President Obama confirmed in a news conference Friday that at least one American was killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
The citizen, who had dual Dutch-American citizenship, is Quinn Lucas Schansman. “At this point, the individual that I mentioned is the sole person that we can definitively say was a U.S. or dual citizen,” the president said.
While the president didn’t assign direct blame for the attack, he did confirm that the U.S. believes it was shot down in pro-Russia separatist territory, and hinted at Russian culpability.
“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,” Obama said. “Moreover, we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia. This includes arms and training. It includes heavy weapons.”
The president said that the U.S. has “confidence in saying that that shot was taken within territory that is controlled by the Russian separatists.” That said, the U.S. isn’t planning on any kind of offensive against Russia.
“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.”
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Obama also addressed his conversations over the last day with Vladimir Putin.
“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,” he said. “Instead, it has continued to violate the Ukrainian sovereignty and to support violent separatists. It has already failed to use its influence to press the separatists to abide by a cease-fire.”
When asked how much blame the he puts on Putin for the crash, Obama said that while we do not know exactly what happened “we know [the separatists] are heavily armed and that they are trained, and we know that that’s not an accident. That’s happening because of Russia support.”
Obama didn’t give any indication as to why the plane was shot down, saying that “it’s too early to guess what the intentions of those who might have launched the surface to air missile might have had.”
The president also suggested that there could be further action coming from the U.S. against Russia. “We will continue to make clear that as Russia engages in efforts that are supporting the separatists, that we have the capacity to increase the costs that we impose on them, and we will do so.”
While Obama finished speaking, an ABC reporter brought more news from the scene of the crash:
Earlier Friday morning, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss the MH17 crash. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power suggested that if pro-Russian separatists did shoot down the plane, they likely did not act alone. “Russia must end this war,” she said.
The Malaysia Airlines flight crashed down near Grabovo on Thursday, a town controlled by pro-Russian separatists close to the Ukraine-Russia border. The plane was carrying 298 people. BuzzFeed reported Friday morning that no passengers checked in with a U.S. passport.
The president also addressed reports about some of the passengers aboard the plane.
“On board Malaysian Airline, flight MH17 there were apparently nearly 100 researchers and advocates traveling to an international conference in Australia dedicated to combating AIDS/HIV. These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others.”
He continued: “We shouldn’t forget in the midst of conflict and killing there are people like these people who are focused on what can be built rather than what can be destroyed.”
Preliminary U.S. intelligence suggests that pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane with a surface-to-air missile. Defense Department officials tell The New York Times that “American intelligence agencies have concluded that an SA-11 missile, fired from an area near the Russia border, had downed the plane.” On Thursday, Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, told The Daily Beast that whoever is responsible for taking down the plane “should pay a full price” and that “it could be considered an act of war” if the plane was shot down directly or indirectly by a country.