Obama talks to Putin, pledges US help for Malaysian plane probe

2014-07-18 08:27

New York – President Barack Obama directed US officials to do all they could to support an investigation into what caused a Malaysian jetliner to crash in a Ukrainian war zone and pledged support to the affected countries as the probe moves forward.

Obama went ahead with a trip to tout infrastructure investment in Delaware yesterday, to raise money for Democrats in New York despite the incident in which more than 290 people were killed. A Ukrainian official said there were 23 Americans aboard but US officials did not confirm that.

Before leaving the White House, Obama spoke by telephone to Russian President Vladimir Putin after the United States on Wednesday imposed the most wide-ranging sanctions yet on Moscow for its actions in Ukraine. During the call, which came at Russia’s request, Putin informed Obama about the downed plane.

“I can confirm that President Putin near the end of this morning’s phone call with President Obama noted the early reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border,” White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said.

Ukraine and Russia traded accusations of blame over the incident.

Obama made brief remarks about the plane at the beginning of a speech in Wilmington, Delaware.

“It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy,” he said. “I’ve directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government. The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why.”

Vice-president Joe Biden said it appeared the downing of the jetliner near the Ukraine-Russia border was not an accident and that the passenger jet was apparently “blown out of the sky.”

“This is truly a grave situation,” he said.

Both Obama and Biden spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, offering assistance to help determine what happened to the Boeing 777 that was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, officials said.

Obama and his Ukrainian counterpart emphasised that evidence from the crash must remain in Ukraine so international investigators have a chance to look at all of it, officials said.

Obama also called Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to express condolences and offer US support for a full probe. The White House said Obama told Rutte that the United States “was prepared to contribute immediate assistance to support a prompt, full, credible and unimpeded international investigation.”

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