By Micheal D Shear, Somini Sengupta & Sabrina Tavernise
President Barack Obama said on Friday that the United States believed the Malaysia Airlines jetliner felled over eastern Ukraine was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from an area inside Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Obama’s remarks at the White House were the strongest public suggestions yet from the US over who was responsible for the downing of the jetliner, which exploded, crashed and burned on Thursday on farmland in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.
Obama said the loss of life was an “outrage of unspeakable proportions” and a “global tragedy”. He vowed to investigate exactly what happened to end the lives of “men, women, children, infants who had nothing to do with the crisis” in that region. He also said that at least one American was among the dead.
“We are going to make sure the truth is out,” Obama said, referring to what he described as a trove of misinformation that has already shrouded the plane crash.
“We don’t have time for propaganda,” he said. “We don’t have time for games.”
The president said the violence in the region must not impede an independent investigation of the plane’s destruction and he called on Russia, Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists to agree to an immediate cease-fire. “Evidence must not be tampered with,” he said. “Investigators need to access the crash site. And the solemn task of returning those who were lost onboard the plane to their loved ones needs to go forward immediately.”
Obama spoke after Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations, told an emergency Security Council meeting on the Ukraine conflict that there was “credible evidence” that pro-Russia separatists and their Russian associates in eastern Ukraine were responsible for the crash.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was at a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet in a commonly used air route over eastern Ukraine when it was struck on Thursday.
Obama resisted blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin personally, saying that the government does not know exactly who fired the missile. But he made clear that he holds the Russians responsible for failing to stop the violence that made the downing possible.
“We know that they are heavily armed and they are trained,” Obama said. “That is not an accident. That is happening because of Russian support.” He said it is “not possible for these separatists to be functioning the way they are” without Russian support.
The president said the loss of the plane was a direct result of the fighting in the region and that the violence had been “facilitated in large part because of continued…