

The world has a right to know who carried out this "barbaric act", said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

"The world has a right to know what has happened and everybody will have to do everything possible to make sure that a savage act like this doesn't happen again," he said after a cabinet meeting, also attended by Spain's new king Felipe.

Rajoy's words came after Spain's foreign ministry expressed its condolences and said it shared the pain of families and loved ones of the 298 victims.

"Spain hopes an investigation can explain the circumstances of the accident as quickly as possible," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also urged the parties involved to participate fully in the investigation.

Spain's national flagship carrier Iberia also tweeted its support for the victims and for staff at Malaysian Airlines, a fellow member of the oneworld air alliance.

Barcelona-based Vueling airlines has said it will divert flights from the area where the plane crashed.

The Boeing 777, travelling from Amsterdam Schiphol to Kuala Lumpur, was blown out of the sky at 10,000 metres, by what US officials claim was a Russian-made surface to air missile.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has blamed the Ukrainian government, saying the tragedy would not have happened if it had not escalated the war in eastern Ukraine, while the Kiev government blamed the pro-Russian rebels for shooting down the plane.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko described the crash of flight MH17 as a "terrorist act".

US vice president Joe Biden, meanwhile, described the plane as being "blown out of the sky".

The plane was also carrying 154 Dutch citizens, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, nine Britons, four Belgians, three Filipinos and a Canadian.

Philippe Migault, an expert on Ukraine from the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris doubts European leaders will turn up the heat on Putin because there are too many economic interests at stake.
 
“France like other European countries will condemn the incident and demand an inquiry as well as an end to fighting in the region, but they won’t go much further,” Migault told The Local. “I don’t think we will see any major change.”
 
“There are just too many interests at stake. The Economic interests between the EU and Russia are just too great. We have seen the USA increase sanctions against Russia, but they have less at stake economically than countries like France and Germany.”

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UKRAINE

Spain backtracks and will send weapons to ‘Ukraine resistance’

Spain will supply "offensive military hardware" to Ukraine following Russia's invasion of its pro-Western neighbour, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told parliament on Wednesday, only two days after he'd ruled out that Spain would send weapons to Ukraine separately from the EU.

Spain backtracks and will send weapons to 'Ukraine resistance'

“I want to announce to you that Spain will also deliver offensive military hardware to the Ukrainian resistance,” Sánchez said.

Until now, Spain’s Prime Minister stressed he would send military support only as part of a wider package unveiled by the European Union on Sunday, in which Brussels agreed to unblock €450 million ($500 million) for member states to buy arms for Ukraine.

Before Sánchez’s announcement, Spain was left as the only large EU country that was not going to send weapons to Ukrainian forces individually in the form of a bilateral agreement.

Members of governing coalition party Unidas Podemos have criticised that the EU is contributing weaponry to the conflict, which may explain why Sánchez was dragging his feet on the matter.

But the Spanish government has finally backtracked and will send “offensive military hardware” to the Ukrainian resistance.

In an interview on Wednesday with Antena3 television, Defence Minister Margarita Robles said that “in this first shipment that will go aboard two planes, we expect to send 1,370 anti-tank grenade launchers, 700,000 rifle and machine-gun rounds, and light machine guns”. 

The only EU nations that won’t send weapons directly to Ukraine are currently Ireland, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Malta and Cyprus.

Sánchez said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine “is a brutal attempt to stop the construction of a European space based on values radically opposed to the authoritarianism he represents”.

The announcement comes a day after Spain said it would send 150 additional troops to Latvia as part of a wider Nato build-up in the Baltic region.

READ MORE: Spain to take in Ukrainian refugees and send troops to Latvia

The country already has 350 troops in the alliance’s enhanced forward presence battlegroup in Latvia.

The United States, Canada and more than a dozen European countries have so far responded to Ukrainian appeals for military equipment.

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