President Barack Obama delivered an unmistakable warning to Russia and Moscow-backed Ukrainian separatists on Thursday not to tamper with the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet apparently shot down over rebel-controlled territory.
With no hope for the roughly 300 people board the Boeing 777, Obama discussed the tragedy with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko by telephone and offered “all possible assistance immediately” to figure out what happened, the White House said in a summary of the call.
Poroshenko “welcomed the assistance of international investigators to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation of the crash site,” according to the summary.
“The presidents emphasized that all evidence from the crash site must remain in place on the territory of Ukraine until international investigators are able to examine all aspects of the tragedy,” the White House said.
That amounted to a warning to Ukrainian separatists who control the area – as well as to their patrons in Moscow – to ensure that critical evidence not disappear, either through looting or by willful tampering to conceal who was behind the tragedy.
Obama placed the telephone call from Air Force One as he jetted to New York City for a brace of Democratic fundraisers. He also called Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Earlier, the president stopped in Wilmington, Del., for an event where he knocked Republicans over infrastructure funding.
While Obama kept to his heavily partisan public schedule, the White House portrayed the president as working hard behind the scenes to address the crisis.