Putin joins calls for cease-fire in Ukraine

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday joined international calls for a ceasefire in Ukraine after a missile apparently took down a commercial plane near the Russian border.

Putin again called the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jet with nearly 300 people aboard a tragedy, saying, "It is with great concern and sadness that we are watching what is happening in eastern Ukraine," according to Reuters.

"Direct talks between the opposing sides must be established as soon as possible. All sides in the conflict must swiftly halt fighting and begin peace negotiations," Putin said.

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There is no confirmation of who is responsible for the alleged surface-to-air missile strike, but Ukrainian officials have blamed pro-Russian separatists who have taken over much of the region.

Putin's call comes a day after he said Ukraine bears responsibility for the crash that happened within its borders. He said it would not have happened if there was peace in the country and he vowed to have the government investigate the incident.

Putin joins the United States and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in calling for a cease-fire. Both countries noted the crash happened in the context of a crisis fueled by Russia's support for separatists.

"We urge all concerned — Russia, the pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine — to support an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and in order to facilitate the recovery of remains," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday night.

Merkel echoed the call early Friday.

"What is important now is for an independent investigation to take place as soon as possible," Merkel said. "For that, a ceasefire is needed, and then it is of course crucial for those responsible to be brought to justice."