News / USA

Obama: Missile Downed Malaysia Plane Over Ukraine; 'Outrage of Unspeakable Proportions'

US Calls On Putin to Withdraw Support of Ukrainian Separatistsi
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Sharon Behn
July 19, 2014 4:09 AM
The United States on Friday called for an independent international investigation into the downing of the Malaysian passenger plane over eastern Ukraine, and for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on Washington's growing concern over the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the region.

Watch related video report by VOA's Sharon Behn

VOA News

President Barack Obama says the United States is confident a surface-to-air missile shot down a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine and that it was fired from territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Speaking at the White House Friday, Obama called the deaths of the 298 people aboard the plane an "outrage of unspeakable proportions." He noted that at least one American was among the dead.

"This was a global tragedy," he 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. The U.N. Security Council has endorsed this investigation, and we will hold all its members, including Russia, to their word."

​Obama added that in order to facilitate the probe, Russia, the separatists and Ukraine must adhere to an immediate cease-fire. He said the tragedy underscores "it is time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine."

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur at the time of the apparent missile strike.

UN Security Council Meets

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (C) addresses the U.N. Security Council at the U.N. headquarters in New York, July 18, 2014.U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (C) addresses the U.N. Security Council at the U.N. headquarters in New York, July 18, 2014.
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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (C) addresses the U.N. Security Council at the U.N. headquarters in New York, July 18, 2014.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (C) addresses the U.N. Security Council at the U.N. headquarters in New York, July 18, 2014.

Speaking during an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said the missile system was likely operated from a "separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine." 

She noted that it is unlikely that the separatists could operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel.  She said technical assistance from Russia cannot be ruled out.  

Obama said Friday that Ukraine's separatists are known to have received what he described as "a steady flow of support from Russia."  He said this includes arms and training, heavy weapons and anti-aircraft weapons.

A Pentagon spokesman echoed Obama's comments, saying there has been a "concerted campaign" by Russia's military to continue to support, resource and advise the separatists.

In the last few weeks, the U.S. has said Russian-backed separatists in the region have shot down a Ukrainian transport plane, a Ukrainian helicopter, and claimed to have shot down a Ukrainian fighter jet.

"What we do know is that the violence that's taking place there is facilitated in part -- in large part -- because of Russian support," Obama said. "And they have the ability to move those separatists in a different direction."

Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, had said Ukraine would present evidence to the Council showing Russia's military was involved in the crash.

Ukraine's government has previously accused the separatists of shooting the plane down, while the rebels blamed government forces.  Russia has denied any involvement.

Most of the passengers on the Boeing 777 aircraft were Dutch, and many were scientists heading to an international AIDS conference in Australia.​

Obama said Friday the U.S. stands ready to provide any assistance necessary. He said members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board are already on their way to the wreckage site.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council it is unlikely the separatists could operate an advanced missile system without help from knowledgeable people.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also sent about 30 monitors, however officials say they have been denied access to the disaster area by gunmen.

  • A pro-Russian separatist stands at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 18, 2014.
  • Pro-Russian separatists watch as Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors arrive at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 18, 2014.
  • Alexander Hug, deputy head of the OSCE mission, looks at debris at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 18, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian separatist looks at wreckage from the nose section of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane which was downed near the village of Rozsypne, in the Donetsk region, July 18, 2014.
  • Passengers' belongings are pictured at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 before a visit by OSCE monitors, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 18, 2014.
  • Wreckage from the nose section of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 plane, which was downed on July 18, is seen near the village of Rozsypne, in the Donetsk region, July 18, 2014.
  • Members of the media surround a relative of a passenger on board Malaysia Airlines MH17 that went down in war-torn Ukraine, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, July 18, 2014.
  • Ukrainian coal miners search the site of a crashed Malaysia Airlines passenger plane near the village of Rozsypne, eastern Ukraine Friday, July 18, 2014.
  • Candlelight prayers are prepapred for victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 at a church outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 18, 2014.
  • Debris is pictured at the site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash, near the village of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region, July 18, 2014.
  • Aleksandr Borodai, Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic speaks at a news conference in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, July 18, 2014.
  • Relatives of passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines MH17 react as they arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, July 18, 2014.
  • A pack of cyclists, with Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, observe a minute of silence for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane crash prior to the start of the thirteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race, Chamrousee, France, July 18, 2014.

Malaysia Airlines says the route where the strike occurred is commonly used for Europe to Asia flights. But the airline says it is now no longer flying planes over Ukrainian airspace, instead routing its aircraft further south over Turkey.

Recovering bodies

The incident sent debris and body parts over a wide area of eastern Ukraine. Bodies fell in fields and inside and outside of village homes.

Emergency workers say more than 180 bodies have been located, while there were conflicting reports about whether the plane's black boxes had been recovered. Some reports say pro-Russian separatists have already sent one of the boxes to Moscow. Other reports say the rebels and villagers have walked all over the crash site, stepping on evidence and possibly compromising the investigation.

Nationalities of passengers on MH17
Nationalities of passengers on MH17

Malaysia Airlines says people from at least 10 countries were on board the plane, including 189 from the Netherlands, 44 Malaysians and 27 Australians. The airline says another 12 passengers were Indonesian, nine were British and about a dozen others were from Belgium, Germany, the Philippines, Canada or New Zealand.

A top Malaysia Airlines official says the company will pay $5,000 per passenger to relatives to cover initial expenses.

U.S. intelligence officials say the plane likely was targeted deliberately by someone who may have mistaken it for a Ukrainian military transport plane.

Malaysia sends disaster team

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tion Lai told reporters Friday in Kuala Lumpur that the purposeful shooting down of a passenger jet is against international law and would be an "outrage against human decency."

He said Malaysia is sending a 62-person disaster team to Amsterdam to assist with support to the families of victims.

Eastern Ukraine has been the scene of fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists who have declared independence in some regions with the aim of joining Russia.

Separatists say they have shot down Ukrainian military planes in recent weeks, and Kyiv accused Russia of shooting down a Ukrainian military aircraft Wednesday.

The United States imposed fresh sanctions on Russia Wednesday for failing to take steps to de-escalate the crisis in eastern Ukraine and for providing weapons and support to the rebels
 
This is the second major tragedy for Malaysia Airlines this year.  Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 when it disappeared with 239 people on board.  It did not send out a distress call and is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.  Searchers have found no trace of the plane.

VOA's Mary Alice Salinas contributed to this report. Some material from Reuters was used in this report.

  • Emergency workers carry a stretcher with a victim's body in a bag at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.
  • Flowers are placed on a plane engine at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian fighter guards the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.
  • A woman holds an anti-Putin placard to protest the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 in Sydney, Australia, July 19, 2014.
  • Passengers' belongings are pictured at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 before a visit by OSCE monitors, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 18, 2014.
  • People bring flowers and candles to the Dutch embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, to commemorate the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
  • People walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine.
  • A relative of passengers on flight MH17 cries as he waits in a bus to be transported to an unknown location to receive more information, at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • People take photos of a screen showing arrival details of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 (C) at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.
  • A woman reacts to news regarding a Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in eastern Ukraine at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia.
  • The upper floor of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is closed for media and reserved for family and relatives of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17.
  • A relative walks past members of the press as he arrives at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • Smoke rises up at a crash site of a passenger plane, near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine.
  • A part of the wreckage of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
  • The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
  • The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
  • The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen at the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.

 

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Comment Sorting
Comment on this forum (58)
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by: observe from: usa
July 20, 2014 9:27 AM
after the tragedy, putin said "wherever it happened is responsible for it". GUILTY! this could be the best proof so far that hes behind this one too. i know russian games well enough to sense it why he would ever need to say it THAT way.


by: pip from: uk
July 20, 2014 9:01 AM
the west is again weak, naive, powerless and stupid. putin simply fooled and played the west with his little tricks and games. putin is the cat and the west a near dead house mouse dragged by the cat all over. Whats next? The cat has a nice dinner.


by: meanbill from: USA
July 19, 2014 12:35 PM
ON 06-29-2014 a Ukraine anti-aircraft missile defense regiment was overrun and looted, (and took a (PUK) missile defense system, from the Ukraine unit A-1402, and it was pro-Russian separatists, or Ukraine right-wing militias.... The Ukraine military has a lot of these (PUK)missile defense systems, and has them se up as near the Russian border is possible, anticipating a Russian air attack.....

PS; .. The Ukrainians, US, EU, and NATO countries knew this, but didn't tell the airline companies of it? .... and who's to blame?

In Response

by: Kenneth T. Tellis from: Canada
July 20, 2014 10:10 AM
And you got all this drivel directly from Obama's book of American Fairy Tales?


by: Grammar Police from: USA
July 19, 2014 9:05 AM
The word "resource" is not a verb. You cannot continue "to resource" an entity. "To supply" would be correct.


by: George Stratos from: Half Moon Bay
July 19, 2014 8:14 AM
Funny how Obama is suddenly taken for his word on this matter but nothing else that comes out of his mouth is believable! I call it propaganda.

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
July 20, 2014 12:01 PM
The US, EU, and NATO countries, always have evidence of wrongdoings by Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and all the countries they don't like, but it's never proven verified evidence by any other independent sources, is it? ... or shown to the public, and the world?

Like the US Secretary of State Colin Powell, (history recorded UN transcript on February 05, 2003), when he convinced the UN and the world, (with fabricated evidence and falsified reports), that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and was ready to use them on his neighbors, and that testimony led to the Iraq war.... (Yea, that was irrefutable evidence too, wasn't it?)


by: Dennis from: Nairobi
July 19, 2014 8:12 AM
Rassia with this tough headed president will put the world at war


by: john from: uk
July 19, 2014 8:09 AM
If this situation had happened in Africa you will see how the un and us will react. This time they will sit down and beat about the Bush whiles the Russian president go scout free


by: GEOS from: New Hampshire
July 19, 2014 7:58 AM
It is hard to believe the plane was shot down by Russian separatists. Could they be so stupid? We may never identify the perpetrators. I fear this incident will be exploited by both parties to the separatist movement.

In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 20, 2014 6:35 AM
Ukraine would gain nothing to do such. Ukraine already has most of the world on its side. Russia would also gain nothing but a possible world war for doing such. Of course the greatest possibility lies with the seperatists! Putin has admitted supplying this missile system to the seperatists!!!!! Since I am well educated with this missile system, Putin also had to supply the seperatists with the authorization codes, or the missiles are useless. The responsibility falls solely on Putin's lap for this. I doubt very seriously that Putin wanted the seperatists to do something this absurd!!!!! But he is responsible, and it's time he started acting like a leader, instead of a thug!


by: scared from: nowhere
July 19, 2014 7:53 AM
trust me, if there had been no putin, none of this or that crimea would have happened. and if he is still there, more tragedies will follow. he is pure evil. you could know that by reading his face. once hes gone, peace and order can be restored.


by: Anonymous
July 19, 2014 7:25 AM
who caused so many world unrest with excuses of democracy???

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