Members of the United Nations Security Council condemned the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 on Friday during an urgent session, calling for a full, thorough and independent international investigation.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told council members that the evidence indicates the plane was shot down.
“We assess Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 carrying these 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was likely downed by a surface-to-air missile, an SA-11, operated from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine," Powers said.
Russian-backed separatists have claimed responsibility for shooting down several Ukrainian military aircraft, including a transport plane in June that killed 49 persons, and this week a military cargo plane and a fighter jet.
Power said because of the technical complexity of operating the SA-11 system, it is unlikely that the rebels could have done it without assistance from knowledgeable personnel.
“Thus we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems," she said.
Ukrainian envoy Yuriy Sergeyev told the council that the separatists have “at least” two of these surface-to-air missile systems.
“The question is, where did they get this sophisticated air defense system from," Sergeryev asked.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin agreed the need for an impartial investigation of the circumstances of the jet’s crash, but stressed its outcome should not be prejudged.
He did not mention pro-Russian separatist rebels in the area and whether they might have been involved, instead he blamed Kyiv, saying the authorities are responsible for the safety of the airspace.
“Why did the Ukrainian aviation dispatcher send a passenger flight to an area of military clashes," Churkin asked. "An area which was being used for carrying out strikes against civilian targets, amongst others, and where there were anti-aircraft systems working?”
He said the United States and other Western nations share blame for the crash, saying it pushed Kyiv to escalate the crisis.
Envoys of the nine countries who had citizens aboard the flight also addressed the Security Council. Australia, which currently sits on the council, urged fellow members to adopt a resolution demanding unhindered access to the crash site and for a full, thorough and independent investigation.
Netherlands, which lost 189 nationals aboard the flight, echoed that call.
Ambassador Karel van Oosterom said it is “a dark hour” for his country and they are a nation “in shock and in tears,” but determined to seek the truth about what happened.
World Leaders Comment on MH17