Investigators Arrive at Flight 17 Crash Site

The FBI and the NTSB will send at least one expert to assist in the investigation.
29:48 | 07/18/14

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Transcript for Investigators Arrive at Flight 17 Crash Site
Here's what we know so far. Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by surface to air missile. That was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian backed separatists inside of Ukraine's. We also know that this is not the first atomic plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine. Over the last several weeks Russian backed separatists have shut down a Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter. And they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet. Moreover we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support. From Russia. This includes arms and training. It includes heavy weapons. And it includes anti aircraft weapons. Look what I'm down -- in New York President Obama today making the case that Russia is to blame for the events that led to that flight. For more now -- -- -- -- Malaysia airlines flight seventeen. And outrage of unspeakable proportion. Nearly 300 innocent civilians including children and infants. The president also called for a cease fire in eastern Ukraine and he said Russia -- the pro Russian rebels and Ukraine must make that happen. Today the focus turns to who shot down Malaysia airlines' -- seventeen. And why. This was. A global tragedy. And Asian airliner was destroyed in the European skies filled with citizens. From many countries so there has to be a credible international investigation into what happen. US officials said today it was a single missile from complex Russian made anti aircraft system it's mounted on a vehicle fired from an. An area of Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. Ukrainians called it an act of terror. Yesterday be released what they say were intercepted messages between pro Russian rebel commanders. Proving they thought they were targeting a Ukrainian military planes -- the rebels walked back claims that they had found the plane's black boxes Russia said it would not remove them from the crash scene. But aviation experts say the black boxes may only have a couple seconds of -- and really give any clues about those key questions of who and why. It's just like a crime scenes of investigation you don't want anybody to touch it he wanted first pristine. You don't want anything moved to more about the 298. Passengers on board that doomed flight. The majority of whom were from the Netherlands. -- -- Kaiser was a Dutch student at Indiana University. She was going on vacation with her boyfriend. I'm different and their beliefs and expecting. You know Carling cup prop up on -- but I can tell everybody she's okay. Also on board as many as 180 aids activists researchers and health workers heading to a major conference in Melbourne Australia. President Obama confirmed there was one American on board that flight young man who was a dual US Dutch citizen. The FBI and the NTSB will -- and at least one investigator to assist at the crash scene. Reporting live from Washington Karen Travers ABC news back to you. -- thank you for that I want to go -- over the Pentagon where a news conference is under way. Let's go there now. And -- -- take questions a couple of comments -- first -- Malaysia -- -- seventeen you know. This morning secretary spoke -- Malaysian defense minister she and Hussein. And offered his deepest condolences and those -- all the men and women of the Department of Defense for those who lost loved ones -- for accepting our thoughts and prayers are with everyone. Affected by this tragedy. Secretary reiterated to the minister that the United States -- -- prepared to assist and an international investigation and he in the future she wouldn't. Agreed that the investigation must be credible and cash an unimpeded. All parties in the vicinity of the crash site Russian for Russian separatists and Ukrainian. Must agree to immediate cease fire which is the only way to ensure safe unfettered access for international investigators. The integrity of all the potential evidence and of course -- We are still collecting facts and international investigators need to be given -- time and space to do their jobs. But clearly as the president noted just a short while ago we see strong evidence. And Malaysia airlines flight seventeen was hit by a surface to air missile at an altitude of 33000 feet. That the missile was launched a location near the border is controlled by Russian separatists. This is -- it obviously occurred in the context of the conflict fuel. By Russian support for -- -- these Russian separatists. And that support has and that support has included arms material train. As we investigate who did this and why this terrible tragedy underscores the need for Russia to take immediate and concrete -- to the escalate the crisis in -- support. Ukrainian government's plan for cease fire peace settlement. And I have. One update on -- race. The crew aboard the motor vessel -- -- continue their work to neutralize material some -- declared chemical stockpile. Using the -- fuel deplorable hydraulics systems as of this morning the crew was neutralized just over 15%. Of the DS which is a -- Precursor. This -- has been verified -- international organization for the prohibition of weapons. Questions. Just a few -- -- it has the US European estimates even talked a little bit the transfer. That you have seen -- -- heavy weapons across the border into Ukraine president spoke about training and all of that can you. Go through this -- -- latest US assessment US military assessment. What the Russians have been doing in transferring heavy weapons. Surface to air missiles artillery under heavy weapons across the border to separatists on the entry. Training. And assistance. You believe. Christian elements the Russian military is getting into the separate. Snow -- Russian support for the separatists have seats in fact. I don't believe it and Russia continues to provide them a heavy weapons and other military equipment financing as well. And they continue allow these Russian fighters to energy trade freely. There have been as you know we've we've acknowledged that. -- tanks armored personnel vehicles. Have. Have made their way across the border. It is -- he's been a steady concerted campaign -- Russia's military to continue supporting themselves. Advised. These separatists. Hadn't seen -- -- some video that their country in particular video have you seen evidence that an essay in eleven or missiles system. Cross the border at some point progression into Ukraine. -- hand or can you tell us about it -- sophistication that tree. That would be needed -- separatists to actually be able to operated effectively and. I don't know -- specific information about a boot system. Making that trend. We're not ruling anything in or out this. It is. It is sophisticated that said as sophisticated system. The missile itself yesterday eleven which is the one we believe was used. To down. Pleasanton. If they think sophisticated piece of -- -- And it. It's strange credulity to think that. That it can be used but I separate -- without. At least own measure Russian support and technical assistance if -- -- -- At city strains credulity to think that -- they they can do this without some measure of Russian support systems. Yeah the there's a look that's going to be investigated and I think we want to. We -- -- -- investigators. Do their work I I don't have an indication now that. That -- system was brought over. And and we don't exactly know. Who's responsible. For firing a missile or with. -- -- what. Assistance what I'm saying is that that system is fairly sophisticated. -- don't play well what is the level of their training and assistance. Doesn't include Russian forces going across the border and the Ukraine. To work his advisors or trainers side by side with the separatists. Well have been Russian -- -- there have been encouraged as possible that a Russian. Aircraft -- mean. We have we don't have any reason to suspect that they if they haven't. Provided some measure of support on the other side of that border mean -- paramilitary forces that that we don't talk about as much anymore. Certainly didn't. After behave -- -- organizer resource like some ragtag militia. So nobody suggesting that that Russian. Military. Advice and assistance hasn't somehow cross that border. It's just unclear exactly how much -- and win and who. And again that's what the investigators are -- look at -- -- -- -- that just. With the the president announced sanctions. Directly in the maker of this booths system just days before. I won't get into the thought process behind the presidents. Specific decisions -- but clearly. These are -- another round of targeted sanctions. Design -- to change that calculus and president Putin's behavior this decision making. What you're gonna quote book they seem to think what you're suggesting is that there is often. And I I had no indication that the test case and -- question what's the working theory about the intent. With this and intended military target gone awry. Where was this simply an act of terrorism. We don't know. Get that's -- -- -- investigators. Don't know what tomorrow. But what is your theory what is your. Working here. I don't think we have -- -- at this point yes I mean this just happened yesterday there's that. Teams of investigators now trying to get to the site import through this means we just have to let them do their job. -- -- People in this department has said before that there about 10121000. Regular Russian troops inside. The Russian side of the border. What -- -- build up from a couple weeks ago is that still your estimate have those forces changed since this attack yesterday we can you tell us about. You know as much you -- what they're doing what -- posture is in terms of the potential army period. Yes great question I don't know of any. Major change that presents its -- still about ten to 121000 and it fluctuates a little bit. From week to week -- Point is that it has -- over time -- the steady increase. Of these combined arms. Tactical Italians. Across the border on the Russian side. But to the southeast -- Ukraine. And they are close to the border. And many cases closer than than those forces. Who were -- a line on the east if you remember we had you know. Tens of thousands. That were or along the eastern border with -- but not as close. As these -- appear to be. All they're doing is further escalating tension it's difficult to know what the intent is to question you should -- the Russian Ministry of Defense. But they're there they're growing in size week by week and they continued -- just do nothing more than that actually that. I'm those -- is providing the weapons and support these disparate community go to separatists where's that process separate from these. Real and seen any indication that they're actively involved in the provision of supports the separatists items. But they are continuing to mass alliance that's -- -- or just. Few questions. You gotten -- -- forces does that include fear defense artillery. Systems life I think eleven that was. Used in the Malaysian it is have you seen your defense equipment on the Russian side of the border -- that don't -- I don't have an inventory of what they got within just invited as I said there we assess that these are combined -- units in other words it's it's. It's not just infantry troops but. They have. Artillery capability they've got armor capability -- combined arms and and there are very ready. It is a very capable. Force those smaller number -- what was aligned along the border before but I don't have a complete inventory with and you have. Estimate a -- about 121000 Russian troops. Along the border in the Russian side obviously the US -- been tracking. He knows the work. Russian special operations forces Russian advisors Russian intelligence services in. Ukraine is there and it -- -- The size of that advisory presence inside. Eastern Ukraine by five Russian. Forces and a handful is that a thousand guys. Number four on the and and and that's less important than the fact that they continued to do it. And and we continue to see this support and resource. And advice -- -- the separatist groups and we have every indication that can fit that that that support. It is -- Come on -- We believe that there there are. There's Russian support for the separatists inside that yes. Admiral and general breedlove was here who Skokie since specifically that the Ukrainian separate this we're. Receiving training and Russian territory -- using what he called vehicle or anti aircraft system. How much training. Can you elaborate has -- intensified in recent weeks and was he's -- simply referring to -- -- eleven type system. Well I don't know exactly what system users aren't true. But we would agree with the assessment that that they some staffers have received some training in -- these -- -- systems. There's no question about that but -- don't have I mean I don't have an estimate of Helmand. Still he's under his particular alarm when it needs when things -- -- -- -- good you know. People born in here precedent that's pretty serious inspiration. It's and we -- -- answers and we've been monitoring the situation as closely as well as we can't. And and we didn't -- nobody in the Pentagon has been shy about talking about. The continued threat posed by separatist elements inside Ukraine or frankly by those. Combined -- forces -- continue to. Continue to -- along the -- The US government increased surveillance the area along the border and in the -- disaster. I would just say that world -- -- monitoring events. As closely -- To increase to -- or what I think that's as close as we can. Did you -- those comments were there any warnings into commercial. Airline companies that are. Any civilian -- authorities about the existence -- this level training. War those people who -- -- noticed there. To Aaron put out I think you guys know that that that. Worn civilian aircraft. To fly. To take care over the -- of Ukraine -- to fly higher altitudes not an expert on that process that there was. There was an international notice. Two civilian air carriers -- that was prompted by. Which -- -- and it was training for a vehicle -- and yet it. -- the FAA and other agencies that handle that I don't know what prompted it I think it was obviously. If you're going to issue a warning that its. It's based on concerns do you have about surface to air missile activity capabilities. Maybe you -- don't know what the intent wasn't whoever -- -- who were there any indications that the rather. -- for us military -- Ukrainian military planes. In the sky at that time and also is -- -- concern present same group wants to. Stop this he -- northern concern is that perhaps. This is provision that is it was spun out of control and perhaps Russian doesn't -- the control of the separates us. And -- so how are you prepare. On your first question I don't know I don't have any need that this is Ukrainian airspace control weight training authorities and other free to them. Of them speak about what else was flying near the -- just don't have that level of visibility we just wouldn't have that here. Com on your second question I -- the president's been very clear about about what. The responsibility and obligation President Putin and and Moscow already. Which used to DS -- attention to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. And to cease -- support for the separatist activities which as I said at the outset continues and -- some cases intensify. You -- since it is. We'll continue to live -- this press -- conference at the Pentagon -- rear admiral John Kirby but in the meantime I want to go to London and bring in ABC's military analyst and aviation expert. Steve canyon an instinct we heard the president speak to the rebels. Getting some Russian help in launching his missiles tell us about the types of weapons in fact that could take down a plane 33000 feet in the air. It did it's it's interesting here the the the Pentagon spokesman their admiral Kirby yes sidestepped. Our own Louis Martinez is question that there I think that question -- -- have to -- answered again. NATO intelligence was seeing a couple weeks ago. That that the Russians were training the rebels on these very sophisticated -- motorized. Service to air missile system -- in the past. Our viewers probably are familiar with these these man has the shoulder mounted small missiles. That are infrared. Seekers. Terrorists tend to use them we see them in in small wars. But the real alarm that was sounded couple weeks go by general breedlove was that. These new systems that there are the rebels are being -- on we're very sophisticated their radar guided -- -- go up well above the altitude that the man had threatened. Would would death occur -- so. The fact that -- Russians -- training these rebels who had no command and control. Who are out there on their own just shooting down aircraft we've seen two or three of -- she tells the past couple weeks. It's that he it's and it's a really significant escalation. If it can be proved that the Russians were involved in this in either training. Or giving the rebels these -- elevenths. Which in fact why they're so much attention -- so many questions being asked whether rebels went into Russian territory. To receive that kind of training given the intensity that would be required to operate that kind of a system. He absolutely and and and so you know that. What what kind of Russian fingerprints are on this once the investigation's complete in a Libyan intelligence investigation and -- go to the president so. How much we eventually find out is is still an open question. But to to be able to have rebels go into Russian territory and be trained and then to come back in. With something that is really really destabilizing. You know he did -- to learn how to be really good honest the skaters -- their missile system. Like the SA eleven. It takes months of training. Not just a couple days and weeks -- couple hours it is doesn't appear that that the rebels have been given full blown tree training. -- there there are systems onboard that air on that on board that -- missile system. That could help differentiate civilian -- military aircraft there are ways to interrogate some of the electronics -- the new year were aircraft -- airborne. And to be able to tell it's that it's either way it's for it's a friend or it's a -- -- -- and non combatant it's -- it's a commercial aircraft. And I doubt that there was enough training given to the rebels there were probably just shown. Turn that thing on if you see a radar return and it in range. Pull the trigger and you'll shoot down whatever you're going after we hear -- -- some of that in in in Brian Ross is reporting here at ABC. In the past a few hours worth. He rebels were caught by the Ukrainian intelligence services. Making tweeting and then making phone calls -- each other saying hey we shut down military aircraft -- -- oops -- that was actually civilian aircraft. So if those reports in those those. What -- theory ukrainians say it's true. Then we know that the rebels intended to shoot down an airplane but certainly didn't shoot down not she got a commercial aircraft. Which which is quite plausible if they did weren't given the training it does the -- no good in the world's eyes that they're trying to influence. If they are seen as mass murders of defenseless civilian aircraft Steve based on what we just heard -- from the Pentagon -- that news briefing and it also from the statement earlier today by the president. Do we have any reason to believe that US military assets could get involved in this. Now this the the president was quite clear today in that he was not pointing fingers at the Russians he did not escalate. We've -- -- up some sanctions yesterday that are gonna have a tough fight on the Russian economy. But the president today gave mr. food and every opportunity to walk back. From the brink here -- begin to cooperate on creating some sort of cease fire in Ukraine so. The president was was was was not leaning forward so far that that he would humiliate or embarrass mr. -- who's -- in the room to come back. He was quite clear in saying that there would be no US military involvement. And that the choice the strategic choice that. Mr. food and has is his to make and and our actions which -- pro primarily -- economic sanctions. Will be determined by the choices that mr. Putin makes. Following the crash yesterday. Several airlines international and both those domestic here -- the United States declared that they would not be flying over this area for safety concerns as the investigation is going on. And a lot of people are asking the question why in fact was Malaysia air ever flying over that space to begin with have they come out with any kind of an updated statement or explanation. For that flight path. There was there was a -- was a press conference in in Amsterdam here after lunch European time where they represented -- Malaysian airlines came out. And his explanation was well everybody else is doing -- there was no law against it. But has -- no just because there's a -- not a law against something doesn't mean it's a good idea. If you're gonna be prudent. It in and most US airlines affected at all US airlines have been prudent and have not -- and Ukraine since back in April. When the US government warned them not to do that. So be you know there's just no explanation for -- II can't I can even offer an explanation. Other than they deal was too hard or they didn't think enough about it or they were trying to save fuel by not diverting -- north to south of Ukraine but. It it it's not it wasn't a prudent decision obviously -- it had terrible consequences. In the early hours after the crash there had been claims by some -- separatist that the black boxes from the plane had been located and turned over -- Ukrainian authorities. That turned out to be to the contrary. You've said though that the black boxes in the discovery in fact may not be as crucial as what it might be in some other crashes why. Well did you think about most other crashes they certainly don't involve being shot down by military system that involves something like pilot error or whether or mechanical failure or -- Something that would have brought that airplane down -- combination of factors that would bring an airplane down. In those instances we would use the black boxes to tell us what was going on. -- physically with the airplane itself and what was going on in the -- -- would know with the human beings were doing. We would know with a machine was doing in between those two things we oftentimes are able to come to a conclusion about what happens and in this -- But here your being attacked by a missile. From an external and external explosion that would actually blown that the the aft end of the airplane apart. So so the idea that the black boxes which are just sitting there in the airplane were monitoring the airplane which was functioning apparently just fine 12. And then blown to smithereens the next second. They're just not to be able to give us much that would tell us about this external explosion that occurred. We know that someone from the National Transportation Safety Board is en route to the crash site as well as investigators from Ukraine Russia is well. Obviously there is going to be some diplomatic relations that we'll certainly be called into question on this. But who exactly will be taking the lead in this investigation. The lead on investigation -- almost always go to the country in which the mishap occurred -- sometimes we saw eventually in the case of Malaysia. That they deferred some of the responsibility in the leadership to Australia. -- many countries in the won't win the world in fact most countries in the world do not have. The mishap investigative. Capabilities or personnel are experienced. That the US does or that Canada or the UK. Would have and so they would tend to at least notion only keep the lead on an investigation because they want to be able to control the release information. But they'll rely heavily on outside parties -- -- much more expert than they would be. So I think what's gonna happen if we do and and I still think it's a big if because we never sent. NTSB investigators into a a hot conflict -- If we do send them in I think that what they'll be looking for his -- wanna get the black boxes -- you wanna get. Every piece of evidence you cancel the -- completed pictures possible. But I think what they'll be looking for is some external evidence of an explosion they can look for things like residue of explosive on the skin of the aircraft. They can look for the defamation of parts of the aircraft was an explosion -- -- How did that explosions seemed to to fit how big would a decent given clues about. What kind of missile it might have been conducive metallurgical. Sorts of friends -- where they can tell you with a warhead was made. And so they're all sorts of little clues to include. Things like propellant -- things like residue from explosives. That will help build a picture of the exact site kind of missile. Now if we can get confirmation that there was. -- out other outside confirmation that it definitely was an -- Eleven and it definitely was fired by the rebels and there's really not much of an investigation to -- here but for now we've got to begin to can or continue to gather all the evidence we can. -- -- wanted to ask you but -- about the nature of the investigation obviously the forensic evidence -- on site there. Is first and foremost for the NTSB -- of those other investigators as well. But we've also been seen reports of a local people they're going in there trying to secure some of the area how crucial then given the nature of the explosion of this crash. How crucial then is it to preserve the nature of that evidence. Buffett think about it think about it you know -- watch crime scene investigation. Shows on television and you see how they go about it how deliberate it is and how scientific it is. But if you go into -- -- in this is a crime scene and in many ways if you go into a crime scene and you would you have. The evidence laid out before you you don't wanna move anything you don't want to contaminate anything you don't wanna put anything out of place from the order that it actually happened because you've got to. Create a time sequence you've got to do do all that all the gathering of very sorts of evidence and -- the same thing applies here so we don't want people picking up pieces and having investigator come on the scene say why's that piece over here because it does make sense because it was -- over here. Because -- can draw you can you can lead into wrong conclusions and and so that's why it's very important. The nobody touch anything but. I just don't have much -- you know if the rebels did shoot down this aircraft the last thing they're going to do is have people snooping around. Who may come up with evidence that would would in implicate them in in in this crime. ABC's military analyst and aviation expert Steve gang -- Steve thank you for your time. And of course you can continue to watch the Pentagon briefing streaming live on abcnews.com also keeping it on the State Department -- briefing is set to begin. And the next couple minutes got to -- right here on abcnews.com. You can keep up with the latest on Malaysian air flight seventeen in real time by downloading ABC news story that story for exclusive updates on ago. And on -- or pork.

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