The White House called for an immediate ceasefire in
Ukraine to allow easy access to a downed Malaysian jetliner and
President Barack Obama directed U.S. officials on Thursday to
do all they could to support an investigation into what caused
"It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded
international investigation as quickly as possible," White
House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement, urging
Russia, pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine to support a
cease-fire to permit safe and unfettered access to the
The statement came at the end of a day in which Obama went
ahead with a trip to tout infrastructure investment in
Delaware and to raise money for Democrats in New York despite
the incident, in which 298 people were killed.
A Ukrainian official said there were 23 Americans aboard but
U.S. officials did not confirm that figure.
Before leaving the White House, Obama spoke by telephone to
Russian President Vladimir Putin after the United States on
Wednesday imposed the most wide-ranging sanctions yet on
Moscow for its actions in Ukraine. During the call, which
came at Russia's request, Putin informed Obama about the
Ukraine and Russia traded accusations of blame over the
incident. The White House noted that it took place against a
backdrop of Russian support for Ukraine rebels.
"While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that this
incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that
is fueled by Russian support for the separatists, including
through arms, materiel, and training," Earnest said.
"This incident only highlights the urgency with which we
continue to urge Russia to immediately take concrete steps to
de-escalate the situation in Ukraine."
Obama made brief remarks about the plane at the beginning of
a speech about roads and bridges in Wilmington, Delaware.
"It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy," he said. "I've
directed my national security team to stay in close contact
with the Ukrainian government. The United States will offer
any assistance we can to help determine what happened and
Vice President Joe Biden said it appeared the downing of the
jetliner near the Ukraine-Russia border was not an accident
and that the passenger jet apparently was "blown out of the
"This is truly a grave situation," he said during a speech in
Both Obama and Biden spoke by phone with Ukrainian President
Petro Poroshenko, offering assistance to help determine what
happened to the Boeing 777 that was flying from Amsterdam to
Kuala Lumpur, officials said. The White House said the
National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI) were prepared to help.
Obama and his Ukrainian counterpart emphasized that evidence
from the crash must remain in Ukraine so international
investigators have a chance to look at all of it.
Obama also called Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to express condolences and
offer U.S. support for a full probe. The White House said
Obama told Rutte that the United States "was prepared to
contribute immediate assistance to support a prompt, full,
credible and unimpeded international investigation."
The crash injected an unpredictable element into the
increasingly violent confrontation between Ukraine and
Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Republican lawmakers, who have called for tough U.S. action
against Moscow over Ukraine, called for retaliation against
Russia if it were found to have been involved in the crash.
"I believe there should be serious consequences if we find
out that it was either Russian agents, Russian equipment or
Russians directly that was responsible for the downing of
this airliner," New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte
said in a speech in the U.S. Senate.
Obama, determined not to appear to be a hostage of world
events, continued with his trip after telling Putin that the
United States could impose more sanctions on Russia if Moscow
does not take steps to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis.
The new round of U.S. sanctions against Russia included
penalties against Russia's largest oil producer, Rosneft ,
and other energy, financial and defense firms.
In Wilmington, Obama ate a hamburger with a supporter at a
diner after shaking hands and hugging children in the
restaurant. In New York, he attended Democratic fundraisers
that were not open to the media.
Seeking to show that Obama was on top of the crisis despite
his travel, the White House said he convened separate calls
with Secretary of State John Kerry and senior members of his
national security team, including CIA Director John Brennan,
after Air Force One arrived in New York.