Obama vows U.S. will seek justice in downing of Malaysian jet

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will not rest until justice is done in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 over eastern Ukraine, President Barack Obama vowed in a condolence book for the nearly 300 victims on Tuesday.

U.S. lawmakers, meanwhile, pushed for a stronger response to the July 17 shootdown of the airliner over an area controlled by pro-Russia separatists.

Obama visited the Netherlands Embassy in Washington to sign the book. Of the 298 people killed in the crash, 193 were Dutch.

“No words can adequately express the sorrow the world feels over this loss. It is made more acute by the deep ties of friendship between our two countries,” the president wrote in the book.

“Bound by that friendship, we will not rest until we are certain that justice is done,” he wrote.

Obama later left on a three-day trip to Washington state and California that will be dominated by fund-raisers for Democratic congressional candidates.

Congress members pushed for tougher action. The Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate’s national security committees called on Obama to impose immediate broad sanctions on Russia’s defense industry, including the state-owned arms exporter Rosboronexport.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and Robert Menendez also wrote to Obama, urging him to consider broader sanctions on Russia’s energy and financial industries and any other appropriate sectors of its economy to penalize Moscow for supporting the separatist rebels and express outrage over “the wanton destruction” of the flight.

Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss issued a statement saying Washington should give stronger military assistance to the Ukrainian government if Moscow does not withdraw support for the separatists.


And the leaders of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Ed Royce and Democrat Eliot Engel, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry urging a push for a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing an international mission to help secure the crash site.

The White House said the United States welcomed news that victims’ remains and the airplane’s black boxes were being transferred to the Netherlands.

But White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that international investigators still need full access to the scene.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said his country would try to ensure that Ukrainian separatists cooperate with an investigation into the downing but said the West must do more to persuade Ukraine’s government to end hostilities. [ID:nL6N0PX3KR]

At a news briefing, Earnest called on Putin to live up to his commitment to intervene with the separatists on the investigation. More broadly, he said, “We do need to see Russia demonstrate some respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

Sensitive to concerns that Obama might be sending the wrong message by leaving Washington during crises involving Ukraine and Israel, Earnest said a scheduled Obama appearance on ABC television’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” comedy variety show has been canceled.

The spokesman deflected questions about Obama’s trip, saying the president is able to perform his job while on the road.

Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis