Sen. John McCain said Thursday that he is withholding judgment on the Malaysia Airlines crash, but vowed that there would be “h— to pay” if the plane was shot down by the Russian military or separatists.
“To leap to conclusions could be very embarrassing and really inappropriate until we have more information,” the Arizona Republican told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell shortly after reports that a commercial flight carrying 298 people was shot down in the eastern part of Ukraine.
But McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, cited previous reports of Ukrainian fighter planes being shot down by Russian separatists.
After again noting that he has not yet arrived at any conclusions, the senator said: “But if it is the result of either separatist or Russian actions mistakenly believing this was a Ukrainian war plane, I think there’s going to be hell to pay and there should be.”
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 was flying from to Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and was hit by a Buk launcher missile, according to adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister Anton Gerashenko. The plane was reportedly flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet and was shot down in eastern Ukraine.
McCain said that the incident could be part of the greater “pattern” of separatists that have the capability of shooting down a plane.
“It has the earmarks of a tragic mistake made by someone who had the capability to just shoot down an aircraft, and we know at least from the last couple of weeks that that could be Russian or separatist Russian capability,” he said.
The Arizona senator has long been critical of the White House’s handling of the situation in Ukraine, accusing President Barack Obama of projecting weakness to Russian President Vladimir Putin and failing to adequately support the Ukrainian military and government.
On Wednesday, the administration increased its sanctions against Russia. In the announcement, Obama said that “Russia has failed to take any of the steps” toward reducing tensions against Ukraine and said that Putin has not demonstrated a commitment to ending the conflict.
McCain on Thursday said the increased sanctions were “helpful” but that the administration’s response has failed Ukraine.
“The sanctions so far in exchange for Crimea have been miniscule,” he said, referring to the sanctions the administration announced after the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula. “These latest enacted by the Obama administration, I think, are helpful. But if you ask the Ukrainian government that’s struggling, they would say they need weapons with which to defend themselves.”
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