President Barack Obama has called for an immediate, unimpeded investigation at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down four days ago near the Ukrainian border.
Speaking on Monday at the White House, Obama expressed frustration at pro-Russian separatists for hampering an international investigation at the crash site to determine who was responsible for shooting down the plane. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin had a “direct responsibility” to use his influence with the rebels to stop hindering the probe.
“Separatists are removing evidence from the crash site,” Obama said. “Which begs the question: What exactly are they trying to hide? The burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence.”
Obama said he appreciated Putin’s comments supporting a full investigation, but he said it was now on Putin to act.
“President Putin has a direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation,” Obama said. “The world deserves to know exactly what happened.”
If Putin doesn’t comply and Russia continues to back the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Obama promised additional “costs.”
The U.S. and Europe have pointed the finger of blame for the crash at the hands of the pro-Russian separatists, while suggesting Russia has been complicit in the plane’s downing by supporting the separatists with training and with arms.
“Over the last several days, our hearts have been absolutely broken as we learn about the extraordinary lives that have been lost,” Obama said Monday.
Last Friday, in his first extended public comments on the crash, Obama called it an “unspeakable outrage” and a “global tragedy,” saying it should serve as a “wake-up call” to Europe that there are consequences of the conflict in Ukraine.
The sadness and grief over the crash have quickly turned to anger. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a round of Sunday talk shows on Sunday that a “mountain of evidence” points to Russia, and he expressed horror at the actions of the pro-Russian separatists in the aftermath of the crash.
He alleged the “drunken” separatists have removed bodies from the crash site and piled them into trucks, which he called “grotesque.” Obama directly accused the separatists of removing evidence from the crash site.
Russia’s ministry of defence on Monday, meanwhile, began laying out the case for blame on Ukraine — and even the West. It claims it saw MH17 detour from its route at the same time a Ukrainian warplane flew overhead and a U.S. satellite flew over Ukraine. And it said Ukraine had four SA-11 Buk missile systems on the ground in separatist territory.
The U.N. Security Council is set to vote Monday on a resolution to condemn the downing of the plane, to demand those responsible be held accountable, and to hold that the pro-Russian separatists stop interfering with the crash site.
This post has been updated.
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