The US has started building a case that would pin the blame for the downing of a passenger jet over Ukraine on separatist forces supported by Russia, a disaster that could dramatically escalate the crisis in Ukraine.
President Barack Obama said evidence so far indicates that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
He noted it was not the first time separatists had shot down planes in the region, adding that a "steady flow of support from Russia" had included heavy weapons and anti-aircraft weapons.
He called for an immediate ceasefire to allow for a full investigation
"This was a global tragedy," Mr Obama said. "An Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies filled with citizens from many countries, so there has to be a credible international investigation into what happened."
Officials from the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board are on their way to Ukraine to help determine what happened, Mr Obama said. He warned that evidence must not be tampered with as a United Nations-backed investigation goes forward, and he said, "We will hold all its members, including Russia, to their word" in allowing access to the crash.
"This should snap everybody's heads to attention," Mr Obama said.
The White House has taken the lead in forming the delegation to Ukraine, according to a US official. A command centre has been set up at the State Department, where officials from agencies participating in the delegation gathered for a briefing from the CIA on the political and military situation in Ukraine, the official said.
A second US official said all available evidence, including satellite imagery, pointed to the plane being shot down by an SA-11 anti-aircraft missile fired from eastern Ukraine by Ukrainian separatist forces. The US detected three discrete events associated with the shootdown, the official said: the launching of the missile from the Ukraine side of the border, the missile's impact with the plane, and the plane slamming into the ground.
Relatives of those who died in the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine will each receive US $5,000 US dollars (about €3,705) towards their immediate needs, the carrier's vice president said today.