By Justin Sink - 07/18/14 12:24 PM EDT
President Obama said at least one American died in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which he said was taken down by a surface-to-air missile launched from territory controlled by the Russian separatists.
Obama didn’t say the missile was fired by Russian militants and cautioned that the U.S. was still collecting facts.
“Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken — men, women, children, infants who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine,” Obama said. “Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.”
Obama joined other U.S. officials in noting that the Malaysian jet is not the first aircraft to be 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,” Obama said. “Moreover, we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia.”
“Time and again, Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to de-escalate the situation,” Obama said.
The president called for an immediate cease-fire to allow for a “credible international investigation into what happened.” He said the "immediate focus" of the U.S. would be into figuring out what happened in the crash and “recovering those who were lost.”
He also called on Moscow to take concrete actions to withdraw support for pro-Russian militants in Ukraine and de-escalate the conflict.
“This outrageous event underscores that it is time for peace and security to be restored in eastern Ukraine,” Obama said.
“Violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences,” he added. “Russia, these separatists, and Ukraine all have a capacity to put an end to this fighting.”
The president stopped short of calling for a new round of economic sanctions on Russia. But he said the downing “will certainly be a wake-up call for Europe and the world that there are consequences for an escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine.”
“It is not going to be localized,” Obama said. “It is not going to be contained.”
Obama said he did not see a role for the U.S. military beyond what the country had already been doing to support NATO allies and the government in Kiev.
The president also confirmed reports that nearly 100 HIV/AIDS researchers traveling to an international conference in Australia were on board the flight.
"In this world today, we shouldn't forget that in the midst of conflict and killing, there are people like these," Obama said. "People who are focused on what can be built, rather than what can be destroyed."