Obama on Flight MH17: An 'Outrage of Unspeakable Proportions'
President Barack Obama called for immediate action today in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 tragedy.
"Yesterday, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border," the president began. "Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken. Men, women, children, infants – who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine. Their deaths are a outrage of unspeakable proportions."
Obama also confirmed at least one American citizen was killed and shared further details:
"Now, here's what we know so far: Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine," he said.
"We also know this is not the first time a plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine. Over the last several weeks, Russian-backed separatists have shot down a Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter, and they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet. Moreover, we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia. This includes arms and training. It includes heavy weapons and it includes anti-aircraft weapons."
The president called for a credible international investigation into what happened.
"In order to facilitate that investigation, Russia, pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine must adhere to an immediate cease-fire," he said. "Evidence must not be tampered with, investigators need to access the crash site and the solemn task of returning those who were lost on board the plane to their loved ones needs to go forward immediately ... Our immediate focus will be on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened and putting forward the facts."
The president also mentioned the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia and how this tragedy is an example of why peace must be restored, placing particular blame on Russia.
"Time and again, Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to de-escalate the situation," the president stated. "I spoke to President Putin yesterday in the wake of additional sanctions that we imposed. He said he wasn't happy with them, and I told him that we have been very clear from the outset that we want Russia to take the path of peace in Ukraine. But so far at least, Russia has failed to take that path. Instead, it has continued to violate Ukrainian sovereignty and to support violent separatists. It has also failed to use its influence to press the separatists to abide by a cease-fire. That's why, together with our allies, we've imposed growing costs on Russia.”
Before taking questions, the president concluded, "Now I think is a somber and appropriate time for all of us to step back and take a hard look at what has happened. Violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences. Russia, these separatists, and Ukraine all have the capacity to put an end to the fighting."