Obama: ‘Too Early To Guess’ Why Malaysian Airlines Flight Was Shot Down
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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama has called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine after Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile on Thursday killing all 298 people on board.
Obama said that evidence shows that this surface-to-air missile was shot from an area in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Flight 17 was going from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur before being shot down.
“This was a global tragedy,” Obama said. “An Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies filled with citizens from many countries, so there has to be a credible international investigation into what happened.”
FBI and NTSB officials are on their way to Ukraine to help with the investigation.
“Evidence must not be tampered with,” Obama said.
The president explained that it’s way too early to “guess” why the Malaysian Airlines jet was fired at.
“I think it’s too early for us to guess what the intentions are for those who launched the missile might have had,” he said.
Obama stated that these separatists have been “receiving a steady flow of support from Russia” and that Russian President Vladimir Putin had the power to stop helping the rebels in eastern Ukraine.
“The eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine,” Obama said from the White House Briefing Room. “More broadly, I think it’s important for us to recognize this outrageous event underscores there must be peace in Ukraine.”
Obama said that one American citizen was killed on the flight.
“This should snap everybody’s heads to attention,” Obama said, adding that, “We don’t have time for propaganda, we don’t have time for games.”
Obama also warned of misinformation being spread, stating that they will have to sift through what is factual and speculation.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday following the incident.
“This was an airliner headed towards Russian airspace. And it has the earmarks – and I’m not concluding – but it has the earmarks of a mistaken identification of an aircraft that they may have believed was Ukrainian,” McCain told MSNBC.
McCain stated there will be “incredible repercussions.”
“If it is the result of either separatist or Russian actions mistakenly believing that this is a Ukrainian warplane, I think there’s going to be hell to pay and there should be,” McCain told MSNBC.
The attack Thursday afternoon killed 298 people from nearly a dozen nations – including vacationers, students and a large contingent of scientists heading to an AIDS conference in Australia. At least 189 of the dead were from the Netherlands.
The Ukrainian government in Kiev, the separatist pro-Russia rebels they are fighting and the Russia government that Ukraine accuses of supporting the rebels all denied shooting the plane down. Moscow also denies backing the rebels.
Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said the plane was flying at about 33,000 feet when it was hit by a missile from a Buk launcher, which can fire up to an altitude of 72,000 feet. Malaysia’s prime minister said there was no distress call before the plane went down.
After holding an emergency session, the U.N. Security Council called for “a full, thorough and independent international investigation” into the downing of the plane.
Putin called Friday for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and urged the two sides to hold peace talks as soon as possible. A day earlier, Putin had blamed Ukraine for the crash, saying Kiev was responsible for the unrest in its Russian-speaking eastern regions. But he did not accuse Ukraine of shooting the plane down and did not address the key question of whether Russia gave the rebels such a powerful missile.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry released a video purporting to show a truck carrying the Buk missile launcher it said was used to fire on the plane with one of its four missiles apparently missing. The ministry said the footage was filmed by a police surveillance squad at dawn Friday as the truck was heading to the city of Krasnodon toward the Russian border.
There was no way to independently verify the video.
Access to the sprawling crash site remained difficult and dangerous. The road into it from Donetsk, the largest city in the region, was marked by five rebel checkpoints Friday, with document checks at each.
By midday, 181 bodies had been located, according to local emergency workers in contact with officials in Kiev. In addition to the Dutch, passengers on the plane included 29 Malaysians, 28 Australians, 12 Indonesians, nine Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos and one person each from Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong, according to the airlines and those governments.
Still Nataliya Bystro, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s emergency services, said rebel militiamen were interfering with the recovery operation. She did not elaborate.
Separatist rebels who control the crash site issued conflicting reports Friday about whether they had found the plane’s black boxes or not.
“No black boxes have been found … we hope that experts will track them down and create a picture of what has happened,” said Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai.
Yet earlier Friday, an aide to the military leader of Borodai’s group said authorities had recovered eight out of 12 recording devices. Since planes usually have two black boxes – one for recording flight data and the other for recording cockpit voices – it was not clear what he was referring to.
Borodai said 17 representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation and four Ukrainian experts had traveled into rebel-controlled areas to begin an investigation into the attack.
Ukraine’s state aviation service closed the airspace Friday over two border regions gripped by separatist fighting – Donetsk and Luhansk – and Russian airlines suspended all flights over Ukraine.
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