This post has been updated.
At 11:30 AM Friday, President Barack Obama will speak about the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as well as the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
"Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists," the President said. "These separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia."
In response to the crash, he demanded an immediate ceasefire. He also confirmed there was one U.S. citizen killed in the crash, named Quinn Lucas Schansman.
"Here's what's happened now. This was a global tragedy.... There has to be a credible international investigation," he said. "We will hold all [the U.N. Security Council's] members, including Russia, to their word. Evidence must not be tampered with."
International outlets have struggled to gain access to the site as well as obtain credible information about what happened. The President condemned misinformation emanating from the region, insisting "We don't have time for propaganda. We don't have time for games."
He said the United States was prepared to issue more sanctions against Russia and called on Putin specifically to change the course of the conflict.
"He has the most control over that situation," he said. "This certainly will be a wake-up call for Europe and the world." Conflicts like this are "not going to be localized, it's not going to be contained."
The Washington Post published a full transcript of his remarks:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yesterday Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border. Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken -- men, women, children, infants who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine. Their deaths are a outrage of unspeakable proportions.
We know at least one American citizen, Quinn Lucas Shantzman (ph), was killed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family for this terrible loss.
Yesterday I spoke with the leaders of Ukraine, Malaysia and the Netherlands, and I told them that our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and that the American people stand with them during this difficult time. Later today I'll be speaking with Prime Minister Abbott of Australia, which also suffered a terrible loss.
By far the country that lost the most people onboard the place was the Netherlands. From the days of our founding, the Dutch have been close friends and stalwart allies of the United States of America, and today I want the Dutch people to know that we stand with you shoulder to shoulder in our grief and in our absolute determination to get to the bottom of what happened.
Now, here is what we know so far. Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine.
We also know that this is not the first time a plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine. Over the last several weeks Russian- backed separatists have shot down a Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter, and they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet.
Moreover, we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia.
This includes arms and training. It includes heavy weapons. And it includes anti-aircraft weapons.
Now, here's what's happened now. This was a global tragedy. And Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies, filled with citizens from many countries. So there has to be a credible international investigation into what happened. The U.N. Security Council has endorsed this investigation, and we will hold all its members, including Russia, to their word.
In order to facilitate that investigation, Russia, pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine must adhere to an immediate cease-fire. Evidence must not be tampered with. Investigators need to access the crash site. And the solemn task of returning those who were lost onboard the plane to their loved ones needs to go forward immediately.
Now, the United States stands ready to provide any assistance that is necessary. We've already offered the support of the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board, which has experience in working with international partners on these types of investigations. They are on their way, personnel from the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board. In the coming hours and days, I'll continue to be in close contact with leaders from around the world as we respond to this catastrophe.
Our immediate focus will be on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened and putting forward the facts. And I want to point out there will likely be misinformation as well. I think it's very important for folks to sift through what is factually based and what is simply speculation. 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.
More broadly, I think it's important for us to recognize that this outrageous event underscores that it is time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine. For months we've supported a pathway to peace, and the Ukrainian government has reached out to all Ukrainians, put forward a peace plan and lived up to a cease-fire, despite repeated violations by the separatists, violations that took the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and personnel.
Moreover, time and again, Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to de-escalate the situation. I spoke to President Putin yesterday in the wake of additional sanctions that we had imposed. He said he wasn't happy with them, and I told him that we have been very clear from the outset that we want Russia to take the path that would result in peace in Ukraine, but so far, at least, Russia has failed to take that path. Instead, it has continued to violate Ukrainian sovereignty and to support violent separatists. It has also failed to use its influence to press the separatists to abide by a cease-fire. That's why, together with our allies, we've imposed growing costs on Russia.
So now's, I think, a somber and appropriate time for all of us to step back and take a hard look at what has happened. Violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences. Russia, these separatists, and Ukraine all have the capacity to put an end to the fighting. Meanwhile, the United States is going to continue to lead efforts within the world community to de-escalate the situation, to stand up for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to support the people of Ukraine as they courageously work to strengthen their democracy and make their own decisions about how they should move forward.
So with that, let me take just a couple questions. I'll start with you, Julie.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Just on a technical matter, does the U.S. believe that this passenger jet was targeted or that those people who shot it down may have been going after a military -- thought they were going after a military aircraft? And more broadly, this incident does seem to escalate the crisis in Ukraine to a level we haven't seen before. Does that change your calculus in terms of what the U.S. and perhaps Europe should be doing in (terms of a ?) response?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think it's too early for us to be able to guess what the intentions of those who might have launched the -- this surface-to-air missile might have had. The investigation's going to be ongoing, and I think what we'll see is additional information surfacing over the next 24 hours, 72 hours, the next week, the next month.
What we know right now, what we have confidence in saying right now is that a surface-to-air missile was fired, and that's what brought the jet down. We know -- we have confidence in saying that that shot was taken with a territory that is controlled by the Russian separatists.
But I think it's very important for us to make sure that we don't get out ahead of the facts. And at this point, in terms of identifying specifically what individual or group of individuals or, you know, personnel ordered the -- the strike, how it came about, those are things that I think are still going to be subject to additional information that we're going to be gathering. And we're working with the entire international community to make sure that the focus is on getting to the bottom of this thing and being truthful. And my concern is obviously that there's been a lot of misinformation generated in eastern Ukraine generally. This should snap everybody's heads to attention and make sure that we don't have time for propaganda, we don't have time for games, we need to know exactly what happened, and everybody needs to make sure that we're holding accountable those who -- who committed this outrage.
With respect to the second question, as you're aware, before this terrible incident happened, we had already ratcheted up sanctions against Russia, and I think the concern not just of the Russian officials but of the markets about the impact that this could have on the Russian economy is there for all to see.
I made clear to President Putin that our preferred path is to resolve this diplomatically, but that means that he and the Russian government have to make a strategic decision. Are they going to continue to support violent separatists whose intent is to undermine the government of Ukraine, or are they prepared to work with the government of Ukraine to arrive at a cease-fire and a peace that takes into account the interests of all Ukrainians?
There has been some improved language at times over the last month coming from the Kremlin and coming from President Putin, but what we have not seen is an actual transition and different actions that would give us confidence that that's the direction that they want to take. And, you know, we will continue to make clear that as Russia, you know, engages in efforts that are supporting the separatists, that we have a capacity to increase the costs that we impose on them, and we will do so -- not because we're interested in hurting Russia for the sake of hurting Russia, but because we believe in standing up for the basic principle that a country's sovereignty and territorial integrity has to be respected, and it is not the United States, or Russia, or Germany, or any other country that should be deciding what happens in that country.
Q: At this point, do you see any U.S. military role that could be effective?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We don't see a U.S. military role beyond what we've already been doing in working with our NATO partners and some of the Baltic states, giving them reassurances that we are prepared to do whatever is required to meet our alliance obligations.
Q: Sir, thank you. How much blame for this do you put on President Putin? And will you use this incident now to push the Europeans for stronger action?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We don't know exactly what happened yet, and I don't want to, as I said before, get out ahead of the facts. But what I do know is, is that we have seen a ticking up of violence in eastern Ukraine that despite the efforts of the Ukrainian government to abide by a cease-fire and to reach out and agree to negotiations, including with the separatists, that has been rebuffed by these separatists. We know that they are heavily armed and they are trained, and we know that that's not an accident. That is happening because of Russian support. So, you know, it is not possible for these separatists to function the way they're functioning, to have the equipment that they have -- set aside what's happened, you know, with respect to the Malaysian Airlines, 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.
So we don't yet know exactly what happened with respect to the Malaysian Airlines, although obviously we're beginning to draw some conclusions given the nature of the shot that was fired. There are only certain types of anti-aircraft missiles that can reach up 30,000 feet and shoot down a passenger jet. We have increasing confidence that it came from areas controlled by the separatists.
But without having a definitive judgment on those issues yet, what we do know is, is that the violence that's taking place there is facilitated in part -- in large part -- because of Russian support, and they have the ability to move those separatists in a different direction. If Mr. Putin makes a decision that we are not going to allow heavy armaments and the flow of fighters into Ukraine across the Ukrainian-Russian border, then it will stop. And if it stops, then the separatists will still have the capacity to enter into negotiations and try to arrive at the sort of political accommodations that Mr. Putin himself says he wants to see. He has the most control over that situation, and so far, at least, he has not exercised it.
Q: Tougher sanctions in Europe, will you push for --
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think that this certainly will be a wake-up call for Europe and the world that there are consequences to an escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine, that it is not going to be localized, it is not going to be contained.
You know, what -- what we've seen here is just in one country alone, our -- our great allies the Dutch, 150 or more of their citizens being killed. And -- and that, I think, sadly brings home the degree to which the stakes are high for Europe, not simply for the Ukrainian people, and -- and that we have to be firm in our resolve in making sure that we are supporting Ukraine's efforts to bring about a just cease-fire, and that we can move towards a political solution to this.
I'm going to make this the last question. Lisa Lerer, Bloomberg.
Q: Do we know yet if there are other Americans on board beyond the person you mentioned? And how do you prevent stricter restrictions, economic sanctions, from shocking the global economy -- (off mic)?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We -- we have been pretty methodical over the last 24 hours in working through the flight manifest and identifying which passengers might have had a U.S. passport. At this point, the individual that I mentioned is the sole person that we can definitively say was a U.S. or dual citizen.
Because events are moving so quickly, I don't want to say with absolute certainty that there might not be additional Americans, but at this stage, having worked through the list, been in contact with the Malaysian government, which, you know, processed the passports, you know, as folks were boarding. This is our best assessment of the -- the number of Americans that were killed.
Obviously, that does nothing to lessen our outrage about all those families, regardless of nationality. It is -- it is a heartbreaking event.
With respect to the effect of sanctions on the economy, we have consistently tried to tailor these sanctions in ways that would have an impact on Russia, on their economy, on their institutions, or individuals that are aiding and abetting in the activities that are taking place in eastern Ukraine, while minimizing the impacts on not only the U.S. economy, but the global economy.
It is a relevant consideration that we have to keep in mind. The world economy's integrated. Russia is a large economy. There's a lot of, you know, financial flows between Russia and the rest of the world. But we feel confident that, at this point, the sanctions that we put in place are imposing a cost on Russia, that their overall impact on the global economy is -- is minimal. It is something that we have to, obviously, pay close attention to, but I think Treasury, in consultation with our European partners, have done a good job so far on that issue.
All right? Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
Q: President Putin blamed this on Ukraine, sir. Any response to that?
(No audible response as President Obama leaves the microphones.)
Earlier today, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power shared tough words for Russia. "Russia can end this war," she said in an emergency meeting of the United Nation's Security Council. "Russia must end this war." She told the council that intel suggested that the plane was "likely downed by a surface-to-air missile ... operated from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine."
Yesterday night, White House press secretary Josh Earnest released this statement: (emphasis ours)
Statement by the Press Secretary on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17
The United States is shocked by the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and we offer our deep condolences to all those who lost loved ones on board. We continue to seek information to determine whether there were any American citizens on board.
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. The role of international organizations – such as the United Nations and the OSCE in Ukraine – may be particularly relevant for this effort, and we will be in touch with affected nations and our partners in these organizations in the coming hours and days to determine the best path forward. 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. The United States remains prepared to contribute immediate assistance to any international investigation, including through resources provided by the NTSB and the FBI.
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 fueled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, materiel, and training. 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.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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