U.S. President Obama piles pressure on Russia's Putin to force Ukraine's separatists to cooperate in crash investigation of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: U.S. President Barack Obama piled pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday (July 21) to force pro-Russian separatists to stop blocking an international investigation into the shootdown of a passenger jet last week. In remarks at the White House, Obama said Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have kept investigators away from the site of the downed Malaysian Airlines plane, at times firing their weapons into the air. "The separatists are removing evidence from the crash site. All of which begs the question, what are they trying to hide?" Obama said. Obama said Putin and Russia have a direct responsibility to compel separatists to cooperate with the investigation and that the burden is now on Moscow to insist that separatists stop tampering with the investigation. "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," he said. Flight 17 crashed into a field near the Russian border on Thursday (July 17), killing all 289 people on board. Obama called for investigators to have immediate and full access to the plane crash site, an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists whom Washington suspects downed the the jet with a surface-to-air missile. The U.S. says it had intercepted conversations about the transfer to separatists of the Russian radar-guided SA-11 missile system, which it blames for the Boeing 777's destruction. Moscow denies any involvement in the disaster and has blamed the Ukrainian military. The disaster has sharply deepened the Ukrainian crisis in which the separatists in the Russian-speaking east have been fighting government forces since protesters in Kiev forced out a pro-Moscow president and Russia annexed Crimea in March. Obama said his preference continues to be finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine but he also cautioned that Russia will further isolate itself if it continues to back the separatists. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to vote on Monday on a resolution that would condemn the downing of the plane and demands that those responsible be held accountable and that armed groups not compromise the integrity of the crash site.