Obama: Downing of Malaysia flight ‘wake-up call’ on Ukraine conflict

President Obama said the U.S. believes that the Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed in eastern Ukraine was likely shot down by surface-to-air missiles fired by pro-Russia separatists.


In his first extended remarks on the fiery crash of a Malaysian airliner, President Obama confirmed Friday that at least one U.S. citizen was killed in a global tragedy he said should serve as “wake-up call” to end the conflict in Ukraine.

The president said Quinn Schansman, a Dutch and U.S. dual citizen, was traveling on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which left Amsterdam Thursday and ended in a field near Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia. Schansman was one of 298 people killed when a missile struck the aircraft.

“Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions,” the president said.


In a preliminary assessment, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that a missile fired from territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine brought down the passenger jet.

“A surface-to-air missile was fired, and that’s what brought the jet down,” Obama said in remarks made at the White House. “That shot was taken in a territory controlled by the Russian separatists.”

But Obama also laid responsibility for the disaster on Moscow, saying that the separatists have received a “a steady flow” of heavy artillery from Russia for months. Obama noted the insurgents, who are seeking to join Russia, have recently shot down Ukrainian military aircraft in that region.

Obama said the tragedy was the consequence of months of violent conflict fueled by Russian arms and assistance.

U.S. agencies are examining to what extent the Russian government may have been involved in the incident but have reached no conclusions, a U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.

But even as Obama outlined the preliminary evidence, he generally took a measured tone toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he called on to assist in securing the crash site for investigators.

“So now is, I think, a somber and appropriate time for all of us to step back and take a hard look at what has happened,” Obama said. “Violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences. Russia, these separatists and Ukraine all have the capacity to put an end to the fighting.”

The president later said that his patience would be short.

“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,” he said.

Obama suggested Russia could expect more economic sanctions if it did not deescalate the crisis.

And to Europe, which has been more reluctant to impose tough penalties, Obama said the tragedy should serve to strengthen the resolve to increase sanctions.

Follow coverage of President Obama on Twitter at @khennessey.