President Barack Obama says the United States believes Flight MH17 was shot down, killing 298 innocent people in an act he describes as “an outrage of unspeakable proportions”.
President Barack Obama said there was increasing evidence that MH17 was brought down by a surface-to-air missile launched from the area controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside Ukraine.
He said it was too early to go into detail about Russia’s involvement, however he said the rebels would not be in the position they are in without the support of Russia.
“This will be a wake-up call to the world that there are consequences of an escalating conflict in east Ukraine,” he said.
The UN Security Council on Friday called for a “full, thorough and independent international investigation” into the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, in which 298 people from around the world were killed, including three babies.
This will be a wake-up call to the world. Barack Obama
The Ukrainian authorities believe the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was downed by a missile fired by Ukrainian separatists backed by Moscow, and have produced audio of phone calls which they say confirms their theory.
Pavel Gubarev, pro-Russian separatist and self-proclaimed “people’s governor” of Donetsk, told Channel 4 News this was not the case.
“We do not have any technique with which we can shoot down the plane at an altitude of 10,000 metres,” he said, adding that press reports and pictures which show that the rebels have Buk missile systems are incorrect. He said Russia has “given us exclusively humanitarian support” but added: “I am very sorry, it is very painful when you see it… and my condolences are to all the relatives of the killed people.”
The separatist rebels, who have been fighting in eastern Ukraine for months, have shot down a number of military planes in recent weeks.
Russian-backed separatists’ attacks vs #Ukraine:
6/13â??Downed transport plane
7/14â??Downed cargo plane
— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) July 18, 2014
Officials from Malaysia Airlines on Friday said they had determined the nationalities of all but four of the passengers aboard the flight when it crashed.
The airline’s Europe head Huib Gorter said the MH17 flight had had 189 Dutch passengers, 29 Malaysian, 27 Australian, 12 Indonesian, ten British, four German, four Belgian, three Filippino, one Canadian and one New Zealander on board as well as three of as yet unidentified nationalities.
“We’re in the process of verifying the rest,” Malaysia Airlines Europe Vice President, Huib Gorter, said.
The Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed over eastern Ukraine on Thursday was operating normally before the disaster, Mr Gorter said. He said contact was lost on Thursday at 2.15pm.
The airline is now aiming to take families to visit the crash site. “We are working to see whether that is feasible,” he added.
Rescuers have recovered as many as 181 bodies so far at the crash site, an official at Kiev’s Foreign Ministry told a briefing on Friday. White flags are being used to mark the places where bodies have been found (pictured, above).
It was reported that up to 100 of those killed were delegates on their way to an international conference on Aids in Melbourne, Australia. Reportedly among them was the world-renowned researcher and former International Aids Society president Joep Lange. Brit Glenn Thomas, a former journalist and media spokesman for the WHO, was amongst their number. He has been praised as a “wonderful person and a great professional”.
Two Newcastle United fans, John Alder and Liam Sweeney were also named as have being on board the flight. They were travelling to New Zealand to support their football team. Newcastle United released a statement saying the club was”deeply shocked and saddened at the news”.
Newcastle United Managing Director Lee Charnley said: “Both men were dedicated supporters of our club and were known to thousands of fans and staff alike. On behalf of everyone at Newcastle United we send our deepest condolences to John and Liam’s families and friends. The club will be dedicating an area surrounding the Sir Bobby Robson statue for fans to pay their respects to John and Liam.”
Leeds University student Richard Mayne has also been named. The university’s rugby union tweeted: “Hearts go out to the friends & family of Richard Mayne, a popular clubman taken from us too soon. We pay tribute to an honest and kind man.”
In total ten Britons were on board the flight.
About 30 observers and experts from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) arrived at the site in eastern Ukraine where flight MH17 crashed to find out more about the incident.
“They landed by helicopter, about 30 of them,” a spokesman for the Swiss chairmanship of the OSCE Roland Bless said. He said the “contact group” of diplomats from the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine had met and spoken with separatists leaders by video link.
Pro-Russian separatists had earlier said they would welcome the experts in the investigation.”We support the maximum number of experts possible,” Sergei Kavtaradze said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte described the crash as one of the “biggest air disasters” in the history of the Netherlands.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the incident was “absolutely appalling, shocking, horrific”. He said: “If, as seems possible, this was brought down, then those responsible must be held to account and we must lose no time in doing that.”
The disappearance of the airliner from the radar screens as it flew over eastern Ukraine prompted immediate allegations and counter-claims, with the government in Kiev and the separatist rebels blaming each other. The rebels insisted that they did not have the equipment capable of bringing down an aircraft which was flying at such high altitude at more than 30,000 feet.
But Ukraine’s security services produced what they said were two intercepted telephone conversations that they said showed rebels were responsible. In the first call, the security services said, rebel commander Igor Bezler told a Russian military intelligence officer that rebel forces shot down a plane on Friday. In the second, two rebel fighters – one at the scene of the crash – said the rocket attack was carried out by a unit of insurgents about 15 miles north of the crash site.
Graphic images from the crash scene near the village of Grabovo showed a pall of thick smoke hanging above the site and bodies among the charred wreckage.