WASHINGTON – Moscow has threatened to end security arrangements with the United States and the European Union should they impose additional sanctions as a result of what they claims is Russian “complicity” in aiding the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine.
In a strong statement, the Russian foreign ministry accused White House press secretary Josh Ernest of “slander” when he characterized the downing of MH-17 as “Russian complicity.”
“Judging by the relentless slander campaign against Russia organized by the American administration, they are being more and more guided by blatant lies when pursuing their foreign policy,” the foreign ministry said.
The ministry said that intentions to extend the list of Russian officials and organizations affected by travel bans and the freezing of assets could bring an end to cooperation on such security issues as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and organized crime.
Claiming that such a development “would be greeted enthusiastically by international terrorists,” the ministry said that the EU countries “have set a course for complete termination of interaction with Russia in international and regional security issues.”
The EU last week announced further sanctions on the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, and the chief of the department overseeing international operations and intelligence, as well as four members of the Russian national security council already on the list.
The U.S. and EU accuse Russia of aiding pro-Russian separatists in bringing down MH-17, which killed all 298 people on board. They suspect a Russian-supplied missile was fired with Russian assistance.
Western sources also cite Russian involvement in the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, which until recently was part of Ukraine but with a heavy pro-Russian population. They also pointed to the renewed buildup of Russian troops, said to number more than 10,000, along the Russian-Ukraine border.
The Kremlin has vehemently denied allegations it had any involvement in the downing of the aircraft and cite other scenarios that accuse the Ukrainian government in Kiev.
As for the origin of the Ukrainian crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin blames the West and in particular the U.S. for initially backing rebels that violently ousted the pro-Russian but democratically-elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych, who remains in exile in Moscow.
From that ouster, an interim government was formed, and it in recent weeks has signed an agreement to join the EU, a development Yanukovych initially had rejected in favor of Moscow’s Eurasia Union. That action resulted in the demonstrations that led to his ouster.
Pro-Russian separatists continue to communicate closely with Russian military personnel, as WND recently reported, as the Kiev government seeks to recapture the two eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, which are pro-Russian.
The Ukrainian military now is attempting to surround the cities, which are close to the Russian border, and sever transport and communications between the two locations. The intent is to cut off continued logistical supply lines that originate in Russia and supply both locations.
As the Ukrainian military moves closer to its eastern border with Russia, however, more resistance is likely along with the prospect of direct Russian military assistance.
The Pentagon already has released video said to be showing the multiple firing of Grad rockets from the Russian side of the border into Ukraine. The claim could not be independently verified.
Regional analysts say, however, that Moscow has no intention of backing down on its support for the pro-Russian Ukrainians despite added Western military advisers and intelligence, particularly from the U.S., being provided to the Ukrainian government.
Nevertheless, Moscow is expected to maintain its role in asserting its influence in Ukraine to develop a buffer against the West and intends to take advantage of potential fissures which appear to be developing in the Kiev government.
Moscow also maintains a stranglehold not only on Ukraine but Europe itself through the supply of natural gas on which Europe is highly dependent. Ukraine owes Moscow billions of dollars in back payments for the natural gas it has received.
As an added measure, Russia also could threaten to cut off Ukraine’s supply which, in turn, will have an impact on the flow of natural gas to Europe.
Future sanctions from Europe would add to that prospect, in addition to cutting off any further security ties.