Technical assistance from Russian personnel in the downing of a Malaysian jet “cannot be ruled out,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Friday as the Security Council began an emergency session in response to the destruction of the passenger plane over eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine said it would present evidence of what it alleges is Russian involvement in the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. All 298 people aboard were believed to have died when the jet fell from the sky in separatist-held territory near Donetsk on Thursday.
Security Council members released a statement calling for a “full, thorough and independent investigation” into the incident. Before the session opened, Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s U.N. representative, said the International Civil Aviation Organization “clearly must be involved.”
Early speakers at the emergency council session made clear that the pressure was on Russia to withdraw support for separatist forces in Ukraine and take the lead in ending the conflict that has taken more than 500 lives there.
Russia's U.N. envoy, Vitaly I. Churkin, blamed Ukrainian aviation officials in part for the jet’s downing, saying they should not have let a passenger plane fly over war-torn eastern Ukraine.
“Why did the Ukrainian aviation dispatcher send up a passenger flight to an area of military clashes?” Churkin said.
He agreed that an international investigation was needed but defended Russia against other Security Council members’ allegations that it bore responsibility for ongoing violence involving Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine.
“Russia can end this war. Russia must end this war,” said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power. She said the jet was flying a normal route, at 33,000 feet, when it was shot out of the sky, probably by a SA-11, or Buk, missile operated from a separatist location.
“There was nothing threatening or provocative” about the jet’s actions, Power said, adding that a Buk system operated by separatists was spotted in the area of the jet’s downing shortly before it occurred.
“This is a dark moment for the international community,” said Grant, who called on Russia to stop supporting Ukrainian separatists. Grant also challenged Russia to give “clear and unequivocal condemnation” of the jet’s downing.
MH17 was on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, when the airline lost contact with the Boeing 777. Most of those on board were Europeans, some of them traveling to an AIDS researchers conference in Australia.