Kiev – Russia likely bears some of the responsibility for the apparent downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, United States’ President Barack Obama indicated today, saying pro-Russian fighters in Ukraine couldn’t have operated sophisticated surface-to-air missile batteries without Russian training and support.
In the administration’s strongest words yet on the downing of the jet, which left 298 people dead, Obama said rebel fighters couldn’t have operated the surface-to-air missile believed responsible for the shootdown “without sophisticated equipment and sophisticated training, and that is coming from Russia”.
He and other American officials stopped short of publicly placing the responsibility on Russia, which has denied any involvement in the destruction of the jetliner, whose debris lay strewn today across the eastern Ukraine farm field where it fell.
But a senior defence official told CNN that the “working theory” among American intelligence analysts is that the Russian military supplied the Buk missile system to rebel fighters inside Ukraine.
American officials believe the plane was “likely downed by a surface-to-air missile . . . operated from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine”, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told an emergency session of the UN Security Council.
In his remarks to reporters, Obama said that he did not want to get ahead of the facts of who may have been directly involved in the airliner’s destruction. But he said the United States would work hard to hold accountable those responsible for it.
Obama confirmed that at least one United States citizen was aboard the plane. Quinn Lucas Schansman was a student at International Business School Hogeschool van Amsterdam, according to his Facebook page. A majority of the passengers (at least 173) were Dutch.
“No one can deny the truth that is revealed in the awful images that we all have seen; and the eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine, and we are going to make sure that the truth is out,” Obama said.
He called for an immediate ceasefire in the region and for a “credible international investigation” into what happened.
His comments echoed earlier statements by United States Ambassador Power, who pointed the finger today at pro-Russian rebels.
The plane went down near the town of Torez, in rebel territory in the Donetsk region.
Power told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that the plane was “likely downed by a surface-to-air missile . . . operated from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine”. If pro-Russian separatists are responsible for shooting down the plane with a missile, investigators can’t rule out the possibility that Russia offered help to operate the system, she said.
Power also said Russia should take steps to cool tensions in Ukraine.
“Russia can end this war,” she said. “Russia must end this war.”