At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. pointed blame at the separatists, saying Washington believes the jetliner carrying 298 people, including 80 children, likely was downed by an SA-11 missile, and “we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel.”
Both the White House and the Kremlin called for peace talks in the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-speaking separatists who seek closer ties to Moscow. Heavy fighting was reported less than 60 miles from the crash site, with an estimated 20 civilians killed.
Emergency workers and local coal miners recovered bodies from grasslands and fields of sunflowers, where the wreckage of the Boeing 777 crashed Thursday.
About 30 officials, mostly from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, arrived at the crash site between the villages of Rozsypne and Hrabove, about 25 miles from the Russian border.
The rebels allowed the team to perform a very partial and superficial inspection. While the delegation was leaving under orders from the armed overseers, two Ukrainian members lingered to look at a fragment of the plane by a roadside, only for a militiaman to fire a warning shot in the air with his Kalashnikov.
The dead passengers were from nearly a dozen nations — including vacationers, students and a group heading to an AIDS conference in Australia — when the plane was shot down Thursday while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
President Barack Obama, disclosing one American was among those killed, called it “a global tragedy.”
“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,” he said.
In Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk vented his anger in calling for an international investigation.
“We ask all respective governments ... to support the Ukrainian government to bring to justice all these bastards who committed this international crime,” he said.
All sides in the conflict — the Ukrainian government, the pro-Russia rebels they are fighting and the Russian government Ukraine accuses of supporting the rebels — denied shooting down the plane. Moscow also denies backing the rebels.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed accusations that Moscow could be behind the attack.
“Regarding those claims from Kiev that we allegedly did it ourselves: I have not heard a truthful statement from Kiev for months,” he told the Rossiya 24 television channel.
At the Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the missile was likely fired from a rebel-held area near the Russian border.