President Barack Obama said Thursday that a downed Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in Ukraine "looks like it may be a terrible tragedy" and that the U.S. will offer any assistance necessary to determine the crash's cause.
"I have directed my national security team to stay close contact with the Ukrainian government," he said at the beginning of an event in Delaware. "The United States will offer any assistance it can to determine what happened and why."
Obama said "the world is watching" reports of the downed jet.
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"As a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home," he said, noting that the "first priority" of the U.S. is to find out whether Americans are among the victims.
The Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 295 people on board crashed earlier Thursday in Ukraine, near the Russian border. The Ukrainian president said he could not rule out that the plane was shot down.
Details of the cause of the crash remain unclear.
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the crash briefly with Obama earlier Thursday during a phone conversation between the two leaders about newly escalated Western sanctions against Russia.
- Carrie Dann