Q and A On Malaysia Airline Tragedy
UPDATE 2: (CNN) — President Barack Obama on Friday identified the American aboard the Malaysia Airlines jetliner shot down over Ukraine as Quinn Lucas Schansman.
UPDATES: (CNN) — President Barack Obama said Friday that a surface-to-air missile shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine and he could say with confidence the shot came from territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels. But he stopped short of specifically blaming any particular culprit.
He also said that pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine have received a “steady flow” of arms and training from Russia, including anti-aircraft weapons. He called for a “credible international investigation” into the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines plane.
The president called for an immediate ceasefire in the Ukraine conflict between the Kiev government and pro-Russian rebels in eastern regions so an international investigation can proceed with no tampering of evidence.
By Tom Cohen
(CNN) — It’s an international air disaster in a war zone — a commercial flight with almost 300 people on board shot down in eastern Ukraine.
As new details emerge, here is a look at basic questions about the tragedy:
Was the plane shot down?
All evidence so far says yes.
According to a senior American official, a U.S. radar system saw a surface-to-air missile system turn on and track an aircraft right before the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down Thursday in the Donetsk region of Ukraine near the Russian border.
A second system saw a heat signature, which would indicate a missile rising from the ground into the air at the time the airliner was hit, the official explained.
Does anyone dispute that?
Not at this point.
While the Ukrainian government trades accusations of blame with pro-Russian rebels it is fighting in eastern Ukraine and Russia itself, no one has offered evidence of an alternative theory.
The plane’s debris field indicates a mid-air explosion.
Who did it?
A preliminary classified U.S. intelligence analysis concludes the rebels most likely fired the missile, according to an American defense official with direct access to the latest information.
That’s what Ukrainian officials alleged from the start. The rebels denied it.
Now Ukrainian officials have released what they say are intercepted communications in which rebels talk about downing the civilian airliner.
CNN had no way of immediately verifying the authenticity of the audio recordings.
What kind of missile was used?
We don’t know for sure, but the altitude of the plane — 32,000 feet — means the missile must have come from a sophisticated system such as a Buk or Russian-made S-200 missiles.
Both Russia and Ukraine have such systems, but Ukrainian officials say none of theirs were in the rebel-controlled area where the plane went down.
Russia has been arming and supplying the rebels in eastern Ukraine, and U.S. officials said heavy weaponry including rocket launchers recently went across the border into the conflict area.
Can anyone fire such a missile?
No. The system requires a trained team to properly fix on a target and fire the missile that is longer than an average car.
Who will lead the investigation?
That remains unclear. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Malaysia’s prime minister called for a full international investigation.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said experts from the International Civilian Aviation Organization, an agency of the United Nations, have joined the Netherlands, Malaysia and the United States on a special commission.
Vice President Joe Biden said an American investigative team would head over to help out, and the FBI and National Transportation Safety Board said Friday they each were sending one expert.
Where is the black box?
That also is not clear.
Some reports say separatist forces found the plane’s data and cockpit voice recorders and handed them over to Russia, though that remains unproven.
Finding and examining them will be key, but CNN aviation analyst Miles O’Brien said the crash location in such a volatile region made their recovery uncertain.
“The big question will be, in whose hands will they fall, and will this be a really objective, international investigation?” he said.
Who is in charge of the crash site?
It is in rebel-controlled territory, and the international community has yet to establish full authority over the area.
Rebels were among the first to the crash site and some of them went through the wreckage. Photos show people standing on pieces of wreckage.
CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson said that it took hours for five government rescue teams to get access to the crash area, and armed groups were impeding their work.
Why impede an investigation?
If the rebels fired a Russian missile to down the plane, as suspected, the international backlash could be severe.
Russia could face increasing international isolation and tougher sanctions, while Ukraine could get military aid from the United States and Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he urged his nation’s full cooperation with the investigation, but a senior Ukrainian official on Friday accused Russia of carrying out a cover-up of its role in the shoot-down.
The Ukrainian official cited video footage showing a Buk launcher being moved to Russia from Ukraine overnight.
Who are the victims?
No survivors have been found from the 298 passengers and crew aboard the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. They came from all over the world, including The Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Germany and Canada.
How will the United States and its allies respond?
Nations who had citizens die in the attack will demand a full investigation, as well as the normal response to any air tragedy such as return of remains and reparations for family of victims.
Countries with particular expertise, such as the United States, also will participate in the investigation.
The Ukraine unrest pitting the U.S. and European-backed government in Kiev against the rebels in eastern Ukraine backed by Moscow adds further complexity.
Both Washington and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea from Ukraine and failing to take steps to stop the conflict.
Some U.S. conservatives, such as Republican Sen. John McCain, already call for tougher sanctions and arming the Ukraine military in its fight against the rebels.
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Barbara Starr, Jim Sciutto, Evan Perez, Mike M. Ahlers contributed to this report, which was written by Tom Cohen in Washington.
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