At least one American citizen was among the nearly 300 innocent people killed when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine, President Obama announced Friday, calling the incident a "global tragedy."
"An Asian airline was destroyed in European skies filled with citizens from many countries," Mr. Obama said from the White House briefing room. "I think that this certainly will be a wake-up call for Europe and the world that there are consequences to an escalating conflict in Eastern Ukraine, that it is not going to be localized, it is not going to be contained."
The death of more than 100 Dutch citizens "sadly brings home the degree to which the stakes are high for Europe, not simply for the Ukrainian people," Mr. Obama continued, "And that we have to be firm in our resolve and making sure that we are supporting Ukraine in its efforts to bring about a just cease-fire and that we can move towards a political solution to this."
Evidence indicates the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists, Mr. Obama confirmed. When asked who is to blame, Mr. Obama said, "We don't know exactly what happened yet, and I don't want to... get out ahead of the facts." However, he said, "We know that [the separatists] are heavily armed and that they are trained, and we know that that's not an accident, that it's happening because of Russian support."
He added, "It is not possible for these separatists to function the way they are functioning... without sophisticated equipment or sophisticated training, and that is coming from Russia."
As investigations into the missile strike begin, "the eyes of the world are on Eastern Ukraine," Mr. Obama said, adding, "We are going to make sure the truth is out."
The U.N. Security Council has endorsed an international investigation, and Mr. Obama said, "We will hold all its members, including Russia, to their word."
"In order to facilitate that investigation, Russia, pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine must adhere to an immediate cease-fire," the president said.
Evidence must not be tampered with, and investigators need to access the crash site, he added. The U.S. is ready to provide assistance where necessary and is sending personnel from the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board to support in the efforts.
More broadly, Mr. Obama said, the tragic event "underscores it is time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine."
On Thursday, as news was breaking about the missile strike on the airliner, Mr. Obama spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the sanctions the U.S. and its allies have imposed on Russia.
"Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to de-escalate the situation," Mr. Obama said Friday. "Instead, it has continued to violate Ukrainian sovereignty and to support violent separatists. It has also failed to use its influence to press the separatists to abide by a cease-fire."
The president called this a "a somber and appropriate time" to consider that "violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences. Russia, the separatists, and Ukraine all have the capacity to put an end to the fighting."
Mr. Obama noted that on Thursday he spoke with leaders from Ukraine, Malaysia and the Netherlands. On Friday, he'll speak with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Recognizing the large number of Dutch passengers on board the flight, Mr. Obama said, "I want the Dutch people to know we stand with you shoulder to shoulder in our grief and in our absolute determination to get to the bottom of what happened."