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Updated Jul 20, 2014 - 8:12 pm

Obama: One American killed on downed Malaysia flight

HRABOVE, Ukraine -- At least one American was killed Thursday when a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane carrying 298 people was shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine, President Barack Obama told media.

The slain American was identified as Quinn Lucas Schansman, Obama said.

Obama called called the event "an outrage of unspeakable proportions" and said the U.S. is ready to help as needed.

He also took a hardline stance against Russia, claiming numerous failures have led to on-going fighting in Ukraine.

Both the government and the pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied any responsibility for downing the aircraft.

At least 154 people on the flight were Dutch citizens, said Huib Gorter, Malaysian Airlines senior vice president in Europe. There were also 43 Malaysians, including all 15 crew, 27 Australians and 11 Indonesians. Citizens of the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Phillippines and Canada were also on board. It is still undetermined if any Americans were on board. The nationalities of more than 40 passengers have not been verified.

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister, said on his Facebook page early in the day the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the downing an act of terrorism and called for an international investigation into the crash. He insisted that his forces did not shoot down the plane.

Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin told CNN Thursday his country had intercepted calls between "terrorists" about shooting down an aircraft.

"As a result of that, the plane has been shut down, and as you know, in the recent days, we had extremely (worrisome) development, and two Ukrainian military planes have been shot down, as we believe also from the Russian - from the Russian territory," Klimkin said.

Russian officials also denied involvement. President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine bears responsibility for the crash. But he didn't address the question of who might have shot down the plane and didn't accuse Ukraine of doing so.

"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," Putin said, according to a Kremlin statement issued after the crash. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."

Incidentally, Jim Sciutto, chief national security correspondent for CNN, said separatists may have shot down the plane, thinking it was Ukrainian military aircraft.

Rebels in Ukraine said they had recovered the black box from the Boeing 777-200 ER plane. It also was reported that the rebels said they would call for a three-day cease fire to allow an investigation.

There had been speculation that the airplane had flown over restricted airspace, but the International Air Transport Association said based on available information, the area "was not subject to restrictions."

Malaysia's prime minister said Friday that the jet did not make any distress call before it went down in Ukraine, and that the flight route had been declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The airline also went on social media:

The airline later confirmed on Facebook that it lost contact with the plane about 50 km (about 30 miles) from the Russian border.

The Donetsk region government said a plane crashed near a village which it said is under the control of armed pro-Russian separatists. The region where the flight was lost has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatist rebels in recent days.

Russia's Interfax News Agency reported that Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with President Obama about the crash. Obama said only that he asked his advisers to keep him updated.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told NBC News there would be "incredible repercussions" if it is found the plane was shot down.

A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.

Multiple airlines were reportedly avoiding airspace over eastern Ukraine after news of the crash spread, and the FAA has halted all U.S. flights over eastern Ukraine "until further notice."

Early Friday in Ukraine, Russia Today reported that anti-Kiev forces would give safe access for investigators from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

On Wednesday evening, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday, adding to what Kiev says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the air-to-air missile was forced to bail after his jet was shot down.

Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely

Moscow denies Western charges that is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighbor. The Russian Defense Ministry couldn't be reached for comment Thursday about the Ukrainian jet and Russia's foreign ministry didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.

Earlier this week, Ukraine said a military transport plane was shot down Monday by a missile fired from Russian territory.

The rebels are known to possess portable anti-aircraft rocket launchers, but Ukrainian officials say that kind of weapon would have been unable to reach Monday's plane at the altitude at which it was flying. Aviation experts, however, have questioned whether the stricken transport plane was flying at the altitude Ukrainian officials had claimed.

In a stop at Port of Wilmington, Del., Obama said the downed jet was a "terrible tragedy," and the government was working to confirm if Americans were on board.

It was the second time that a Malaysia Airlines plane was lost in less than six months. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in March while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It has not been found, but the search has been concentrated in the Indian Ocean far west of Australia.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who had been attending a European Union summit in Brussels, headed back to the Netherlands to deal with fallout from the crash.

If the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down, it would be the fourth commercial airliner to face such a fate. The previous three were:

April 20, 1978: Korean Airlines Flight 902, which diverted from its planned course on a flight from Paris to Seoul and strayed over the Soviet Union. After being fired upon by an interceptor aircraft, the crew made a forced landing at night on the surface of a frozen lake. Two of the 97 passengers were killed by the hostile fire.

Sept. 1, 1983: Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shot down by at least one Soviet air-to-air missile after the 747 had strayed into Soviet airspace. All 240 passengers and 29 crew were killed.

July 3, 1988: Iran Air Flight 655 Aircraft was shot down by a surface to air missile from the American naval vessel U.S.S. Vincennes. All 16 crew and 274 passengers were killed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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