POLITICS
07/18/2014 12:02 pm ET Updated Jul 18, 2014

Obama: At Least One American Citizen Was Killed In Malaysia Airlines Crash

President Barack Obama spoke about Thursday's Malaysia Airlines crash, calling the deaths of the 298 passengers "an outrage of unspeakable proportions" and saying "we know at least one American citizen" was killed.

Obama named Quinn Lucas Schansman as the victim from the U.S.

Obama also called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine.

"This was a global tragedy. An 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," Obama said in a statement delivered from the White House Friday.

"Russia, pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine must adhere to an immediate cease-fire. Evidence must not be tampered with," Obama continued.

"It’s time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine," Obama said.

Obama repeated sentiments shared by U.S. officials, saying it's believed a surface-to-air missile from an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists took down the jet.

Obama had briefly addressed the plane crash during an appearance in Delaware on Thursday, saying the United States "will offer any assistance we can to determine what happened and why."

Vice President Joe Biden also addressed the plane crash during a Thursday appearance at the 2014 Netroots Nation conference, saying the incident was "not an accident."

Below, more from the AP:

WASHINGTON — The United States began building a case Friday linking pro-Russian separatists to the shocking downing of a passenger jet in Ukraine. A somber President Barack Obama declared the deaths of those on board, including at least one American, an "outrage of unspeakable proportions."

Obama said the U.S. believes the Malaysia Airlines plane was felled by a surface-to-air missile launched from an area near the Ukraine-Russia border that is controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists. Even as he cautioned that the exact circumstances were still being determined, the president turned his sights on Russia, saying the insurgents would not be capable of carrying out such an attack without Moscow's support.

"We know that they are heavily armed and they are trained, and we know that that's not an accident," Obama said. "That is happening because of Russian support."

The president spoke shortly after Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, outlined preliminary evidence against Russia and the separatists during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. Power said separatists were spotted Thursday with an SA-11 anti-aircraft missile at a location close to the site where the plane came down and that they had boasted on social media sites about shooting down a plane, then later deleted those posts.

Power joined Obama in calling for an immediate international investigation, and she warned that the separatists and those supporting them would have "good reason to cover up evidence of their crime." The U.S. has called for evidence from the crash site to remain in Ukraine until investigators determine who is responsible.

The American killed in the incident was identified as Quinn Lucas Schansman. Officials said they were still working to confirm whether any other U.S. citizens were on board the plane.

For Obama, the downed plane adds new complexity to U.S. efforts to quell the months-long conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Increasingly stringent economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe, including a new round of penalties announced a day before the plane was shot down, have done little to change Russian President Vladimir Putin's approach.

Obama warned Russia anew on Friday that the U.S. has the capacity to increase the economic pain, but he outlined no specific potential actions. He did say he saw no U.S. military role in the conflict that has stemmed in part from Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

All 298 people aboard the Malaysian plane were killed in Thursday's incident. The victims included vacationers, students and a large contingent of scientists. The passengers came from a dozen countries, spreading the impact of the Ukraine crisis around the globe.

"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," Obama said.

The president has spoken with several world leaders since the crash, including Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands. The flight originated in Amsterdam and nearly 200 of those killed were Dutch.

Obama also spoke with Russia's Putin just as initial reports of the crash were coming in. On Friday, the president stopped short of blaming Putin for the downing of the plane, but he said the Russian leader could bring the broader conflict to an end.

"He has the most control over that situation, and so far at least he has not exercised it," the president said.

A U.S. official said all available evidence, including satellite imagery, pointed to the plane being shot down with an SA-11 anti-aircraft missile fired by pro-Russian separatist forces. The official said the U.S. detected three separate events associated with the shootdown: the launching of the missile from the Ukraine side of the border, the missile's impact with the plane and the plane slamming into the ground.

That official was not authorized to discuss U.S. intelligence matters publicly by name and commented only on condition of anonymity.

Power, during her remarks at the United Nations, said Ukrainian forces as well as the separatists have SA-11 systems in their inventory. However, she said the U.S. was not aware of those systems being in the area of the shooting, and she noted that Ukrainian air defenses have not fired any missiles during the dispute with Russia.

The State Department said the FBI and National Transportation Security Board were each sending at least one agent to Ukraine, and perhaps more later, to assist with the crash investigation.

A command center has been set up at the State Department, where officials from agencies participating in the delegation gathered Friday morning for a briefing from the CIA on the political and military situation.

See below for more updates on the situation:

07/25/2014 11:29 PM EDT

Document: EU Extends Russia Sanctions

A document shows that EU sanctions ar targeting Russian businesses, the AP reports:

A European Union document shows that among those targeted by the EU-wide asset freeze and travel ban are Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Russian Federal Security.

Also targeted is Sergei Beseda, head of the FSB service that oversees international operations and intelligence activity.

Read the full story here.

07/25/2014 5:21 PM EDT

AP Journalists Saw Rebels With BUK Missiles Hours Before MH17 Crashed

Associated Press journalists in Ukraine saw a BUK missile system -- the type that the US says downed Flight MH17 -- in rebel hands just hours before the plane was shot down, the news agency says in detailed account of the day's events. AP says that while the rebels officially deny responsibility, "the denials are increasingly challenged by accounts of residents, the observations of journalists on the ground, and the statements of one rebel official." Further, one rebel official told AP that they were behind the plane tragedy.

More from the AP story:

A highly placed rebel, speaking to the AP this week, admitted that rebels were responsible. He said a unit based in the hometown of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, made up of both Russians and Ukrainians, was involved in the firing of an SA-11 from near Snizhne. The rebel, who has direct access to the inner circle of the insurgent leadership in Donetsk, said that he could not be named because he was contradicting the rebels' official line.

The rebels believed they were targeting a Ukrainian military plane, this person said. Instead, they hit the passenger jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people aboard were killed.

Read the full account here.

07/25/2014 2:59 PM EDT

White House: Russia 'Culpable' For Downed Jet

In a briefing on Friday, the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said there has been a "steady flow" of weapons from Russia into Ukraine, and emphasized the position that Russia played a role in the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal's Marketwatch reports.

The Pentagon said on Friday that the transfer of missile systems from Russia to separatists in Ukraine appeared to be imminent. On Thursday, the U.S. claimed that Russia had fired on Ukrainian military positions.

07/25/2014 1:54 PM EDT

Ukrainian Security Release Tape Of Rebels Allegedly Discussing MH17

Ukraine's security service, SBU, on Friday released a recording it said was of a phone call between pro-Russian separatists discussing a plane overhead, minutes before the Malaysian Airlines jet was shot down over east Ukraine. “I see… Roger... Report it upstairs,” the rebel commander says, according to a translation.

Writing for Mashable, Christopher Miller notes that the recording has not been authenticated and the commander "stops short of giving the order to shoot down Flight 17," however the implication is clearly to build a case that the rebels shot down the plane.

07/25/2014 1:14 PM EDT

Russia Accuses U.S. Of 'Smear Campaign' Over Ukraine

Responding to U.S. officials assertion that Russia was firing artillery on Ukrainian military positions across the border, Russia on Friday countered by calling the claim a baseless "smear campaign,"AFP reports.

A statement from the Russian foreign ministry said, "Due to the smear campaign against us that the US Administration has begun... we reject the unfounded public insinuations that US deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf is spreading on a daily basis," adding that Harf has used "a basketful of these anti-Russian cliches," to influence perceptions of Russia. The statement refuted the U.S. State Departments claim on Russia targeting Ukraine military, saying "There are no facts or specifics about these falsehoods."

More from AFP.

-- Andrew Hart

07/25/2014 1:06 PM EDT

U.S. Ambassador: 15,000 Russian Troops At Border

07/25/2014 12:58 PM EDT

More On The Remarks Out Of The Pentagon

Reuters reports:

The Pentagon said on Friday the transfer of heavy caliber multiple launch rocket systems from

Russia to Ukrainian separatists appeared to be imminent, with the arms close enough to the border they could be handed over "potentially today."

"We have indications that the Russians intend to supply heavier and more sophisticated multiple launch rocket systems in the very near future," said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, adding that the weapons were in the over-200mm range.

Warren indicated the weapons had been seen getting closer to the border and the Pentagon believed a transfer was imminent and "potentially today."

"We believe that they are able to transfer this equipment at any time, at any moment," he said.

07/25/2014 12:45 PM EDT

Pentagon Says Russia Is Readying Weapons For Transfer To Ukraine Rebels

07/25/2014 11:34 AM EDT

Australia To Send 100 Additional Police and Personnel To Secure Crash Site

Reuters reports:

(Reuters) - Australia will send 100 additional police and some defense force personnel to Europe to join a planned Dutch-led international security force to secure the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers, some of whom will be armed, will join a contingent of 90 AFP officers already in London waiting for a deal with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to be approved by Ukraine's parliament.

"This is a humanitarian mission, with a clear and simple objective," Abbott told reporters. "I expect the operation on the ground in Ukraine, should the deployment go ahead, to last no longer than a few weeks."

Read the full story here.

07/25/2014 11:03 AM EDT

Russian Newspaper Runs Front Page Apology For MH17

A leading Russian newspaper has issued an apology on its front page, asking for forgiveness from the people of the Netherlands who lost their loved ones in the Malaysian Airlines plane crash. The front page of Novaya Gazeta on Friday featured the words "Vergeef ons, Nederlands" (Forgive Us, Netherlands) in bold above a heartbreaking image of the line of hearses carrying MH17 victim's bodies.

Read the full story on the Huffington Post here.

The AP text in this post has been updated to reflect the identification of one American passenger on the Malaysia Airlines flight.

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