Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 23, 2014

Obama Demands ‘Credible’ Investigation of Plane Shootdown

President Obama on Friday called for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine to allow “a credible international investigation” of the shooting down Thursday of a Malaysian airliner with 298 people on board.

Calling the event “an outrage of unspeakable proportions,” Obama said at the White House that he’d dispatched investigators from the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board to Ukraine to assist in the inquiry.

“Evidence must not be tampered with,” Obama warned. “Investigators need to access the crash site….”

Complaining about misinformation that has been circulated in eastern Ukraine, Obama said, “We don’t have time for propaganda, we don’t have time for games. We need to know exactly what happened and everybody needs to make that we’re holding accountable those who committed this outrage.”

Addressing the question of who shot down the plane, the president said, “evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that as launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine.”

He added, “This is not the first time a plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine. Over the last several weeks, Russian-backed separatists have shot down a Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter. And they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet.”

“We don’t know exactly what happened yet,” he cautioned but added, “a group of separatists can’t shoot down military transport planes or, they claim, shoot down a fighter jet, without sophisticated equipment and sophisticated training — and that is coming from Russia.”

A few minutes before Obama spoke to reporters at the White House, Datuk Hussein Haniff, the Malaysian ambassador to the United Nations, told a Security Council meeting that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had said that at the time contact with Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was lost, it was flying over non-restricted airspace.

“Furthermore, the International Civil Aviation Organization had declared the flight path to be safe,” Haniff told the Security Council.

In its statement on Thursday, ICAO, a United Nations agency, said it had “recently issued a State letter advising States and their air operators of a potentially unsafe situation arising from the presence of more than one air traffic services provider in the Simferopol Flight Information Region (FIR). The loss of MH17 occurred outside of the Simferopol FIR….”

In a statement issued Friday, IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler said, “Airlines depend on governments and air traffic control authorities to advise which air space is available for flight, and they plan within those limits. It is very similar to driving a car. If the road is open, you assume that it is safe. If it’s closed you find an alternate route.”

He added, “Civil aircraft are not military targets. Governments agreed that in the Chicago Convention,” the 1944 international agreement governing aviation.

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