United States, UN Turn Up the Pressure on Russia Over Ukraine Plane Crash

“Russia must end this war,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

A woman looks at the wreckage of passenger plane Air Malaysia flight MH17 on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine.
National Journal
Matt Berman and Brian Resnick
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Matt Berman and Brian Resnick
July 18, 2014, 6:53 a.m.

The United Na­tions Se­cur­ity Coun­cil con­vened an emer­gency meet­ing Fri­day morn­ing to dis­cuss Thursday’s MH17 crash in Ukraine. And so far, it seems like the United States is pla­cing re­spons­ib­il­ity on Rus­sia.

Re­lated Story: Obama Con­firms At Least One Amer­ic­an Was Killed

U.S. Am­bas­sad­or to the United Na­tions Sam­antha Power told the se­cur­ity coun­cil that if Rus­si­an-backed sep­ar­at­ists did fire on the plane, it is un­likely they op­er­ated alone. “Be­cause of the tech­nic­al com­plex­ity of the SA-11 [the mis­sile sys­tem be­lieved to have been used], it is un­likely the sep­ar­at­ists could have ef­fect­ively op­er­ated the sys­tem without as­sist­ance from know­ledge­able per­son­nel.”

Power con­cluded with a dir­ect mes­sage to Rus­sia. “This ap­palling at­tack oc­curred in the con­text of a crisis that has been fueled by Rus­si­an sup­port and sep­ar­at­ists and by Rus­si­an fail­ure to fol­low through on its com­mit­ments,” she said. “This tragedy only un­der­scores the de­term­in­a­tion in which we in­sist Rus­sia im­me­di­ately take con­crete steps to de-es­cal­ate the situ­ation in Ukraine. This war can be ended. Rus­sia must end this war.”

Rus­sia’s U.N. am­bas­sad­or, mean­while, tried to slow down any quick judge­ments against Rus­sia, but wel­comed an in­vest­ig­a­tion. “We think it would be right to cre­ate an in­ter­na­tion­al com­mis­sion,” said Vi­taly Chur­kin. He did, however, place blame on Ukraine. “Why did the Ukrain­i­an avi­ation dis­patch­er send a pas­sen­ger flight to an area of mil­it­ary clashes, an area which was be­ing used for car­ry­ing out strikes against ci­vil­ian parties amongst oth­er and where there were anti-air­craft sys­tems work­ing,” he asked. “In an air­space, it’s the re­spons­ib­il­ity of that state, in line with in­ter­na­tion­al stand­ards on the ter­rit­ory where the flight is be­ing car­ried out, the state must provide avi­ation in­form­a­tion ne­ces­sary for en­sur­ing the se­cur­ity of avi­ation.”

Chur­kin also put blame on Ukraine for “reg­u­lar” ar­til­lery and mor­tar shelling by Ukra­ni­an armed forces, which he says has killed and wounded Rus­si­an ci­vil­ians. “We see this as an ag­gress­ive act from Ukraine in­to sov­er­eign Rus­si­an ter­rit­ory and cit­izens of the Rus­si­an fed­er­a­tion,” he said. “We place all blame on Ukraine and call for the Ukrain­i­an side to take de­cis­ive meas­ures in the fu­ture.”

U.K. Am­bas­sad­or Mark Ly­all Grant said that “the United King­dom urges Rus­sia to re­flect care­fully on the situ­ation they have cre­ated.”

Pres­id­ent Obama is now sched­uled to speak at noon.

Malay­sia Air­lines flight 17, a Boe­ing 777 car­ry­ing 298 people on board, crashed near Grabovo, Ukraine on Thursday. Early U.S. in­tel­li­gence in­dic­ates that the plane was shot down by a sur­face-to-air mis­sile fired by pro-Rus­si­an sep­ar­at­ists who con­trol the area around where the plane fell.

It’s still not com­pletely clear wheth­er or not there were any Amer­ic­an cit­izens on board the plane. BuzzFeed re­por­ted Fri­day morn­ing that no pas­sen­gers on the flight used U.S. pass­ports to check in, but there could still po­ten­tially be pas­sen­gers with dual-cit­izen­ship. A large num­ber of AIDS re­search­ers, pos­sibly over 100, were on board on MH17, en route to a AIDS con­fer­ence.

On Thursday, Vice Pres­id­ent Biden told Ukrain­i­an Pres­id­ent Petro Poroshen­ko that the U.S. would send a team to Ukraine “to de­term­ine what happened.”

This post is break­ing and will be up­dated.

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