- Associated Press - Friday, July 18, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte said Friday that she believes the Russian government of President Vladimir Putin will ultimately be linked to the downing of a civilian aircraft over the skies of Ukraine.

Ayotte, a Republican who sits on the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee, told MSNBC (https://on.msnbc.com/1momjqK ) she thinks “it’s very clear the evidence” points to Russia. She said the Russian separatists fighting the Ukrainian government are funded, equipped and trained by Russia.

“I think the fingerprints are really on Moscow,” she said.

The Malaysian Airlines flight with 298 people aboard was shot down Thursday over a contested area in eastern Ukraine. Both the Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government have denied involvement in what Ayotte called “really a murder” of innocent people.

Putin has said Ukraine is at fault for not closing its airspace to civilians, a claim Ayotte found outrageous.

“I never case to be amazed at the nerve of Vladimir Putin to actually blame the Ukrainians,” she said.

New Hampshire’s other senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, called for an immediate cease-fire to allow a thorough investigation and said the perpetrators must be held accountable.

“While much is still unknown about the situation, the U.S. government has announced it has credible evidence that the aircraft was brought down by a surface-to-air missile fired from territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels,” Shaheen said in a prepared statement.

Ayotte said the U.S. and Europe need to ramp up pressure on Putin, including tighter economic sanctions, unless he stops interfering with the conflict in Ukraine. She also thinks the U.S. should provide more military support for the Ukrainian government forces, including equipment.

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