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MH17 Disaster Prompts Heartfelt Apology From Russian Newspaper Novaya Gazeta

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One of Russia's leading newspapers has dedicated its front page to a moving apology to the Dutch people for the downing of MH17.

The full page picture on today's Novaya Gazeta is captioned: 'Vergeef ons, Nederland' - 'Forgive us, Netherlands' in Dutch, with the Russia translation below.

It comes as Russia stepped up its denials that it is to blame for the Boeing 777 crash, which was caused missile strike as the Malaysia Airlines plane flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

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The front page of Novaya Gazeta

The sombre page, edged in black, shows the memorial procession of black hearses carrying the bodies of some of the near 200 Dutch people killed in the tragedy in eastern Ukraine last week, widely believed to have been caused by pro-Russia Ukrainian rebels, armed by Moscow.

Novaya Gazeta is a liberal opposition paper, known for its anti-Putin stance and investigative journalism. Set up by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev using money from his Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, four of the organisation's journalists have been murdered since 2001.

The most famous was journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who wrote high-profile criticism of Russia's actions in Chechnya. Politkovskaya was shot and killed at her apartment in 2006, and though five men were found guilty of her murder, the identity of those who ordered her death has never been revealed.

Despite the defiant rhetoric from local politicians, many Russians have left tributes in the past days outside the Dutch and Malaysian embassies, with flowers and toys and messages saying 'forgive us'. One wrote: "We are afraid, we are ashamed, we are in mourning."

On Wednesday, the coffins of passengers' remains were brought to Eindhoven. Members of the Dutch royal family and the country's political leadership looked on as the bodies were then transported to a Dutch military base where forensic investigators begin work to put names to the bodies. Thousands of people came out to pay their respects, lining long parts of the route the hearses traveled.

Russia's ambassador to London Alexander Yakovenko said claims by Kiev and Washington that Moscow and the pro-Moscow separatists were behind the downing of the plane did not "hold water".

Speaking at a news conference at the Russian embassy, he warned that any attempt by the West to impose further sanctions against Putin would be seen in Moscow as evidence of a "cover-up".

Ukrainian Rebels Can't Get Their Story Straight About What Happened To Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

"Russia doesn't supply weapons to local de facto (separatist) authorities in eastern Ukraine. No evidence whatsoever has been presented that the Russian government has been doing this," he told reporters.

"Needless to say, we will consider any further sanctions against us and the measures of political pressure as the clear evidence that our Western partners cannot substantiate their allegations and (are) eager to engage in a cover-up of the true causes of the MH17 tragedy."

In comments apparently designed to goad Western governments and their Ukrainian allies, Yakovenko said the case against Russia and the separatists had been largely built on photographs and messages from social media sites which had since "proved to be forgeries".

He accused the government in Kiev of trying to show that Moscow had been supplying the rebels with "a powerful air defence system" ahead of talks by EU ministers to discuss further sanctions.

"Too much evidence directs to explaining the tragedy as something that was aimed at framing up Russia on the eve of the EU ministerial that went terribly wrong," he said.

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People lay flowers in front of the Dutch Embassy in Moscow

While he insisted that Russia was not trying to prejudge the outcome of an international investigation into the causes of the crash, he said Moscow's own evidence suggested that there were Ukrainian missile systems in the area at the time.

"As proved by the Russian military's data, the Ukrainian forces moved two of their systems closer to the position of the local authorities and after the crash moved them back. Kiev cannot refute this evidence," he said.
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"Ukraine is full of weapons. Some of the weapons were captured from the Ukrainian army. This is the fact of the civil war. But Russia has nothing to do with that. To make a connection with Russia (is) unacceptable," he said.

He warned proposals for far-reaching economic sanctions backed by Britain and the US would be "illegal, unreasonable and counter-productive" and could precipitate a new phase in the global financial crisis.

"In my view the sectoral sanctions against Russia will trigger a long anticipated endgame of the present global crisis," he said.

Ukraine's already fragile political state was plunged into further confusion by the resignation of prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his government after he lost the support of two coalition partners.

It opens the way for fresh elections in the troubled country, where pro-Russian forces control parts of the east.

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