July 13, 2017

July 21, 2014

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Three years ago, on July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama released an official statement on the situation in Ukraine, following the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, that killed all 298 persons on board. The statement was released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary.

Excerpts from the statement were published in The Ukrainian Weekly. “…it’s now been four days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. Over the last several days, our hearts have been absolutely broken as we’ve learned more about the extraordinary and beautiful lives that were lost – men, women and children and infants who were killed so suddenly and so senselessly,” it said.

The statement also acknowledged the grief felt by families around the world and the reaction of world leaders, who remained in shock and also in a state of outrage. “…Our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened and putting forward the facts. We have to make sure that the truth is out and that accountability exists,” the statement continued.

President Obama noted the international effort put forth for the investigation, and how the U.S. was providing its expertise in the collecting of evidence. The crash site remained unsecure, with the evidence being mishandled by the occupying forces directed by Russian “volunteers,” who restricted access to the site. Mr. Obama underscored, “[These investigators] need to be able to conduct a prompt and full and unimpeded as well as transparent investigation. And recovery personnel have to do the solemn and sacred work on recovering the remains of those who were lost… These separatists are removing evidence from the crash site, all of which begs the question – what exactly are they trying to hide?”

President Petro Poroshenko declared the crash site a demilitarized zone in the hopes that it would speed up access to the area. But, as Mr. Obama highlighted, “…These Russian-backed separatists are removing bodies from the crash site, oftentimes without the care that we would normally expect from a tragedy like this. And this is an insult to those who have lost loved ones. This is the kind of behavior that has no place in the community of nations.”

Regarding the separatists and Russia’s role in the war in Ukraine, Mr. Obama underscored: “…Russia has trained them. We know that Russia has armed them with military equipment and weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons. Key separatist leaders are Russian citizens. So given its direct influence over the separatists, Russia and President [Vladimir] Putin, in particular has direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation. That is the least that they can do.”

Mr. Obama added: “…The burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full and unimpeded access to the crash site. The separatists and the Russian sponsors are responsible for the safety of the investigators doing their work. And along with our allies and partners, we will be working this issue at the United Nations today.”

Mr. Obama noted his preference for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Ukraine, but warned that Russia would only further isolate itself from the international community, and the cost for Russia’s behavior would only continue to increase.

“…Families deserve to be able to lay their loved ones to rest with dignity,” Mr. Obama concluded. “The world deserves to know exactly what happened. And the people of Ukraine deserve to determine their own future.”

In the three years since the downing of MH17, investigators have determined that MH17 was downed by a Russian-made Buk anti-aircraft missile that was brought from Russia and launched from the territory of Ukraine that was under the control of Russian-backed forces at the time. The international community has attempted to seek justice in the matter through the International Criminal Court, an international tribunal proposed by the United Nations, and other judicial venues. Russia continues to deny involvement, confounding efforts to bring those responsible to justice.

Source: “President Obama’s statement on the situation in Ukraine,” The Ukrainian Weekly, July 27, 2014.

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