Thursday , 18 August 2022
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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 - Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur

Breaking: Malaysia airliner crashes in east Ukraine conflict zone

  • Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER
  • Crew: 15
  • Passengers: 280
  • Left Amsterdam: 10:15 GMT
  • Lost contact: 14:15 GMT at 10,000m (33,000ft)

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.

There are no signs of survivors at the scene of the crash 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.

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

Leading airlines have announced they are now avoiding eastern Ukraine.

If it does turn out that the Boeing 777 was shot down by the separatists – with weaponry supplied by Moscow – then it could significantly alter the terms of the whole debate surrounding the Ukraine crisis.

Over the past few days there has been growing concern among Western governments that Russia was stepping up its military support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Nato spokesmen insist that more and more heavy military equipment has moved from Russian stockpiles to the separatists across the border.

In response, the United States has strengthened its economic sanctions against Moscow – it is threatening even stronger action – though the European Union has so far failed to follow Washington’s lead.

But if Russia in any way had a hand in this tragedy then the pressure – especially on the Europeans – for much tougher sanctions will only grow.

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).

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

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, 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.

“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.”

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

Ukrainian media have broadcast audio purported to be conversations intercepted by the Security Service between pro-Russian militants, in which several men talk about having shot down a civilian plane.

But separatist leader Alexander Borodai accused the government of downing the airliner.

“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 Interfax news agency reported that rebels had found the black box flight recorder, but this has not been independently confirmed.

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

The head of the Russian Air Traffic Controllers’ Union, Sergei Kovalyov, told BBC Russian that the airspace over eastern Ukraine had remained open during the conflict because the planes previously shot down had tended to be helicopters or low-flying fast jets.

“In order to bring down an airplane from an altitude of 10,000m, you need to have very serious weapons…. missiles,” he said. “It’s either a mistake or a terrorist act.”

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.

In 2001, Ukraine admitted its military was probably responsible for shooting down a Russian airliner that crashed into the Black Sea, killing all 78 people on board.

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




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