World leaders offer help after Malaysian plane goes down in Ukraine

After a Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 298 people went down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, officials scrambled to offer condolences and to figure out who was aboard the plane and whether it was shot down.

In the United States, President Obama said the government's top priority was to determine whether American citizens were on board. Obama said the crash “looks like it may be a terrible tragedy” and offered his thoughts and prayers to families of the victims, “wherever they call home.”

The plane had taken off from Amsterdam and was en route to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why,” he said in brief comments before delivering a speech at the Port of Wilmington in Delaware.

Interpol reached out as well. The international police organization "has offered its full assistance to all relevant member countries to help identify and repatriate their remains with dignity to their home countries,” Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said in a statement.

The European Union expressed shock about the crash and urged an “immediate and thorough investigation.”

“The facts and responsibilities need to be established as quickly as possible,” said the statement from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he'd spoken with Obama and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as well as the prime minister of the Netherlands.

“We must, and we will, find out precisely what happened to this flight. No stone will be left unturned,” Razak said. “If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice.”

Not long after the plane went down, Poroshenko's office mentioned the possibility that the aircraft had been attacked, saying pro-Russia rebels have shot down a number of aircraft in recent days over the territory they claim to control. The office expressed confidence "that those responsible for this tragedy will be brought to justice."

Ukraine set up an emergency commission to investigate the crash and said Poroshenko invited the International Civil Aviation Organization and other international experts to participate.

"President Petro Poroshenko expresses the deepest and the most sincere condolences to families and friends of those who died in this terrible tragedy," his office said. 

Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Anton Gerashchenko said the plane was hit by a rocket fired from a Buk anti-aircraft system, which he said had been provided to the rebels by Russia. Ukrainian officials have accused the Kremlin of supporting the separatist rebellion, an accusation Moscow denies.

Russia said its president, Vladimir Putin, asked Malaysia's Razak “to convey his deepest sympathy and support” to the families of those aboard the Malaysia Airlines jet.

A few hours later, it said Putin began a meeting about the economy with a minute of silence for the victims. In his statement there, he said that Ukraine was responsible for the downing of the plane and that Russia would assist in a thorough investigation.

"These are absolutely unacceptable things and nobody has the right to pass them by without making corresponding conclusions and ensuring that we all have objective information about what happened," Putin said. 

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