Ukraine says Malaysian airliner shot down, 295 dead: agency by Russians'

Jul 17, 2014

A Malaysian airliner was shot down over easternUkraine by militants on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard, a Ukrainian interior ministry official was quoted as saying by Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

The aircraft, which other sources said was a Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, came down near the city of Donetsk, stronghold of pro-Russian rebels, Anton Gerashchenko said, adding that it was hit by a ground-to-air missile.

There was no further confirmation of the report, although Ukrainian officials said local residents had found wreckage.

Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed it had lost contact with its flight MH-17 from Amsterdam. "The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace," it said.

Gerashchenko was quoted as saying: "A civilian airliner travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur has just been shot down by a Buk anti-aircraft system ... 280 passengers and 15 crew have been killed."

Interfax-Ukraine quoted another Ukrainian official as saying the plane disappeared from radar when it was flying at 10,000 metres (33,000 feet), a typical cruising altitude for airliners.

It came down at Torez, near Shakhtersk, some 40 km (25 miles) from the Russia border. The area has been the scene of fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels.

Ukraine has accused Russia of taking an active role in the four-month-old conflict in recent days and accused it earlier on Thursday of shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet - an accusation that Moscow denied.

BREAKING NEWS: Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane 'shot down by Russians' killing more than 300

A Malaysian airliner carrying 295 people has crashed in east Ukraine on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, amid allegations it was shot down.

Bodies are scattered around what is believed to be the wreckage of the jet near the village of Grabovo, which is under the control of separatist rebels.

Flight MH17 had been due to enter Russian airspace when contact was lost.

Ukraine's president called the loss of the plane an "act of terrorism" as the rebels denied shooting it down.

The separatists are believed to have shot down two Ukrainian military planes over the region in recent days.

There is no official closure of Ukraine airspace but Germany's Lufthansa, Air France and Turkish Airlines are all now avoiding eastern Ukraine.

The crash site in Ukraine, 17 JulyThe crash site in Ukraine
The crash site in Ukraine, 17 JulyEmergency workers at the scene
Flight MH17 leaving Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, 17 JulyFlight MH17 leaving Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, on Thursday afternoon
The upper floor of Schiphol Airport is closed for media and reserved for family and relatives of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17, 17 JulyThe upper floor of Schiphol Airport is closed for media and reserved for family and relatives of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17
A staff member sits behind a closed Malaysia Airlines desk at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, 18 July (local time) A staff member sits behind a closed Malaysia Airlines desk at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Analysis: Jonathan Beale, BBC News

A defence expert has told the BBC that shooting down a plane at 10,000m (32,000ft) would have required a long- range surface-to-air missile - possibly guided by radar.

That suggests it is unlikely it could have been downed by a portable air defence missile, or Manpad, which has a much shorter range.

The only other possibility is for an aircraft at that height to be downed by a fighter carrying air-to-air missiles.

The US will have access to satellite imagery that should be able to identify ultra-violet plumes if a long-range surface-to-air missile was fired.


Russia's emergency services have reportedly asked the Ukrainian government for permission to work at the crash site.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke of his shock and said he was launching an immediate inquiry into the crash.

US President Barack Obama has said the crash of the airliner was a "terrible tragedy" and that US officials were trying to establish if any Americans had been on board.

Mr Obama spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the crash earlier, the Kremlin said in a statement (in Russian).

'Then a bang'

The plane fell between Krasni Luch in Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in the neighbouring region of Donetsk.

BBC map

Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the plane had been hit by a missile at an altitude of 10,000m (32,000ft). The claim could not be verified independently.

At least 100 bodies have been found so far at the scene, an emergencies worker told Reuters news agency at the scene, with wreckage spread across an area of up to about 15km (nine miles) in diameter.

Broken pieces of the wings were marked with blue and red paint - the same colours as the emblem of the Malaysian airline, the agency said.

The BBC's David Stern in Kiev: "Everybody at this point is denying any type of involvement in the crash "

"I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang and shots," a witness called Vladimir told Reuters.

"Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke."

A separatist rebel from nearby Krasnyi Luch who gave his name as Sergei said: "From my balcony I saw a plane begin to descend from a great height and then heard two explosions."


Ukraine has accused Russia's military of supplying advanced missiles to the rebels.

Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian officials blamed the Russian air force for shooting down one of its ground attack jets on Wednesday, and a transport plane on Monday.

Confirming the crash, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said: "The Ukrainian armed forces did not attempt to shoot down targets in the air."

Separatist leader Alexander Borodai accused the government of downing the airliner itself.

"Apparently, it's a passenger airliner indeed, truly shot down by the Ukrainian air force," he told Russia's state-run Rossiya 24 TV broadcaster.

The UK Foreign Office said it was aware of the reports of the crash and was "urgently working to establish what has happened".

Russia implicated?

Aviation expert: "If this was a shoot down... it would have to have been quite a sophisticated air defence system"

Sir Tony Brenton, a former UK ambassador to Russia, told BBC News it would not be a huge surprise if suspicion initially fell on the rebels.

"That would be very damaging both for them and for their Russian supporters," he said.

"The Russians have undoubtedly been supplying them with weapons, almost certainly with anti-aircraft weapons, so Russia would very likely be implicated and that would raise the volume of international criticism of Russia."

This is also the second plane crash involving a Malaysian airliner this year, following the disappearance of Flight MH370 to Beijing in March.


Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 - Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur

Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200ER

Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER

Crew: 15

Passengers: 280

Left Amsterdam: 10:15 GMT

Lost contact: 14:15 GMT at 10,000m (33,000ft)


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