John McCain blames Vladimir Putin for downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17

PHOENIX - U.S. Senator John McCain has some strong words for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

McCain said Putin is ultimately responsible for Russian rebels shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 on Thursday. Nearly 300 passengers were on board when the aircraft crashed.

RELATED: Woman loses stepdaughter on MH17 after brother was aboard missing MH370

We sat down with the senator for a one-on-one interview on Friday.

McCain is calling this one of the “most serious events since the end of the Cold War.”

“The person responsible for this is Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin is the one who has encouraged them, has armed them, has sent in troops, including even tanks, and he’s responsible,” he said.

McCain said the U.S. has to put more sanctions on Russia, and he wants Europe to follow suit.

McCain also wants to provide Ukraine with weapons and military assistance to defeat the pro-Russian separatists.

“We need to impose sanctions, we need to have missile defenses. We need to re-deploy our forces under NATO more into the region,” McCain said.

He said Putin is set on restoring the old Soviet Russian Empire, and he believes Putin will continue to pressure other neighboring countries like Latvia and Estonia. 

McCain thinks economic sanctions are the only way to stop that.

“The best way is to show a strong and forceful response. And the first step would be severe sanctions on Vladimir Putin,” McCain said.

He said he's "deeply skeptical" European nations will impose those kinds of sanctions.

McCain said the plane's black boxes have been sent to Moscow, but he says the U.S. already knows enough about the cause of the crash to take a strong stance against Russia.

"All of us all over the world are deeply sad and grieve for those families. But I also am angry because I think we could have had a chance to prevent this if we had given the Ukrainians some weapons, which they could have then moved these separatists out of Ukraine," McCain said.

Senator McCain said if Russia doesn't pay a heavy price for its part in the plane crash, Putin will get more reckless and dangerous.

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