WASHINGTON -- President Obama confirmed Friday that one American was killed in a missile attack against a Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine, calling the deaths of all 298 aboard an outrage of unspeakable proportions.
Obama also said the United States has increasing confidence that the missile that shot down the Boeing 777 jetliner came from Russian separatists in Ukraine -- and that Russia bears some responsibility for the crisis.
Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside Ukraine, Obama said in his first extensive remarks since the attack Thursday.
He said it's too early for us to be able to guess what the intentions, of whoever launched the missile, but noted that two other planes and a helicopter were shot down in the same area in recent weeks. A group of separatists can't shoot down military transport planes, or they claim, shoot down fighter jets, without sophisticated, equipment and sophisticated training, and that is coming from Russia, he said.
Quinn Lucas Schansman, a passenger on Flight MH17, was a dual citizen of the United States and The Netherlands. The president said U.S. officials could not definitively rule out other victims with American or dual citizenship.
He confirmed that investigators from the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board would assist Ukrainian officials in the investigation. 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, he said.
He renewed his calls for an immediate cease fire and for Russia to end their support of arms to separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Obama announced a new round of significant but targeted sanctions against Russian banks, energy companies and defense industries, as well as individuals closely tied to Russian president Vladimir Putin. The European Union followed immediately with somewhat more tepid measures, but Obama said the crash is a wake up call for Europe and the world that the Ukraine crisis is not a localized, contained problem.
Obama said he told Putin Thursday that he prefers to solve the crisis diplomatically. We don't see a U.S. military role beyond what we've already been doing in working with our NATO partners, he said.
Obama noted that about a hundred AIDS researchers and activists were reportedly on the flight, headed to a conference in Australia.
These were men and women who dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others, and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence, he said. It's important for us to lift them up and affirm their lives.
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