Ukraine Mourns Crash Victims, Kerry Contacts Moscow and Kyiv

This article appeared on the Voice of America website June 15. Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Washington ― Ukraine’s president has declared Sunday a national day of mourning, following the downing of a military transport plane by pro-Russian separatists that killed all 49 people on the aircraft.

President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to punish those responsible. He said in a statement the perpetrators will meet with “an adequate response.”

After his comments, a large crowd of protesters pelted the Russian embassy in Kyiv with bricks, stones and eggs, and overturned luxury cars parked just outside the complex. Russian officials later condemned the failure of action by Ukrainian police outside the embassy, calling it a violation of Ukraine’s international obligations.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said 40 service members and nine crew members were killed early Saturday when rebels shot down the Ukrainian Air Force plane.

The Defense Ministry said the Ilyushin-76 aircraft was about to land at the Luhansk airport when separatists downed it with a large-caliber machine gun.

Surveillance video shows a distant explosion near the ground that is believed to be from the plane.

Ukrainian protesters demonstrate outside the Russian Embassy during a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 14.

The prosecutor’s office said a criminal investigation has been opened under anti-terrorism laws.

Also Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to make clear Moscow’s commitment to ending the flow of Russian weapons and tanks across the border into Ukraine.

Kerry also spoke by phone Saturday with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk about an attack by protesters on the Russian embassy in Kyiv. Footage of the incident shows people throwing eggs and paint at the embassy building and damaging and overturning cars while chanting anti-Russia slogans. Kerry called on Ukraine to fulfill its diplomatic obligations and provide “adequate security” for the embassy.

Earlier in the day, NATO released photos that it says show recent Russian tank movements near the Ukrainian border, a day after the U.S. State Department said Russia has sent tanks and other heavy weapons to separatists in Ukraine.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Friday a convoy of three T-64 tanks, several rocket launchers, and other military vehicles crossed the border near the Ukrainian town of Snizhne in the last three days. She called the move “unacceptable.”

Earlier Friday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that if reports of “pro-Russian armed gangs” acquiring heavy weapons from Russia were confirmed, it would mark “a serious escalation” of the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March, has repeatedly said it would not make further intrusions into Ukrainian territory.

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