There are lots of moving parts to the unfolding crisis in Ukraine. Over the weekend, the US government released considerable evidence that the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17 was almost certainly perpetrated by pro-Russian separatists. Since the beginning, of course, the evidence has always pointed back to Moscow, but now, it seems, we have circumstantial proof. This is significant. At the same time, western leaders are taking increasingly pointed measures to ensure a fair and impartial investigation still comes to fruition. An Australian-proposed UN resolution that would put its own organization in charge of those efforts, thus removing Moscow-backed separatists from tampering with -- and blocking off -- sections of the crime scene, is up for a vote later today.
Meanwhile, from a humanitarian perspective, the victims of this heinous crime have been treated with anything but dignity and respect. This is why the Netherlands is demanding the bodies be returned to them immediately, some of whom have reportedly been neglected, pillaged, and left to rot in the sun. The remains of at least 200 victims still languish on “refrigerated boxcars” outside the crash scene.
It is through this backdrop, then, that the president of the United States addressed the nation today from the southern lawn of the White House.
“It’s now been four days since Malaysian flight MH17 was shot down,” he said. “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.”
“Our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost,” he added. “We have to make sure the truth is out and accountability exists. “
He also explained that personnel were already deployed to Ukraine to commence a full-scale investigation.
“International investigators are on the ground -- I’ve sent teams, other countries have sent teams,” he said. “What they need is full and immediate access to the crash site.”
“Recovery personnel have to do the solemn and sacred task of recovering those who are lost,” he added.
“Unfortunately, the Russian-backed separatists continue to block the investigation,” he continued. “All of which begs the question, what are they trying to hide?” he said.
He noted that Russia has “extraordinary” influence over the separatists, and urged President Putin to use that influence to help broker an “unimpeded” investigation.
“More broadly, as I’ve said through this crisis and the crisis in Ukraine directly -- and I’ve said this to President Putin and publicly --I want to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine,” he explained. “Now is the time for President Putin and Russia to pivot away from the strategy they’ve been taken and get serious.”
“The world deserves to know exactly what happened,” he said.