Malaysian plane shot down over Ukraine
A Malaysia Airlines passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said, and both the government and the pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied any responsibility for downing the aircraft.
Malaysia Airlines confirmed that it received notification from Ukrainian aviation authorities that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 GMT some 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50 km (30 miles) from the Russia-Ukraine border.
Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet). He said it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher, which can fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet).
Malaysia Airlines said the plane had 280 passengers and 15 crew aboard a Boeing 777 that left Amsterdam at 12.15 p.m. and was to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10 a.m. Friday.
As plumes of black smoke rose up near a rebel-held village of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine, an Associated Press journalist counted at least 22 bodies at the crash site 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border. The plane appeared to have broken up before impact and the burning wreckage — which included body parts and the belongings of passengers — was scattered over a wide area.
The village is under the control of pro-Russia separatists and the area has seen severe fighting between the two sides in recent days. Rebel fighters at the scene of the wreckage had piled up victims’ possessions into heaps and threatened reporters attempting to film footage. The insurrection started after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was driven from office in February by a protest movement among people wanting closer ties with the European Union instead of Russia.
The cockpit and one of the turbines lay at a distance of one 1 kilometer (more than a half-mile) from one another. Residents said the tail had landed around 10 kilometers (six miles) further away. Pieces of charred bodies and bones were spread around the field. Rescue workers planted sticks with white flags in spots where they found body parts.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the downing an act of terrorism and called for an international investigation into the crash. He insisted that his forces did not shoot down the plane. “We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets,” he said. “We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible.”
An official with Malaysia Airlines says at least one Canadian was among the 295 people aboard a passenger plane that was downed today over Ukraine. Huib Gorter, senior vice-president of Malaysia Airlines says 154 people were Dutch, 27 were Australians, 23 were Malaysians, 11 were Indonesian, 6 were from the United Kingdom, 4 were from Germany, 4 were from Belgium, and 3 were from the Philippines. Gorter says authorities are still trying to determine the nationalities of the rest of the passengers.