Putin: No one should use Flight 17 tragedy 'to pursue political goals'

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that no one should use the MH17 plane crash “to pursue their own political goals.”

He made the comment in a brief statement released by the Kremlin. Putin said Russia has called repeatedly on all parties involved in the conflict in Ukraine to stop fighting and initiate negotiations immediately. 

Putin said the tragedy could have been avoided if Ukraine hadn’t resumed its military operations targeting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in late June. 

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“At the same time, no one should and no one has the right to use this tragedy to pursue their own political goals. Rather than dividing us, tragedies of this sort should bring people together,” he said.

Putin said it’s “essential” that the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization be able to work at the crash site and conduct an investigation.   

“We must do everything possible to ensure their complete and guaranteed safety and provide them with the humanitarian corridors they need for their work,” Putin said. “For its part, Russia will do everything within its power to move the conflict in eastern Ukraine from the military phase we see today to the negotiating phase, with the parties using peaceful and diplomatic means alone.”

Since the crash Thursday, which left nearly 300 people dead, Putin has blamed Ukraine for the crash. 

Reports over the weekend suggested pro-Russian rebels have been tampering with the crash site. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in fact, said Monday that a majority of the bodies were being kept on refrigerated train cars.

Putin’s statement comes the same day the U.N. Security Council is expected to vote on a resolution, offered by Australia, demanding international access to the crash site.

Late Sunday, President Obama expressed in a phone call to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott that an investigation of the crash must be conducted.

European leaders are scheduled to meet Tuesday about imposing tougher economic sanctions against Russia.