By Mike Lillis - 07/18/14 03:42 PM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling for an international probe into the fate of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner downed Thursday over eastern Ukraine.
The California Democrat joins a growing chorus of international policymakers and human rights advocates suggesting concern that the pro-Russia separatists occupying the region — or the Russian government itself, under President Vladimir Putin — might tamper with the evidence to cover up any potential complicity.
President Obama said Friday that U.S. officials believe the plane — a Boeing 777 with almost 300 people on board — was hit by a surface-to-air missile fired from a part of the Ukraine controlled by the pro-Russia militants.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power took the assessment a step further, saying there's “credible evidence” the attack was carried out by those militants, perhaps with technical assistance from inside Russia.
The 15-panel U.N. Security Council, which includes Russia, voted unanimously on Friday to launch a "a full, thorough and independent international investigation ... in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines and for appropriate accountability."
Revealing early signs of concern over the fairness of that probe, Obama is already pressuring Russia to adhere to its U.N. vote.
"The U.N. Security Council has endorsed this investigation, and we will hold all its members — including Russia — to their word," the president said Friday. "Evidence must not be tampered with. Investigators need to access the crash site."
Obama called for the feuding sides to put down their arms to allow the investigation to proceed.
Malaysian Airlines flight 17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down Thursday over eastern Ukraine by what Power said was likely a Russian-made SA-11 missile. All 298 passengers were killed.
Both Putin and the Russian-backed separatists fighting the Ukrainian government have denied they were behind the strike.
Obama said it's too early to know who is directly to blame, but he accused Putin and the Russians of creating the conditions leading up to the attack.
"The violence that’s taking place there is facilitated in part — in large part — because of Russian support," he said. "And they have the ability to move those separatists in a different direction."