Obama: We Know At Least One American Was Killed on Downed Malaysian Flight

The president addressed the plane crash in a Friday morning press conference.

A man looks at the wreckage of passenger plane Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine.
National Journal
Brian Resnick and Matt Berman
July 18, 2014, 7:55 a.m.

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.”

Re­lated Story: United Na­tions Turns Up the Pres­sure on Rus­sia

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.