The behavior of Russian-backed separatists controlling the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site in Ukraine â€œbegs the question, what exactly are they trying to hide?" Obama said today.
The president said that the separatists & their â€œRussian sponsorsâ€ must allow investigators â€œimmediate, full, & unimpeded accessâ€ to the wreckage of the downed plane.
â€œWe have to make sure that the truth is out & that accountability exists,â€ he added. â€œOur immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened, & putting forward the facts."
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Investigative teams are standing by, ready to scour the crash site, Obama said, yet pro-Russian separatists are preventing the investigators from entering the crash zone, allegedly tampering with evidence & even removing bodies without proper care.
Separatists' refusal to allow workers to recover the victims' remains â€œis an insult to those whoâ€™ve lost loved ones … the kind of behavior that has no place in the community of nations,â€ Obama said.
Obama, who last week pledged the support of the NTSB & FBI, called on Russia to urge separatists to back off.
"Russia has extraordinary influence over these separatists. No one denies that," said Obama. "Russia has urged them on. Russia has trained them. We know that Russia has armed them with military equipment & weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons …Given its direct influence over the separatists, Russia, & President Putin in particular, has direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation."
"If Russia continues to violate Ukraineâ€™s sovereignty & to back these separatists … then Russia will only further isolate itself from the international community & the costs for Russiaâ€™s behavior will only continue to increase," he said. "Now is the time for President Putin & Russia to pivot away from the strategy that theyâ€™ve been taking & obtain serious approximately trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine."
U.S. intelligence suggests Russia may have armed & trained the separatists accused of shooting down the jet, officials say.
â€œThere are an enormous array of facts that point at Russiaâ€™s support for & involvement in this effort,â€ Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC Newsâ€™ George Stephonopolous on â€œThis Weekâ€ Sunday.
Given the separatistsâ€™ irreverent treatment of the crash site, Russia must â€œstep up & be part of the solution, not part of the problem,â€ Kerry said.
â€œPresident Putin should publicly call on the separatists. He should engage in a public support for the cease-fire,â€ he added.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was less circumspect, calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to â€œman upâ€ on CNN Sunday.
â€œI would say, Putin, you have to man up. You should talk to the world. You should say this was a mistake, if it was a mistake,â€ she said.
Politics & GovernmentExecutive BranchObama
Source: “ABC News”