Obama: Plane was shot down by separatist backed by Russia

New York TimesJuly 18, 2014 

— President Barack Obama said Friday that the United States believed that a Malaysian jetliner was shot down by surface-to-air missiles from an area inside Ukraine that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists. President Barack Obama said one American was among the nearly 300 killed and called for an immediate cease-fire to allow for an unfettered investigation.

In remarks at the White House, Obama said the nearly 300 lives taken in the plane crash were 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.

“We are going to make sure the truth is out,” Obama said.

The president called the downing of the plane an “outrageous” event and said that it should underscore for people around the world that “it is time for peace” in the region.

Obama said the United States would “continue to lead efforts in the international community to de-escalate” the situation between Ukraine and Russia, but he did not announce any further sanctions against Russia.

The message from the White House about the downing of the plane has become steadily more assertive as the hours have passed.

Obama’s first comments, at the beginning of a speech Thursday afternoon on the need for more infrastructure spending, noted only that there “may be a terrible tragedy,” and he said the United States would work to determine what happened. The president made no mention of Russia.

By the time Obama landed back in Washington on Thursday night, the White House had issued a much more aggressive statement from Josh Earnest, the press secretary. The statement focused on Russia’s role in the creation of what Earnest called “the context” of the current situation.

“This incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fueled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, matériel, and training,” Earnest wrote.

The statement called on Russia to “take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and to support a sustainable cease-fire and path toward peace that the Ukrainian government has consistently put forward.”

“This should snap everybody’s head to attention,” Obama said of the international community. “We don’t have time for propaganda. We don’t have time for games.”

In taking a more public posture, Obama joins his ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who on Friday criticized Russia for not doing more to end the separatist movement in Ukraine. Power, speaking at the U.N., said the missile that brought down the Malaysian plane was probably shot from territory the separatists control.

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