That was the message Sen. John McCain delivered after the United States concluded a missile shot down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that crashed in a rebel-controlled part of eastern Ukraine on Thursday.
While it is unclear who shot down the plane, the Arizona Republican says that if either the Russian government or pro-separatist forces in Ukraine fired the missile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is ultimately responsible for the crash.
“I think he is responsible,” McCain said at a “Politics on Tap” event in Washington. “I mean it wasn’t Vladimir Putin that pushed the button to launch the missile, but the whole scenario, including the buildup of Russian troops across the border … I think that he gave them material and the wherewithal to do it – or facilitated that – and facilitated a situation that was very possible for them to do it.”
Putin said Ukraine’s military campaign against the separatists was to blame, while Ukrainian officials maintained that pro-Russian separatists were behind the crash.
“This tragedy would not have happened, if there had been peace on that land, or in any case, if military operations in southeastern Ukraine had not been renewed,” Putin said in televised remarks. “And without a doubt the government of the territory on which it happened bears responsibility for this frightening tragedy.”
But McCain asserted that the actions of pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine have been coordinated by the Russians, and Putin should be punished for their actions if they are found to be involved.
“I think first of all we would want to impose the most severe kinds of sanctions on Russia because this is clearly orchestrated, this whole separatist movement,” McCain said. “I see no separation between Vladimir Putin and what he has fomented in Eastern Ukraine, and the invasion where he took Crimea and these ‘separatists.'”
The Obama administration believes Ukraine did not have the capability in the region – let alone the motivation – to shoot down the plane, a U.S. official told Tapper.
The Boeing 777 with 298 people aboard fell from the sky near the town of Torez in the Donetsk.
If it is determined that American lives were lost in the crash caused by a missile launched by Russians or pro-Russian separatists, McCain said the Russian government would be to blame for their lost lives.
“I would say the Russian government bears responsibility for the deaths of Americans,” McCain said.