State Department Daily Press Briefing [UKRAINE/RUSSIA/MALAYSIA]

U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C.
Friday, July 18, 2014
Daily Press Briefing Index
1:38 p.m. EDT

Briefer: Jen Psaki, Spokesperson

— Malaysia Airlines Passengers / Passports
— U.S. Calls for De-escalation of Tensions
— U.S. Government Officials to Assist in Crash Investigation
— Ambassador Powers’ Remarks at UN
— U.S. Support for International Participation in Investigation / OSCE Role / FBI Role
— Readout of Secretary’s Calls
— Ukrainian Military Equipment
— U.S. Engagement with Russia
— FAA Advisory Issued
— Technical Complexity of SA-11’s
QUESTION: Let’s start with the plane.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The President said there was at least one American. Was this person traveling with a U.S. passport? Is it – and I believe there’s still three unidentified. Is it possible that any of those three are American citizens?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Let me give you an overview that I think will answer some of – all of those questions and maybe a few more. On Thursday, Malaysia Airlines notified us that no passengers boarded Malaysia Airlines flight 17 using a U.S. passport. Knowing this information, we immediately then took additional steps to verify whether any of the passengers were also U.S. citizens. And the process that we underwent was to individually check each name against our passport records, and there isn’t – there wasn’t, in this case, biographical data available either, so obviously that takes some time to check. And we, of course, need to ensure that we can be confident in our results before we notify family members.

So the President spoke to one individual, who is a dual national. There are also – I believe the number, unless there’s been a change, are – there are four individuals that Malaysia Airlines has not identified the nationalities for. So certainly, we also don’t know the nationalities of those individuals. We’re also – while we’ve gone through the manifest, because there isn’t biographical data available we’re continuing to do our due diligence to match any available data up to ensure there aren’t additional dual nationals in the manifest.

QUESTION: Well, so you’ve gone through all of the names.


QUESTION: And the only one that popped up as holding a U.S. passport or being a U.S. citizen is —

MS. PSAKI: There were no individuals holding U.S. passports who boarded the plane.

QUESTION: Okay. So this one guy —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — this one victim who the President named was a dual citizen but did not have a U.S. passport?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Did not possess one?

MS. PSAKI: Well, not – didn’t – I’m not sure if they possessed one, but they did not have one that they boarded the plane with. I suppose they did not possess one.

QUESTION: Well, wouldn’t – all right. Then I’m confused. If you check all the names against your passport data —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — wouldn’t it show up if he had one, whether or not he had used it to get on the plane or not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I would remind you obviously there are also a dual – sometimes there are names that are common names that we need to check.

QUESTION: Well, but let’s just talk about this one guy.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He did or did not possess – whether or not he used it or not to get on the plane, did or did not possess a U.S. passport?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he is a dual citizen. What passports he possessed, I would have to check if that’s how we determined.

QUESTION: So the State Department doesn’t know if this guy had a – possessed a U.S. passport?

MS. PSAKI: Clearly, we know that he was a U.S. – a dual citizen. I don’t have any other additional information. I assume that’s how we knew.

QUESTION: Does that mean that if you typed in “Jennifer Psaki” into the passport records, it would not pop up that you have a passport?

MS. PSAKI: I am a U.S. citizen.

QUESTION: You have a passport.

MS. PSAKI: I would board a plane with a U.S. passport.

QUESTION: But not all U.S. citizens have U.S. – anyways, we’re probably getting bogged down.

MS. PSAKI: That is correct.

QUESTION: Anyway, so none of the other – including the four, or three, or whatever it is that are not yet identified by nationality by Malaysian Airlines, you – none of those people are U.S. citizens; is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: At this point in time, we’re still doing a review given there isn’t biographical data available for a number of individuals, so we’re doing due diligence to ensure before we make that confirmation.

QUESTION: But you can’t say for sure that none of the 200 – none of the total number of people on the plane actually held a U.S. passport?

MS. PSAKI: None of them boarded the plane —

QUESTION: I know that.

MS. PSAKI: — with a U.S. passport.

QUESTION: Maybe I’m getting bogged down into something that’s really – I just don’t understand why you can’t tell – you can’t go in and look at a name and see if that person has a passport.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to double-check that for you, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. Anyway —

MS. PSAKI: I’m providing the information we have available, which is the one individual and the process we’re undergoing.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any discussions between – from this building and Russia or Ukraine over the course of the last 20 – 18 hours or so between Secretary Kerry or other senior officials?

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry has not made calls —

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Nuland?

MS. PSAKI: — to Russian or Ukrainian authorities. I would remind you that we have a large – or a number of senior officials who have been in touch with Ukrainian and Russian authorities, certainly both on the ground, but also you’ve seen the calls read out by the White House.

QUESTION: I’m hoping this isn’t something going on and —

QUESTION: This reflects dissembling (inaudible).

QUESTION: Exactly.

QUESTION: Very sensitive issue.

QUESTION: I think it reflects the state of chaos —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: — state of chaos in the world.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can turn that off if that’s possible. Is that possible? Okay. Great. Does that help decrease the distraction?

QUESTION: There we go. Look at that. All the world’s problems are fixed.

MS. PSAKI: All right. (Laughter.) All right. Have a good weekend. (Laughter.) Good to see all of you. Just kidding.

QUESTION: So there have been contacts, but just not at the Secretary’s level or a senior level?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Are there any plans for there to be such contacts or any plans for the Secretary to potentially travel to deal with this situation? The reason I ask is that Ambassador Power at the UN this morning made some pretty powerful, strong —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — accusations, allegations against the Russians.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I’m just wondering if anyone thinks – if the Administration believes that it would be worthwhile to pursue these with Russian officials or whether you’ve decided that it’s more appropriate to wait until an investigation is finished.

MS. PSAKI: Well, our focus right now is on seeing through a full, credible, thorough investigation. I can give you an update on the resources that the United States has sent – made available for that. In terms of travel, there’s no current plans for the Secretary to travel to the region. As you know, he always has a bag packed, and if that is a decision made that that would be productive, I’m sure he’d be happy to do that. You’re right. Ambassador Power – and then again, the President – repeated a number of items of evidence and data that is available about what is happening on the ground. They both reaffirmed the fact that we’re not going to prejudge the investigation. We want to see that move forward, and that is where we are at this point in time.

With that being said – let me just finish, and then we’ll go. With that being said, we certainly understand that – and our focus is, as the President said and as the White House statement said last night, is of course continuing to call for a reduction in tensions and a de-escalation. And aside from the investigation, if there’s a need to play a role in that, the Secretary or anyone in the Administration is certainly ready and willing to do just that.

Can I just give you an update on the staff that are – the individuals who are going? So we have offered – the Government of Ukraine, as many of you may have seen, has issued invitations to assist with an investigation to ICAO, NTSB, Boeing, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and the European Civil Aviation Conference. We have offered assistance to the Ukrainian Government, including personnel and resources from the NTSB and the FBI, which the Ukrainians have accepted. The NTSB will be sending at least one investigator to the Ukraine. The timing of this is still being determined, and our response will, of course, be guided by events as they unfold, and our understanding is at this point the FBI is preparing to deploy at least one FBI individual personnel member to Ukraine. It’s also not clear on the timing of that. Of course, it remains a fluid situation, and we, of course, will be responsive to their needs moving forward.

QUESTION: And then last one from me, at least I hope it is. You referred to Ambassador Power’s comments to the Security Council. You said that she presented items, evidence and data. What – maybe I was watching a different Security Council meeting. I mean, she certainly made some strong accusations, but I don’t think she presented any evidence to back them up or any data to – that would back up the claim, her claims. Is – one, is there such items, evidence and data that you have? And two, are you willing to make it public? Because clearly there are people on the Russian side who don’t buy this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, what I was referring to – and I’m sorry you disagree with my terms I used to describe it, but – was the information that’s available, the context of what has been happening on the ground, which is what she outlined. Obviously, she stated – as the President stated – we’re going to see the investigation through. We want that to be a credible international investigation, and there isn’t a separate process that we’re undergoing from the United States.

QUESTION: So – but – so you’re saying that you are not willing to make the evidence and data that you have public – you’ll give that to the investigators, but you won’t make it public to —

MS. PSAKI: What I’m referring to is exactly what she stated publicly, which is the presence of certain systems along the border, which is the fact that – and many of them are public reports. She was outlining information about what has been happening on the ground, which I think is important for context. But we’ll see the investigation see itself through.

QUESTION: Well, but she was pretty – she said that “we assess that” – and that’s clearly a finding by the intelligence community, because they’re the ones who use that language —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — “we assess that is was fired” – this missile was fired —

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, your thing – yes.

QUESTION: — an SA-11 was fired – where is the data? Where is the evidence that backs that up?

MS. PSAKI: There isn’t additional data that we are providing publicly at this point. I’m – it is likely we will use – we will provide that through the investigation process.

QUESTION: So – all right. But do you understand how there are people who are skeptical of what she said, especially given previous UN Security Council presentations by Americans? I mean, I just – if you’re pretty convinced about it, would – could you – I would appeal to you to ask to make some of this information public. I’m not necessarily doubting any of it, but —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — when you say that she presented evidence and data, she really didn’t. She presented —

MS. PSAKI: What —

QUESTION: — the overall assessment from —

MS. PSAKI: The overall assessment and facts of what we’ve been seeing on the ground.


MS. PSAKI: That may be the more accurate way of describing it.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: James.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. I have a number of areas related to this that I’d like to pursue —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and with the indulgence of my colleagues. First, there’s been a lot of discussion of a credible international investigation that the United States, through various spokespeople, has said that it would like to see pursued here. Under what auspices does the United States wish to see an international investigation pursued?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ukraine – this happened in the territory of Ukraine, so they clearly would have the lead on this process. As I mentioned, there are a range of countries they’ve asked for assistance from that have agreed to provide and participate in any investigation. We’ve also seen on the ground a number of international organizations already engage. And these reports just came out, so I’m not sure if you saw them, but the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission went to the site of the crash today. They’re obviously playing a role here as well. They had only limited access and left after 75 minutes. Of course, calling the need for unfettered access is incredibly important in our view.

QUESTION: So in calling for there to be an international investigation, is the United States also calling for the final report or product of this investigation also to be international in character?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the engagement of a range of countries and organizations, I think, in our view makes it an international process. But of course, Ukraine would have the lead in the investigation.

QUESTION: And the final say in the outcome of the investigation as – in terms of ascriptions of culpability and so forth.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there’ll be participation and expertise provided by a range of countries and organizations. You’ve seen a broad level of interest, and the Ukrainians themselves have requested the assistance from a range of international organizations and countries as well.

QUESTION: I guess I’m making a distinction between the investigation and potential prosecutions that might flow therefrom.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I’m – I guess I’m asking if your desire to see an international investigation is mirrored by a desire to see the prosecution – any potential prosecutions also retain some kind of international flavor or character.

MS. PSAKI: Well, James, it’s a good question. I think we’re not quite there yet in the process.


MS. PSAKI: One of the reason – let me just finish – that we sent a – we’re sending an FBI – an individual from the FBI, if not more over time, is because of the special expertise they have in criminal investigations. So we’ll see where we get to in the process.

QUESTION: When the announcement went out last night that Secretary Kerry had canceled his appearance at the Sixth and I Synagogue here in Washington, the press release stated that he was doing so so that he could engage in internal discussions with staff and discussions with his counterparts around the world. You’ve just told us that those counterparts did not include anyone from Russia or Ukraine, and so I’m wondering if you can give us a readout of his calls to date —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — on this subject. And I guess perhaps later when we do Gaza, you could reserve that for that segment of the briefing or —

MS. PSAKI: Well, if you don’t mind, let me just – because I think it gives a flavor of what he was working on last night. There were, of course, a range of discussions that he and senior members of the Administration were in last night through the interagency. So that was part of what his time was spent on.

QUESTION: What are you talking about there exactly? Is – was there an NS principals meeting or an NSC? What were —

MS. PSAKI: No. But again there are a range of ways to engage, and certainly on the phone and discussions about how to address – as you know, there were a number of statements put out pretty late in the evening last night, so there was an effort to work on those as well through the process.

Last night – or yesterday, I should say, and today – he has spoken with Quartet rep Tony Blair, with the Malaysian foreign minister, Dutch foreign minister, Qatari foreign minister, the Arab League secretary general. He spoke last night with the Egyptian foreign minister twice – sorry, once last night, once yesterday – with French Foreign Minister Fabius, with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We – you saw the – I’m sorry – readout we put out last night with Foreign Minister Davutoglu and with the UAE foreign minister.

So he was engaged and there were times when he was back and forth and spoke with some of them multiple times last evening.

QUESTION: Okay. To proceed to some of the specific points of contention today —


QUESTION: First, the Ukrainian security services released what they claimed were transcripts of the intercepts involving Russian military intelligence officials —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — purportedly directly discussing this attack. Does the United States Government have any assessment as to the authenticity of those recordings?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any assessment to offer at this time. There’s obviously an investigation. We’ll let it see itself through.

QUESTION: You don’t – do you have cause to doubt the authenticity?

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have any analysis of it to provide.

QUESTION: Secondly, the Russian defense ministry disclosed that it has intercepted the activity of a Ukrainian radar system on the very day when this attack occurred, and the defense ministry stated, and I quote, the launch of rockets could have also occurred from any of the batteries deployed in the populated area of Avdiivka, which is eight kilometers north of Donetsk, or from Gruzsko-Zoryanskoe, which is 25 kilometers east of Donestsk. Does the United States have any assessment of this disclosure by the Russian defense ministry of radar intercepts and suggestions of alternative scenarios to what Ambassador Power suggested?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think one of the points Ambassador Power made was that while the Ukrainians do have SA-11 systems in their inventory, we’re not aware of Ukrainian – any Ukrainian SAM systems in the area of the shoot-down. Obviously, that’s a contextual example and that’s why we need to see the investigation see itself through, but obviously relevant information.

QUESTION: Is that assessment, which Ambassador Power included in her remarks, take into account what the Russian defense ministry is saying here about these other installations that could have been the origin point for this missile?

MS. PSAKI: I think she was stating what we’re aware of at this time. And obviously these events are only – just over 24 hours old, so that’s why we’re going to focus on seeing the investigation through.

QUESTION: Last question, you’ve all been very patient with me —

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: — and I appreciate it.

So the President kept using a phrase in his remarks today: “We have confidence in saying.” And as you know, that’s kind of a term of art. This confidence that the United States has that the origin point for this missile was rebel-held Ukrainian territory – is that high confidence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m going to leave it where the President of the United States stated it, James, no surprise. And again, there is a range of information, as you noted in your question, we have available that we don’t always speak about publicly, and I believe that was what he was referring to.

QUESTION: He later called it “increasing confidence.” So he qualified it at one point.

And just to follow up on what Matt said, when we have the President saying we feel confident in saying something, and then we have the UN ambassador saying “we assess” – doesn’t that strike you as there being some kind of important semantic difference there?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it was meant to be a difference. Those statements were very coordinated and were similar in the language that was used.

QUESTION: Because the last thing she said: “We assess Malaysian airlines Flight 17 carrying these 298 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was likely downed by a surface-to-air missile, an SA-11, operated from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine.” Is – the word “likely” appears in there. Is the word “likely” which occurs right before “downed by a surface-to-air missile,” is she saying that it’s the missile that was likely or she’s saying that it’s the rebel-held territory that’s the likely part of this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have some information available about what happened. Obviously, we know – we’re confident in what and where. The questions we really have are who and why, and I think that’s what the investigation will really be exploring.

QUESTION: So we know the “where,” is what you’re telling us?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have – you heard the UN ambassador. You heard the President also speak to that. And I think —

QUESTION: Because the President said we don’t have a definite judgment on that, but you seem to be rather definitive on it, saying we know the where.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have a good sense, as the ambassador to the UN said. So again, we’re going to see the investigation through. As we have more information, we’ll provide that information.

QUESTION: So it’s not a slam dunk?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure what that means, but go ahead.

QUESTION: A couple of questions. Jen, is there any doubt about who those four individuals who have not been identified yet might have been doing on the plane, or is that sort of – there’s no suspicion about who they were, or it’s just that they haven’t been identified?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of at all, Kim. I think it’s just that information about their identities.

QUESTION: And then going back to the point of the international – about the international investigation, it’s an interesting point. Under whose auspices – apart from the fact that it was – that it happened on Ukrainian territory, surely the Russians might be in a position to contest the results of any investigation if they feel they’re not part of it or if it’s not UN-led. I mean, how are you going to make sure the results of this investigation aren’t contested by the Russians, for example?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know that we can ensure that, of course, but again, I think it’s only natural that because this took place in Ukrainian territory that they would have the lead on the investigation. And that’s a pretty standard procedure. But they have welcomed and invited in a range of countries, a range of international outlets with expertise, and clearly, that’s an indication of their openness to an international investigation.

QUESTION: Would you want the Russians involved?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not in a position to make a decision on that. Of course, we don’t have the – we’re not in the lead on the investigation.


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on the list of calls that you listed —


QUESTION: — that the Secretary made today? There wasn’t a call, unless I missed something, with Foreign Minister Lavrov.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: I realize the presidents spoke yesterday —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — but is there a reason why he’s not trying to reach out to his Russian foreign counterpart? Isn’t this something that – obviously, that the two diplomats of the two countries should be talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s nothing other than there’s a great deal of focus at a very senior level in the Administration on this issue right now. The President of the United States spoke with President Putin just yesterday. He spoke with the president of Ukraine just yesterday. And I’m certain, if there’s a need, that Secretary Kerry would be more than happy to speak with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and we’ll see what happens over the coming days.

QUESTION: Because Ambassador Power’s statement basically laid it squarely at the door of Russia, as did the President in saying that the equipment had come from the Russians. I mean, it would seem that at this point, you need to be having some kind of discussions with your Russian counterparts.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are in discussions with Russia, and we have a large embassy there. We have a great deal of engagement with Russians. The question of whether the Secretary will make a call – that certainly is possible in the coming days. I’m just not going to predict given I don’t have those plans yet in front of me.

QUESTION: Were you able to get an answer to the question that I asked yesterday about these missiles? Let’s say the SA-11, which is what the – what Ambassador Power said was likely used to shoot this plane down, is that among the materiel that the Russians sent into Ukraine according to your information?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe that the reports that have been out there have referred to Buk missiles. Those are – while we’ve expressed concern about surface-to-air missiles in general, we have not specified those in that level of detail. We just don’t have information we can share on that particular missile system.

QUESTION: Well, but when you, Marie, and other officials were talking about missiles along with tanks going from Russia into Ukraine to supply the separatists, did they – did those missiles include SA-11s?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we have specified to that level of detail, Matt.

QUESTION: So you don’t know as —

MS. PSAKI: I’m not saying we don’t know.


MS. PSAKI: I’m saying I don’t have any more information to share.

QUESTION: Well, but do you – you don’t – so you don’t have any information to share with us about whether you even know for sure that SA-11s were in —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information to share —

QUESTION: — in the (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: — on the types of surface-to-air missiles that we have seen in the hands of Russian separatists.

QUESTION: Well, okay. Could I appeal to you to – I mean, if – because if this isn’t among the arsenal that you say was moved —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would remind you too, Matt, that aside from that, one of the points that Ambassador Power made this morning was that there was an SA-11 system reported by a Western reporter, and separatists were spotted hours before the incident with an SA-11 system.

QUESTION: Yeah, I understand that. But I’m just wanting to know if you believe that SA-11s were among the things that were sent in over the course of the past month or two months into —

MS. PSAKI: I’ve – if there’s more information to share publicly about specific weapon systems, we can make that available; I’m not sure that there is.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So I mean, I know you’re still trying to determine exactly what happened, but it sounds like, just to put a fine point on it, regardless of whether it came from the Russian side of the border or it came from one of the separatists, that you feel that Russia has a responsibility here, whether they gave them the weapon, they had operatives that helped them do it, or they just gave them the weapon and an instruction manual and said go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what we said or what the President said or what the UN ambassador said, Elise. They laid out specific details of the events we’ve seen happening on the ground. All of that is important context. But we’re not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Certainly, aside from this specific tragic event, we have concerns about a range of the steps that they outlined, including providing access to weapons systems, providing materials to the separatists, but we’re going to see the investigation through before we make a judgment.

QUESTION: Do you think that this will in any way will change President Putin’s calculus in terms of his support for the separatists or for his kind of bid to destabilize Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it certainly should. This, as the President said this morning, was a wakeup call to the world, to many European countries, and certainly should be to Russia as well that given all of these events, this is of great concern and it’s something that we think, certainly, that President Putin and the Russians should take a close look at.

QUESTION: And do you think that this will harden European kind of resolve in terms of the severity of the measures that you’ve been considering?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we can’t make a full prediction of that for obvious reasons, but certainly seeing the horrific events that happened yesterday, seeing the families who are mourning their loved ones, all of the information that’s available should be a wakeup call to everybody.

QUESTION: Are you going to push the Europeans to be – to take a tougher line on Russia now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, again, we’re going to see this investigation through. But we’ve been engaged in discussions with the Europeans about sanctions for months now, as you all know. We’ll see how this proceeds, but those will continue regardless.

QUESTION: Jen, after the President – after Ambassador Power’s comments and after the President’s comments, but in particular Ambassador Power’s comments, how can you say that we’re not going to prejudge the outcome of this investigation? I mean —

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt —

QUESTION: — she outlined what you assess, your – the conclusions of your looking into this so far, and basically – not basically, did blame the Russians for it; said it came from a – not a specific area, but a rebel-held area; that it was a specific kind of missile that was used. It seems to me that that’s prejudging, or you’ve done your own investigation and those are the results of it.

MS. PSAKI: We have —

QUESTION: But you seem to want to have it both ways.

MS. PSAKI: — not done our own investigation.

QUESTION: You make your – you make these allegations.

MS. PSAKI: We’re participating in the international investigation.

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. There’s a range of information, most of which is publicly available, that Ambassador Power laid out in her remarks this morning. That’s all relevant context.


MS. PSAKI: But again, there’s an official process that will be seen through.

QUESTION: Well, it’s not public information that an SA-11 – that the U.S. assesses that an —

MS. PSAKI: I said a vast majority.

QUESTION: — right – SA-11 was responsible, and that it was fired from rebel-held territory. That’s not – that’s something that —

MS. PSAKI: I said the vast majority of information.

QUESTION: I understand that, but in coming – but in presenting those conclusions or those assessments, that seems to me, unless you’ve done your own investigation already, that you – that there has been a pre-judgment of what happened here.

MS. PSAKI: That was not the intention —

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: — and I’d point you to where she stated in her remarks – I don’t have it exactly in front of me – a reference to the fact that there will be an investigation.

QUESTION: All right. But then she closed out her remarks – near the end she said, “This war must end. Russia can end this war. Russia must end this war.” How is that not a prejudgment of the situation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s a concern here outside of this —

QUESTION: Or is she talking about more broadly?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. There is an ongoing concern about the escalation, and certainly outside of this investigation, we have remaining concerns about the steps of Russia and their – the materials they’ve provided to separatists.

QUESTION: But wait a minute. But you’re —

QUESTION: And then – just let – I actually have one – this is extremely brief. You don’t regard what she said and what the President – what Ambassador Power said and what the President said as prejudging the outcome of the investigation?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, we do not.

QUESTION: But why, then, are you tying this incident, then, to everything of the – if you don’t know and you aren’t kind of prejudging that – I know you’re not prejudging the exact details, but it seems as if you are prejudging that these events are a direct result of the conflict in Ukraine, of which you’ve said that Russia is the main instigator here.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t actually think that’s what they said at all. I think outside of this, there’s no way, given this event happened in Ukraine, given there’s accusations being tied back and forth – I can assure you CNN and every other outlet has been tying this to the events happening on the ground, and of course we look at that context. And we look at the concern about rising escalation; we look at – that’s why we called for a return to a discussion about a ceasefire. So certainly, the context of what’s happened over the last several months, given the accusations back and forth, is incredibly relevant here.

QUESTION: No, I understand. But if you say that you don’t believe that the Ukrainians have this type of missile and you say it came from eastern Ukraine, which would indicate that – and you say that you believe that the separatists were responsible, and you’re blaming Russia for its support for the separatists, wouldn’t that logically point to Russia as having some type of culpability here?

MS. PSAKI: Again, when there’s a conclusion of the investigation we’ll have more to say about what culpability is and what it means and what the implications will be.

QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?

QUESTION: I was told that the Russian ambassador to the UN said today that Ukraine should have closed its airspace. Do you have some comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those particular comments. You may have seen – I mentioned yesterday a step the FAA took a couple of months ago. And you may have all seen this, but the FAA, after considering the recent event, has determined that an increase in the area covered by our prohibition is necessary. So therefore, the FAA has issued a notice to airmen to prohibit all U.S. flight operations within two flight information regions in eastern Ukraine. That was, obviously, a recent step that’s been taken since the events of yesterday.

QUESTION: But I mean, it sort of suggested that the fault lies with Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Well certainly, this area, aside from Crimea, which there was a – there was an aviation regulation in place since April on, this has been open flight area. So I think we would disagree with that notion.

QUESTION: Sorry, did you say that happened since yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: Correct —


MS. PSAKI: — given the events, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: So in addition to what was – Ambassador Churkin also said that – raised the question of why Ukraine air traffic controllers would’ve routed this jet over an area that was a conflict zone. Do you have any response or reaction to that kind of question being raised?

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s important to remind everyone that this action was taken in an area – the area was – the conflict there was caused by the intervention and the engagement of Russian separatists supported by Russians. And otherwise, there are certain regulations that the FAA and other flight organizations put into place, but there wasn’t one over this particular area of eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: So you think that it’s irrelevant? That question that he posed is pretty much irrelevant.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s not – it doesn’t speak – there are – now, it’s important to note that a number of operators over time have chosen to voluntarily alter their routes beyond just the restriction in the Crimean Peninsula. But it’s not – it wasn’t a requirement or a regulation in place.

QUESTION: No. But I mean, his question – his raising the question, why did the Ukrainian air traffic control route the plane over this area, you don’t think that that’s particularly relevant to the investigation?

MS. PSAKI: No. It was open airspace.


MS. PSAKI: So it was – there were planes flying over it.

QUESTION: All right. And then President Putin in his comments last night, and again Ambassador Churkin at the UN – and I also believe Foreign Minister Lavrov – all say that this would not have happened if it hadn’t been for the Ukrainian Government resuming its military operation in the east. Is that – what’s your reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important, again, to remember that the entire conflict in eastern Ukraine is due to the illegal intervention of Russian-backed separatists, the support of Russia with military equipment and other materials. That’s where the conflict came from. They went into a sovereign country, and that’s why we’re here. There’s no other reason.

QUESTION: Okay. So that just – you do not accept that?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: Just to follow up?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Thank you. A wake-up call to the world; this terrible incident, Madam, has shaken up the entire aviation industry. And also within half an hour of this incident, Air India, carrying 126 passengers, went through luckily and landed safely in Delhi. And prime minister of India, coming from Brazil to Germany to Delhi, also about to come within one hour, but he – they would change their route.

What I’m asking you is that as far as these kind of weapons are concerned, you think other terrorists also may have – including in Afghanistan and Pakistan? And then what is the future and how can you stop them not to carry all these weapons? Because this is a first-of-its-kind incident.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m trying to follow what exactly your question is, but let me try. So there’s an investigation that’s ongoing with international support about this specific incident. I would caution anybody about broadening that into what it means and to other countries. Obviously, there are steps that the FAA here has taken. Other national or international civil aviation outlets may take similar steps, but we’ll leave that to them to determine.

QUESTION: What kind of investigation can be done if – right, they only allowed them to stay for 75 minutes, the first group that went in? I mean, it’s over a huge amount of territory.

MS. PSAKI: You’re right, and that’s why we’re very concerned. And those who say they are going to participate in or welcome this investigation need to give unfettered access, and obviously, we didn’t see that when these individuals were there for 75 minutes.

QUESTION: A couple last things, I’m sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Does the United States Government have any information as to the whereabouts of the black box and in whose custody it presently resides?

MS. PSAKI: There have been a range of reports about those being in the hands of Russian-backed separatists. I don’t believe we have any independent confirmation of the location.

QUESTION: And is it fair to say, just to follow up on Elise’s line of questioning earlier, that when the President tells us we still await definitive judgment on the origin point and likely culpability for this attack, is it fair to say that the United States, given the case that Ambassador Power laid out, has at least reached a preliminary conclusion about those matters?

MS. PSAKI: I think there’s a range of information that’s publicly available. As is the case with serious incidents like this, we’ll let the official conclusion be made. But obviously, Ambassador Power wouldn’t have said that if there wasn’t a reasonable belief that that was accurate information.

QUESTION: Don’t you see a sort of possible conflict of interest that people might see when the eventual report comes out of how this happened? The U.S. Government, given Samantha Power’s statements at the UN, is then – the U.S. Government is then sending the FBI to also be a part of this investigation, this report. Couldn’t it be difficult for the results of this report to stick if we’re already hearing sort of a line from the U.S. Government that they believe it’s Russia’s fault, then they are – the government is indirectly involved in this investigation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s not exactly —

QUESTION: There are a range of other nations that have many —

MS. PSAKI: Let me answer your question. That’s not exactly what either the President or Ambassador Power said. They also both made clear that there’s an investigation we’re going to see through. The FBI participation – the FBI clearly has a range of important expertise in criminal investigations. I think that’s expertise that could – we don’t know – could come in handy in this case. That’s what they will be offering. So there’ll be a range of expertise and entities that will participate in this investigation.

QUESTION: So I have one more on something that Ambassador Power said, and that was she said that we cannot rule out the possibility that Russia – there was some kind of Russian technical assistance to the —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why not? Why can’t you rule that out? And is she referring to the tapes that the Ukrainians have presented that James referred to earlier? Is that what makes this a question?

MS. PSAKI: She’s referring to the technical complexity of the SA-11 and the unlikelihood that the Russian-backed separatists could effectively operate that kind of assistance without assistance – the kind of – systems, sorry, without assistance from knowledgeable individuals.

QUESTION: But could not those knowledgeable officials be former Soviet soldiers who happen to be Ukrainians who happen to happen to have joined the separatists?

MS. PSAKI: She said “rule out.” We can’t rule out.

QUESTION: Okay. But I mean, that – so she’s not intending to make the accusation that there was – that the U.S. believes there was Russian assistance in operating this SA-11 system. She’s saying – she’s just throwing it up there —

MS. PSAKI: She was making the point that it’s a complicated, technical system that would require expertise in that system.

QUESTION: Kind of like Churkin questioning whether – why Ukrainian air traffic control routed the plane over —

MS. PSAKI: I would hardly compare the two —


MS. PSAKI: — given it was open airspace.

QUESTION: So – I’m sorry, though.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: I mean, it’s – I understand what you’re saying, that you’re waiting for the final results, but for a Cabinet member to go out and address the world and say we can’t rule it out, that’s pointing the finger at someone, even if you’re not 100 percent sure. And given the fact that you’re careful in all other areas so as not to say anything – I mean, clearly you didn’t want to say anything yesterday – you’re not saying with 100 percent certainty that Russia was involved, but you are pointing the finger at Russia. To say that you’re not is disingenuous, I think.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re laying out a range of contextual facts that we’ve been concerned about for some time.

QUESTION: You’re building a case against Russia. Is that —

MS. PSAKI: No, I wouldn’t put it that way. It’s – I think it’s clear what the SA-11, which is a complicated, technical system, it’s hard to see how back – how separatists, pardon me, could do that on their own. She was making a statement of a fact. We – she said we couldn’t rule it out. She didn’t say an individual was at fault or she didn’t say it absolutely is. There are a range of facts in this case that are publicly available information or information that we’ve assessed. She said in her own statement that there’s going to be an investigation.

QUESTION: I just think that if you weren’t reasonably sure that you felt that Russia had some capability here, you wouldn’t even be laying out a possible Russian involvement.

MS. PSAKI: Well, capability, which was laid out —

QUESTION: Culpability.

MS. PSAKI: — is different – culpability. I thought you said capability. Again, Elise, I would – I think if you look at what she stated and what her remarks outlined, it was information laying out the context of what we’ve seen happen on the ground.

QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?

QUESTION: I have one more follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Can we just do a few more, and then we can go to you, Said?


MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, I have two questions.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: First, it’s about the timing. Since the U.S. has imposed sanctions to Russia, then this happened. And I will add, the recent trip of President Putin to Latin America, if you see any connection.

And the second one, I was wondering if you have any information: How could a passenger plane be mistaken for a military aircraft? Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, these are all excellent questions, and this happened just 24 hours ago. So they’re questions we just don’t yet have definitive answers on.

QUESTION: Just one more?

QUESTION: As the Secretary makes these calls here, and you all, and the President and everyone else, is part of the message that it’s about time Europe stood up to Putin and put in some real sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: As he speaks with his European counterparts?


MS. PSAKI: I think it’s important to note that we have been working in lockstep with our European counterparts on announcing sanctions and rolling out additional consequences. And clearly —

QUESTION: But haven’t they’ve been sort of – not done as much as this country would have hoped?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, they have taken a number of steps that there has been an impact. There’s no question that the economic impact, or the economic impact on Europe is different from the impact on the United States. We’re also talking about dozens of countries that need to agree and work together. We’re one country. But regardless of all of that, we have worked very closely with the Europeans. They announced a new set of sanctions just this week, and obviously, if events continue to escalate, if President Putin continues to choose escalation over de-escalation, the international community will continue to put consequences in place.

QUESTION: Just one more on the plane. Today Turkish prime minister was very definitive, and he said that this Malaysian plane was hit by Russia over Ukraine. Have you reached out to Turkish prime minister, whether he got some intel that you don’t?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware. There hasn’t been a call from here with the Turkish prime minister, so beyond that I don’t have any other speculation on that. I think I’ve outlined where we stand.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. He spoke to the foreign minister.

MS. PSAKI: He did. And they spoke a great deal about the events in Gaza. And of course, they’re all coordinating on and discussing the events that happened yesterday in Ukraine as well.