07/18/2014 05:22 EDT | Updated 09/17/2014 05:59 EDT

Chris Alexander: MH17 Crash 'A Brutal Act Of Terror'

TORONTO - The federal government labelled the shooting down of a Malaysian passenger plane over Ukraine "a brutal act of terror" on Friday, saying it was ready to help investigate the tragedy.

All 298 people aboard the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — which was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur — were killed when the aircraft was shot down over contested territory in eastern Ukraine Thursday.

The U.S. has said it believes the jetliner was likely downed by a missile and has added that it can't rule out "technical assistance from Russian personnel."

In Toronto, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said Canada clearly condemned what he referred to repeatedly as an attack.

"Whatever has happened, whatever caused this attack, whoever unleashed the explosives that brought down the plane, it is an act of terror in our view," he said.

Alexander pointedly noted that the government also condemned Russia's "unjustified, illegal aggression" in Ukraine, adding that Canada is working with its allies to ensure the international response to Moscow is "robust."

Violence in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russia rebels erupted a month after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March.

Earlier this week, the rebels claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian military jet with a portable surface-to-air missile and the government in Kyiv charged that a military transport plane was shot down by a missile fired from Russian territory.

"It is certainly relevant to the investigation that this attack took place over territory held by separatists," said Alexander.

Canada stands ready to support Ukrainian authorities in probing the horrific incident if it is requested, he said, adding that the federal government agrees with the U.S. analysis of what likely caused the plane to go down.

Alexander made his comments after visiting the family of a 24-year-old Ajax, Ont., medical student who was among those who died when the plane went down.

"We are horrified by this tragedy and our hearts go out to the Canadian family affected and to all of those around the world who've lost loved ones," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said there needs to be a credible international investigation into what he termed a "global tragedy." He also called for a ceasefire in the conflict between the pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces in the region where the plane went down.

All sides in the conflict — the Ukrainian government, the pro-Russia rebels they are fighting and the Russian government that Ukraine accuses of supporting the rebels — have denied shooting down the plane. Moscow also denies backing the rebels.

The U.S. call for a thorough probe into the matter comes as the UN Security Council asked Friday for "a full, thorough and independent international investigation, in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines, and for appropriate accountability."

It has also stressed the need for "immediate access by investigators to the crash site to determine the cause of the incident."

A delegation made up mostly of officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, travelled to the crash site Friday, but rebel militiamen only allowed team members to perform a partial and superficial inspection before armed men ordered them out.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, headquartered in Montreal, said Friday it would send a team to help Ukrainian air safety investigators who are in charge of the investigation.

At a Kremlin meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged that "all sides in the conflict should halt their fighting and enter into peaceful talks," according to an official website.

_ With files from The Associated Press.

Also on HuffPost

  • Karlijn Keijzer
    Indiana University
    Karlijn Keijzer was a 25-year-old doctoral student in the chemistry department at the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences. “On behalf of the entire Indiana University community, I want to express my deepest sympathies to Karlijn’s family and friends over her tragic death,” Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie said in a statement. “Karlijn was an outstanding student and a talented athlete, and her passing is a loss to the campus and the university. Our hearts also go out to the families of all the victims of this senseless act.”
  • John, Yuli, Arjuna and Sri Paulissen
    Widi Yuwono, the brother of Yuli Hastini, right, shows her sister's family portrait with her Dutch husband John Paulissen and their two children Arjuna and Sri who were on board of the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight 17, at his residence in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, Friday, July 18, 2014. The Malaysian jetliner that went down in war-torn Ukraine did not make any distress call, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Friday, adding that its flight route had been declared safe by the global civil aviation body.
  • Wayan Sujana
    Christopher Furlong / Getty Images
    A photograph of Indonesian man Wayan Sujana of Bali, believed to be missing on Air Malaysia flight MH17, is fixed to the ticketing desk of Air Malaysia at Schiphol Airport on July 18, 2014 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
  • Joep Lange
    Peter Lowie/AMC/AP
    In this October 2008 photo provided by AMC Amsterdam on Friday, July 18, 2014, former president of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange is seen. A large number of world-renowned AIDS researchers and activists heading to an international AIDS conference in Australia were on board a Malaysian jetliner that was shot down over Ukraine, officials said Friday, as news of their deaths sparked an outpouring of grief across the global scientific community. Among them was Joep Lange, a well-known researcher from the Netherlands . (Peter Lowie/AMC/AP)
  • Glenn Thomas
    WHO / AP
    An undated photo made available Friday, July 18, 2014, by the World Health Organization of Glenn Thomas, 49, a media officer at the WHO in Geneva, who died on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 which was shot down over the Ukraine Thursday as it traveled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. (AP Photo/WHO)
  • Hendry Se
    Family of Hendry Se/AFP/Getty Images
    This handout photograph released on July 18, 2014 by the family of Hendry Se, an Indonesian passenger on the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, shows Henrdy at her graduation. (Family of Hendry Se/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Quinn Schansman
    Dutch-American student Quinn Lucas Schansman was reportedly on his way to a family vacation in Malaysia.
  • Nick Norris
    Nick Norris from Perth, Australia, was on board with three of his grandchildren.
  • Ninik Yuriani
    Handout / AFP / Getty Images
  • Sister Philomene Tiernan
    Kincoppal-Rose Bay School
  • Mary Menke and Gerry Menke
    East Gippsland Business Awards
  • Frankie Davison and Liam Davison
    Toorak College
  • Susan Horder
  • Howard Horder
  • Jill Guard
  • Roger Guard
  • Liliane Derden
  • Elaine Teoh
  • Emiel Mahler
  • Wan Amran Wan Husin
  • Mo, Otis and Evie Maslin
  • Liam Sweeney
  • Emma Bell
  • Shazana Salleh
  • Angeline Premila
  • Albert Rizk
  • Helene Sidelik
  • Pim de Kuijer
  • Martine de Schutter