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Wilmington (United States) (AFP) — President Barack Obama Thursday said the crash of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine was a “terrible tragedy” and said U.S. officials were trying to establish if any Americans were on board.

“The world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia/Ukraine border. And it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy,” Obama said, before going ahead with a previously scheduled event in Wilmington, Delaware.

Obama said his first priority was to determine whether there were any US citizens aboard the crashed jet.

“I have directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government,” Obama said.

“The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why.

“And as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home,” Obama said, before continuing with his remarks highlighting plans to revive America’s transportation infrastructure.

Earlier, the White House said that reports that the Malaysia Airlines plane had crashed in eastern Ukraine had come through while Obama was on the phone with President Vladimir Putin, and that the Russian leader had noted them during their conversation.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 came down near the town of Shaktarsk, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said it may have been shot down.

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

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Actor as Donald Trump in Russia Today video ad

Screenshot from RT's 'Trump is here to make RT Great Again'

Russia Today, the network known in this country as RT, has produced a new "deep fake" video that portrays Donald Trump in post-presidential mode as an anchor for the Kremlin outlet. Using snippets of Trump's own voice and an actor in an outlandish blond wig, the ad suggests broadly that the US president is indeed a wholly owned puppet of Vladimir Putin– as he has so often given us reason to suspect.

"They're very nice. I make a lot of money with them," says the actor in Trump's own voice. "They pay me millions and hundreds of millions."

But when American journalists described the video as "disturbing," RT retorted that their aim wasn't to mock Trump, but his critics and every American who objects to the Russian manipulations that helped bring him to power.

As an ad for RT the video is amusing, but the network's description of it is just another lie. Putin's propagandists are again trolling Trump and America, as they've done many times over the past few years –- and this should be taken as a warning of what they're doing as Election Day approaches.

The Lincoln Project aptly observed that the Russians "said the quiet part out loud" this time, (Which is a bad habit they share with Trump.)