Obama: Missile downed Malaysian flight MH17

U.S. FBI, transport investigators deployed to Ukraine after the Malaysian plane crash

Published: Updated:

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday said a missile fired from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine downed a Malaysian passenger plane and confirmed that one American was among the dead.

“Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions,” Obama told reporters as he pressed for an international investigation.

The U.S. President called for a credible international investigation, saying it was too early to guess the intentions of those who shot down the Malaysian Airliner.

“Eyes of the world on eastern Ukraine; We're going to make sure that truth gets out,” Obama said, hours after the U.N. Security Council called for “a full, thorough and independent international investigation” into the downing of flight MH17.

The Security Council issued a statement expressing its “deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims, and to the people and governments of all those killed in the crash.”

Council members stood in a moment of silent tribute to the 298 victims at the start of an emergency council meeting Friday morning.

The council called for an investigation “in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines and for appropriate accountability.”

It stressed the need for “immediate access by investigators to the crash site to determine the cause of the incident.”

FBI and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board personnel are headed to the region to serve in an advisory role for the investigation of Thursday's incident, a U.S. official told Reuters.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said that agency would send at least one investigator but that it was not yet clear when the official would go or if other staff would be needed to assist, citing the “still fluid situation.”

“The facts, as they are uncovered, will dictate our actions,” Bresson said.

The NTSB also will send at least one investigator to Ukraine, although the departure date has not been set, said Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the agency.

Samantha Power, Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, has said the doomed Malaysia Airlines jet was “likely downed” by a surface-to-air missile operated from separatist-held eastern Ukraine.

Russia denies responsibility

The Russian defense ministry on Friday denied responsibility for the downing of the plane.

“On July 17, air defense systems of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation were not working in the area. The aircraft of the Air Force of the Russia were not performing any sorties on July 17 in the regions bordering on the Donetsk region,” the defense ministry said in a statement on its website.

“This information is fully confirmed by means of objective control,” the statement added.

Pointing at possible involvement of Ukraine, the Russian defense ministry said: “there are units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the disaster area; the units are armed with anti-aircraft missile systems Buk-M1.”

The Buk-M1 systems, according to the defense ministry, are capable of detecting air targets at distances of up to 160 kilometres (about 100 miles) and striking them at all altitudes at a range of over 30 kilometres (18 miles).

“Moreover, in the skies over the Donetsk region, aircraft of the Ukrainian Air Force equipped with different types of missiles are constantly present. This is an undeniable fact,” the Russian defense ministry said.

“Statements from official Kiev saying that those complexes or aircraft did not open fire on air targets raise serious doubts,” the ministry added.

[Reuters and AFP]