4:24 pm - Sunday November 8, 2015

MH17 ‘terrible tragedy': Obama

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U.S. President Barack Obama described the crashing of Malaysian Airlines passenger aircraft MH17 as a “terrible tragedy” on Thursday afternoon, speaking during a tour of Delaware.

“Obviously the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border, he said, adding, “Right now we’re working to determine whether there were any Americans on board. That is our first priority.”

The President said that he had directed his national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government and that Washington would offer “any assistance we can to help determine what happened, and why.”

“As a country our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home,” Mr. Obama said.

Earlier on Thursday Mr. Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine and the additional sanctions on Russian individuals and entities that the U.S. had announced on July 16.

Perhaps coincidentally, Mr. Obama noted, “in the face of extensive evidence that Russia is significantly increasing the provision of heavy weapons to separatists in Ukraine and Russia’s failure to take other steps set out by the U.S. and Europe to de-escalate the crisis, it was necessary to impose additional sanctions.” He also reportedly called on Mr. Putin to “halt the flow of fighters and weapons into Ukraine”.

While Mr. Putin’s response to Mr. Obama’s remark on “heavy weapons,” is unknown, the White House said that during the call, the Russian President had mentioned early reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border.

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