Obama directs security team to monitor Ukraine crash
US president: ‘We are working to determine if there were American citizens on board’
President Barack Obama makes a statement on the crash of a Malaysian Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine during a visit to the Port of Wilmington, Delaware, US, today. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times
Mr Obama, in brief remarks before a speech today on transportation, made no mention of reports that the aircraft was shot down by pro-Russian separatists battling the government in Kiev, or to sanctions on Russian companies announced yesterday by the US and Europe.
“The world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet,” Mr Obama said in Wilmington, Delaware. The US is seeking to learn “what happened and why.”
“Right now we are working to determine if there were American citizens on board. That is our first priority.”
The first public reports of the crash were published as Mr Obama spoke by telephone this morning with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian president mentioned those reports to Obama, according to the White House.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said earlier that he was not able to confirm reports that the aircraft, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, had been shot down. All 295 people on board were killed.
Rebels in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said they weren’t involved, the Interfax news service reported.
The conversation between Obama and Putin was about the sanctions on Russian companies and banks that the US imposed yesterday over Russia’s support for the separatists.
Mr Putin has repeatedly denied Russia’s involvement in the insurgency.