The White House said late Thursday it is “shocked” that a Malaysia Airlines passenger planecarrying nearly 300 people had been shot down near the Ukrainian border, urging a full and transparent investigation to determine who was responsible.
“It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible. We urge all concerned — Russia, the pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine — to support an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and in order to facilitate the recovery of remains,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a lengthy statement about the crash.
Earnest was quick to note the “context” of the situation and the overall conflict in Ukraine, noting the Russian government has provided support and arms to pro-Russian separatists in the region.
“While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that this incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fuelled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, materiel, and training,” Earnest said.
“This incident only highlights the urgency with which we continue to urge Russia to immediately 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.”
Earnest said the United States was still determining whether any of its citizens were on board the flight. An adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister has said 23 U.S. citizens were among the 298 killed.
Ukraine has blamed pro-Russian separatists for the plane’s downing, saying they shot down the passenger plane with a Russian-made Buk ground-to-air missile system. The pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region, which is about 25 miles from the Russian border, have admitted to using these systems.
Ukrainian security services released audio Thursday afternoon purporting to contain the separatists discussing how they shot down the civilian aircraft. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the blame for the tragedy lies with Ukraine.
In his statement, Earnest said it was “critical” that there is a complete and transparent investigation into the situation in the coming days. He said the U.S. is prepared to assist in any investigation.
“In the meantime, it is vital that no evidence be tampered with in any way and that all potential evidence and remains at the crash site are undisturbed,” Earnest said. “The United States remains prepared to contribute immediate assistance to any international investigation, including through resources provided by the NTSB and the FBI.”
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