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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Comments page of 3
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by: lx from: Beijing
July 19, 2014 2:35 AM
Why always civilians pay costs?Russian and Ukraine must be executed
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 20, 2014 6:41 AM
The Russian government is responsible, mainly Putin. He authorized the seperatists this sytem, and gave them the auhtorization codes needed to launch such a missile. I don't believe he intended the rebels to do such a thing, but he is the one responsible!!!!! I think it's time for the Russian people to rise up and throw this thug into prison before the world is completely at war!!!!! Read his history, read his personal quotes, his personal beliefs. You will be shocked!
In Response

by: peacefull from: united states
July 19, 2014 12:21 PM
Why Ukraine? For what? Russia is responsible!!

by: vkn128
July 19, 2014 2:24 AM
" The Plane was shot down by Pro Russian rebels using Russian supplied surface to air missile either confiscated from Ukrainian forces or acquired from Russia directly ,last week Pro Russian rebels shot down 3 Ukrainian jet fighters (sukhoi model ) .This time they miscalculated it to be military Plane .The Black Box either been destroyed or flown to Moscow ."
295 innocent civilians dead and their family and the entire world must know
The BUK (or SA-11) system does not just consist of the launcher tank depicted in the pictures. Actually a BUK battery consists of 4 launcher tanks, a launcher/loader tank , a command tank and a tank with a surveillance radar, plus assorted trucks for supply and support. I would guess that the system requires at least 30 trained soldiers to set it up and to operate it (plus an equal sized security element). It isn’t just aim, press the trigger once, wait for the beep as the signal that the heat seeker has locked onto the target and press the trigger again to launch the missile. I wonder how the separatists got such a trained crew together, unless a whole SA-11 (BUK) battery has switched by Pro Russian mercenaries who got well trained by the Russians . the Russian air defense systems was affording protection to Russian mercenaries and terrorists in this area.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 20, 2014 6:48 AM
First, you must have the authorization code in order to launch this type of missile. No matter who you steal this from or capture, the missile is then useless. Trying to launch it without the correct authorziation code will disable the missile. This is a Russian design system. The safegaurds were put in this system by the Russian designers in case of civil war, and if rebels had captured these missiles, then they can't use them against the Russians. Even if you capture this system, the missiles are disabled via satellite. All of us in this business knows the rebels did this. And we are positive that Putin would not have wanted usch a thing to happen. But his is not a very effective leader, he is just a former KGB Soviet thug. He is ultimately responsible. He has admitted giving these rebel the missile system, which means he also supplied the authorization codes as well.

by: Aviator
July 19, 2014 1:19 AM
The entire World, including the UN must hold Russia and President Putin accountable for this immense tragedy of downing a civillian aircraft. For too long the Russian Government has supplied sophisticated weaponry to "liberation movements" over which there can be no control. If Russia wants to demonstrate good faith and restore what is left of their credibility they should hand over those responsible for trial at the Hague immediately as they have the power to accomplish this.
In Response

by: John from: Canada
July 19, 2014 3:48 AM
Putin and his terrorists sons are so blinded and stupid to differentiate the civilian plane and military plane. Putin and his sons are so bold to even throw blame on Ukraine. How shameful it is to destroy lives of hundreds of innocent people. It is an ignominious acts of Russia which will be remembered in times to come. The world community are also so soft on Russia and her terrorist sons and not harsh on them.

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
July 18, 2014 6:51 PM
So Putin is such a coward for not taking Russia's responsibility of making the rocket available to the separatist, now that they got to the black box first that seams to be the end of the case, all Putins Russia's hard talk has grown weak while they still deny what they caused!!!pls tell Putin We were not born yesterday and he should man up.

by: Ray from: UK
July 18, 2014 4:33 PM
The outrage against human decency was committed by Malaysian Airlines. They sent a passenger jet over a war zone where military aircraft have been in operation and shot down. Malaysian Airlines should be on trial for this unbelievable act of stupidity.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 20, 2014 7:10 AM
Once Russia armed these barbarians with this type of missile system, Russia was responsible for reporting this to the avaition communities!!!! You are completely delusional Ray! How about you research how many international flights have occurred over Ukraine before this happened. By the way, Russia supplied the rebels with this missile system last week. Look at how many international flights occur today over the countries of Syria and Iraq. that's because the in-fighting rebels do not possess the missile systems capable of shooting down aircraft at that altitude! Once Putin authorized this to the rebels, Putin was responsible for reporting such weaponry that jeopardizes international air travel!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In Response

by: James from: Kuala Lumpur
July 18, 2014 10:52 PM
Ray: NO - the despicable act was committed by ignorant, one-sided and idiotic people just like you. Read the initial investigation report and you will find that Malaysian Airlines flew over the prescribed route. Unless you can't or refused to open up your narrowed mind.

by: wayne from: canada
July 18, 2014 2:27 PM
how come the photos show an engine that fell 30,000 ft. but we get nothing in the penslyvania flight of 911 that fell from 10,000 feet, never mind the rest of the missing "wreakage". your not living the life folks your living the lie.
In Response

by: Captbilly
July 18, 2014 5:23 PM
I have been flying civilian and military for the past 40 years, and I studied physics and engineering (and work in the field now). The reason that the Malaysian plane is slightly more intact than the 911 flights is that the Malaysian plane almost certainly hit the ground at a much lower speed. Though the Malaysian plane was badly damaged, it still had major structures that were still intact. Those structures fall much slower than the speed that the 911 aircraft were flying when they hit the WTC, Pentagon or open field in Pa. The best estimates for the speed that the 911 aircraft were going when they hit was in the range of 500+knots (about 80% of the speed of sound at sea level). A badly damaged airplane, falling from any height, is not likely to hit the ground at anywhere near that speed because it is not powered and it is not aerodynamically clean.

By the way, I have seen the debris from the plane that hit the Pentagon and there were major portions of the engines still intact. The fan blades were torn off (reasonable since they are the most fragile and turning the fastest)

by: Terry from: Denver
July 18, 2014 1:37 PM
Here we go again Murray. Republicans blaming Obama for everything bad that happens in the world. Would you prefer we start a war with Russia to teach them a lesson? Putin is an angry, dangerous man with an itchy trigger finger on a good portion of the worlds nuclear arsenal. He feels he's been dissed by the west and he yearns for the glory day's of Russia's former empire. Obama's stepped up economic sanctions on Russia,s banks,energy company's and military industrial complex are the most effective way to hold Russia at bay right now.

by: stephen from: USA
July 18, 2014 1:26 PM
Since the start of Israel's latest Gaza airstrikes at least 248 Palestinians have been killed, and another 1,770 wounded, many severely. Roughly 80 percent of the slain are civilians.

We can expect these casualties to increase dramatically as Israeli ground forces attack the helpless Gaza.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 20, 2014 7:35 AM
OK, good point, Stephen. So that has "what" to do with the Malaysian crash in Ukraine? You know, what this forum is discussing right now?

by: Aircrash Survivor from: Texas, USA
July 18, 2014 12:48 PM
Yes, Stephen. After the callous KAL-007 shootdown and the idiotic Vincennes tragedy, both way back in the '80s, you'd think any responsible person, group or nation would have learned by now. This is criminal, with no excuse.

by: Murray Rushing from: Louisiana
July 18, 2014 12:42 PM
Our president may be the most eloquent speech maker of the decade - it's too bad he has proven that he is incredibility lacking in integrity and honesty resulting in distrust and disbelief by the other world leaders. Russia's glorified clerk seems to be as lacking in credibility and integrity which is amplified by his lack of common sense and inability to control his aggression. There are elements of a dark comedy in the fact that the world's fate could rest upon decisions by these two inept politicians.
In Response

by: worhood from: Illinois
July 19, 2014 7:55 AM
Murray, who was the President of the U.S. the last time Russia shot down a civilian jumbo-jet? And that plane was flying from U.S. soil. Was he to blame, too? What a bunch of nonsense you spread!
In Response

by: Milo Bendech
July 18, 2014 10:52 PM
Well, it didn't take long for the Obamahaters to tie Obama to the tragedy, did it?
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