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.

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