By Keith Laing - 07/22/14 01:39 PM EDT
The White House said Tuesday that it “welcomes” the transfer of black boxes and victims’ remains from the Malaysia Airlines plane that was shot down over Ukraine last week from Russian separatists to Dutch and Malaysian officials.
U.S. and Malaysian officials had complained about potential contamination of the crash site for Malaysia Air Flight 17, which was shot down last week while it was carrying 295 people.
Pro-Russia separatists who are controlling the area of Ukraine where the plane was shot down have reached an agreement with Malaysian officials to hand over the black boxes, which have been sought by investigators to learn what transpired on board the doomed flight in the moments before its crash.
“We welcome the news that most of the remains of those who perished on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, as well as the black boxes, are now in the hands of Dutch and Malaysian authorities,” Earnest said during a briefing Tuesday.
He added quickly, however, that Russia needed to do more to assist with the Flight 17 investigation.
“While that is one step in the right direction, international investigators led by the Dutch still need immediate and full access to the sight,” Earnest said.
U.S. and Ukraine officials have alleged that Russia provided the weapons that were used to take down the Malaysia Airlines jet, which was a Boeing 777.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied responsibility for the plane crash, arguing that Ukraine should be held responsible because the accident occurred in its airspace.
Earnest said Tuesday that the evidence against Russia was compelling, however.
“Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed by a missile that was fired from the ground,” he said. “That missile was filed from a separatist-controlled area. And at the time, the Ukrainian military was not operating anti-aircraft weapons in that area at that time.”
Lawmakers have called for Putin to face harsh repercussions for allegedly ordering the commercial plane to be shot down.
Malaysia Airlines has meanwhile said that it is retiring the flight number 17, and the Federal Aviation Administration has ordered U.S. airlines to avoid flying over Ukraine.