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Hillary Clinton: 'It probably had to be Russian insurgents'

During an interview with Charlie Rose, the former secretary of state weighed in on the Malaysian Airlines jetliner that crashed in Eastern Ukraine on Thursday.
Hillary Clinton speaking in Denver, Colorado on Jun 24, 2014.
Hillary Clinton speaking in Denver, Colorado on Jun 24, 2014.

Former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton weighed in on the Malaysian Airlines jetliner that crashed in Eastern Ukraine on Thursday, saying Russian insurgents were likely to blame.

“There does seem to be some growing awareness that it probably had to be Russian insurgents,” she told journalist Charlie Rose in a wide-ranging interview that aired on PBS at 11 p.m. EST Thursday. “How we determine that will require some forensics. But then if there is evidence pointing in that direction, the equipment had to have come from Russia. What more the Russians may or may not have done we don't know.”

There were 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All are believed to be dead. The airliner was flying at an altitude of about 33,000 feet when it was last seen on radar.

Senior U.S. officials told NBC News that the plane was downed by a surface-to-air missile. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine was responsible for the crash. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian government official claimed pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane. 

"There does seem to be some growing awareness that it probably had to be Russian insurgents."'

During the interview, Clinton said there are concerns about “what this means about the continuing conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the role that Russia is playing.”

In February, demonstrators toppled the pro-Russian government in Kiev. Russia responded by invading and annexing the Crimea region of Ukraine. Since then, pro-Russian separatists have been battling Ukrainian security forces in the eastern part of the country.

Obama had announced a new round of sanctions against Russia for its intervention in Ukraine earlier in the day.

Clinton said if evidence shows Russian insurgents are to blame, Europe has to do much more, including issuing tougher sanctions and participating more alongside the U.S. to support Ukrainians. The message must be, Clinton said, that “Putin has gone too far and we are not going to stand idly by. There should be outrage in European capitals,” she added.

Clinton has been an outspoken critic of Putin following the Crimea occupation, even likening his actions to those of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. She had called for more sanctions on Russia and earlier this spring predicted the country “will pay a big price for this.”

Clinton also discussed Israel's announcement from earlier in the day that it was beginning a ground offensive in Gaza. Officials there said the move was a defensive response to the ongoing attacks from Islamist Hamas. Clinton did not give a direct answer when Rose asked her if she supports Israel’s invasion.

“It's not an easy question … That's why I flew from Cambodia to try to prevent an invasion last time,” said Clinton referring to her negotiating a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel in 2012.

“Well, I don't know the answer to that, because I'm not on the inside," Clinton told Rose. "I know that there's been a lot of phone calls and a lot of outreach … Hamas may feel like they're totally cornered. They've got Egypt, under Sisi, on one side. They've got Israel not willing, too -- and I don't blame them at all -- for suffering missiles. And so, Hamas may feel like they have nothing to lose. I think they have to be convinced they do have something to lose."

Clinton was also asked about her 2016 ambitions and reasons why she might not run for president. Clinton said turning down a bid for the nation’s highest office “would be wholly personal,” noting she’s about to have her first grandchild.

“I want to see what that feels like. I'm not going to skip over it. I want to really be present, as I meet this, you know, new person in our family. I like my life right now. I like the -- the opportunity to do what I'm interested in, pursue very important issues to me, like our foreign policy issues, which is why I wrote the book,” said Clinton on her new memoir “Hard Choices.” 

In an NBC News/Marist poll released Thursday, the former first lady crushes Vice President Biden among Democratic voters in a hypothetical matchup – 70% to 20% in Iowa, and 74% to 18% in New Hampshire.

Clinton is currently on a book tour promoting the memoir, which came out in June. It's being seen as part of a months-long rollout leading up to her decision about whether to run for president. Clinton has previously said that she’ll decide by the end of the year.