Malaysia Air Flight 17: The aftermath

Pieces of wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 are seen in a field in Shaktarsk, Ukraine, July 18, 2014. A suspected surface-to-air missile killed 298 people on board. Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

The aftermath of any plane disaster involves an intensive search for clues and evidence . . . and sometimes a bit of soul-searching as well, a process all the more complicated when the plane in question has been shot down in the middle of a war zone, with accusing fingers being pointed all around. Our Cover Story comes from Martha Teichner:

One by one, the 298 names on the manifest have become faces, stories -- Quinn Schansman, the only U.S. citizen; Australian Nick Norris and his three grandchildren; Malaysian Tambi Jiee, his wife, and their four children.

It's awful to see the smiling snapshots, after seeing the wreckage of Malaysia Flight 17.

"As we stared at the passenger list yesterday, we saw a capital "I" next to three; as we now know, the letter I stands for infant," said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power. "To the families and friends of the victims, it is impossible to find words to express for our condolences."

Heartfelt, but so inadequate, the tributes laid outside Malaysian and Dutch embassies . . . so telling, this one in Moscow: it says, "Forgive us."

dutch-embassy-moscow-malaysia-air-flowers-620-452325016.jpg
A woman lays flowers in front of the Dutch Embassy in Moscow on July 18, 2014.
DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama said, "Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine."

The incident has suddenly and dramatically escalated U.S.-Russian animosities.

"We know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia," said Mr. Obama. "This includes arms and training. It include heavy weapons, and it includes anti-aircraft weapons."

Russian President Vladimir Putin held the U.S.-backed Ukrainian government responsible.

This blame game at the highest levels is a potentially dangerous extension of the nasty, regional conflict in the Ukraine.

In March Russia annexed Crimea, a chunk of the Ukraine where a lot of ethnic Russians live -- and got away with it. Then, Moscow pushed on, supporting the separatist rebels in the eastern Ukraine who want to break away and join Russia.

The United States and the European Union imposed limited financial sanctions, but have been reluctant to pick too big a fight with Vladimir Putin, for fear of retaliation in the areas of energy, trade, and international cooperation . . . that is, until the downing of Malaysia Air Flight 17.

"The status quo cannot persist," said Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security advisor, and a CBS News analyst. "You now have civilians that have been killed, and chaos that seems to be unfolding as a result of this conflict.

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