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Evidence of Russia’s role in downed jet is mounting, Kerry says

John F. Kerry spoke on five network news programs.EPA/file

By Noah Bierman

Globe Staff

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John F. Kerry, appearing exhausted and frustrated on Sunday morning television after one of the most difficult weeks in his tenure, lashed out at Russians and their allies in Ukraine for compromising the investigation of the downed Malaysian Airlines jetliner.

“Drunken separatist soldiers are pulling bodies into trucks unceremoniously,” Kerry said on “Fox News Sunday.’’ “We need full access, and this is a moment of truth for Russia.”

Kerry said evidence is stacking up that Russia armed and trained separatists and that separatists bragged about shooting down the plane on social media, before removing those posts when they realized it was a passenger plane.

In response to reports that separatists had removed the plane’s flight data recorder along with bodies, Kerry used strong language and complained that American investigators were given little time on the crash site. The secretary of state referred directly to pledges made by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

“What’s happening is really grotesque and it is contrary to everything that President Putin and Russia said they would do,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.’’

Kerry spoke about three simultaneous crises — the downed passenger plane over Ukraine, the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, and the expiration of the deadline for Iran to abandon its nuclear program.

Kerry said the investigation of the Malaysian crash is not yet finished but he tried to increase pressure on Russia for arming and training the Ukraine separatists. He pointed to evidence that he said showed Russia sent recent convoys of tanks and artillery and trained separatists who had previously shot down two transport planes.

“It basically, it’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists,” Kerry said on CNN’s “State of the Union.’’

“We know with confidence, with confidence, that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point in time, so it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists,’’ Kerry said. “And that’s why President Obama and the international community are demanding a full-fledged investigation, which Russia said they would do.”

But Kerry defended the US response as sufficiently aggressive, saying new sanctions had been imposed the day before the airline was shot down. He said Europe, which has far greater trade ties with Russia, needs to play a greater role and that the United States, while in discussions with allies, has put everything on the table except American troops.

Kerry, who was interviewed Sunday on five network news programs, said a full and impartial investigation into the crash is needed and Russia must help ensure that it is not hampered by separatists.

He said that it was known earlier that pro-Russia rebels had an SA-11 antiaircraft unit supplied by Russia.

In an appearance on the CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Kerry referred to a video that Ukrainian officials have made public showing an SA-11 unit heading back to Russia after the downing of the plane “with at least one of its missiles missing.’’

“So there’s enormous amount of evidence, even more evidence than I just documented, that points to the involvement of Russia in providing these systems, training the people on them,” Kerry said.

In separate television interviews Sunday, two ranking members of Congress said Russia should take responsibility for the air crash.

“I think the nexus between Russia and the separatists has been established very clearly,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said on CNN. “So the issue is, where is Putin? And I would say, ‘Putin, you have to man up and admit responsibility.’

“I think the world has to rise up and say, ‘We’ve had enough of this.’ I think Europe has to come together. I think Germany in particular has to lead. I think we have to continue with sanctions,” Feinstein added.

Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, said, “I think Putin is responsible and complicit for what has happened.”

Kerry also defended his decision last week to extend talks with Iran for an additional four months, despite the arrival Sunday of a six-month deadline set by the United States.

“They’re reducing their enrichment” of uranium, Kerry said. “This is the first time in 10 years under this current deal that Iran’s nuclear program is rolling back.”

Noah Bierman can be reached at