'Illegal' Western sanctions point to cover-up: Russian envoy

LONDON (AFP) - Russia's ambassador to Britain said on Thursday that Western sanctions over Ukraine are illegal and further measures would indicate a cover-up over the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

Mr Alexander Yakovenko told a news conference in London that the Kremlin was not responsible for supplying weapons to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine accused of downing the airliner.

"The Western sanctions against Russia, first of all we believe they are illegal, unreasonable and counterproductive," Mr Yakovenko told reporters.

"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 added.

"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."

The European Union was set on Thursday to add to its sanctions list 15 Ukrainian and Russian individuals and 18 entities over their role in the Ukraine crisis, under pressure from the United States to toughen its stance against Moscow.

Both Washington and Brussels have so far held back from sanctions targeting whole sectors of the Russian economy, which Mr Yakovenko said could have serious consequences.

"In my view the sectoral sanctions against Russia will trigger a long-anticipated end-game of the present global crisis," he warned.

The Russian envoy urged Western nations to wait for the results of the investigation into the crash last Thursday over eastern Ukraine, which killed nearly 300 people.

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