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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 'Shot Down In Ukraine Near Russian Border'

17/07/2014 16:28 | Updated 18 July 2014

Almost 300 people have died including reportedly, nine Britons, after a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was apparently shot down near the Russia - Ukraine border.

Flight MH17 - a Boeing 777-200ER travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur - was in transit over the war-torn region when it disappeared from radar screens.

All 295 people onboard, including 280 passengers and 15 crew members, are believed to have perished.

Graphic images and footage showed a pall of smoke, charred wreckage and bodies at the crash scene in the rebel-held eastern Ukraine village of Grabovo.

debris mh17

These are the first images of aircraft debris from the scene

debris

Flight MH17 is said to have been flying at an altitude of 32,000ft when it was downed

Interfax news agency said the plane came down 20miles (50kms) short of entering Russian airspace.

It "began to drop, afterwards it was found burning on the ground on Ukrainian territory," an unnamed source said.

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As the drama unfolded, several other passenger jets were flying through Ukrainian airspace on one of the main routes from Europe to Asia for air traffic.

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The flight was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur

malaysia airlines

The route of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and where it was shot down

The jets path would have seen it flying at high altitude on an intercontinental flight that took it over the crisis hit region of Ukraine, where the authorities have accused Russia-backed separatists of previous attacks on aircraft.

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor at Ukraine's interior ministry, told Bloomberg it was Ukrainian rebels who shot down the plane.

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Officials at the scene of the disaster in the rebel-held eastern Ukraine village of Grabovo

mh17 malaysia airlines

Writing on his Facebook page, Gerashenko claimed the plane had been hit by a missile from a Buk launcher, which can fire up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet).

Earlier on Thursday the Ukrainian authorities said one of their fighter jets was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane and Ukrainian troops were fired upon by missiles from a village inside Russia.

A similar launcher was reported by journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne on Thursday.

buk missile

In this June 30, 2010 file photo, a Russian Buk-M2 air defence system is displayed at a military show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow

Andrew MacDonald, at defence analysts Vision Gain told HuffPost UK initial reports that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for downing the plane were "quite plausible".

He said: "Earlier today separatist fighters claimed to have shot down a Ukrainian Su-25 ground attack fighter in the area, so the goal may be to create a de-facto no-fly zone in the east of the country in a show of force after their ousting from Slovyansk.

"However, the aircraft will at that stage in its flight will have been cruising at a very high altitude – around 30,000 feet – so would have been well out of range of any shoulder-launched MANPADS weapons you might expect insurgent groups to possess.

MH17 Malaysia Airline Plane

"This makes the Ukrainian interior minister’s claims that a BUK self-propelled SAM system was used quite possible, and such a substantial bit of kit would presumably have to have been provided by Russia.

"Whether or not this strike against a civilian airliner is a deliberate act of terrorism or the result of poorly trained, over-enthusiastic irregular forces, is currently unclear."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the downing an act of terrorism and called for an international investigation into the crash.

"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."

The self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic," the pro-Russian separatist movement in southeastern Ukraine has denied involvement in the downing of the plane, gazeta.ru reports.

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that he was "shocked and saddened" by the disaster and confirmed that Whitehall officials were meeting "to establish the facts".

US President Barack Obama said the downed plane "looks like it may be a terrible tragedy" and vowed the US would offer any assistance necessary to determine the cause of the crash.

This afternoon Malaysia Airlines tweeted it had: "lost contact of [sic] of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow."

Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammad Najib Tun Razak tweeted of his shock at the news.

The flight is understood to have been around four-and-a-half hours into its 11-and-a-half hour journey. It took off at 12.14pm from Amsterdam Schipol airport and was due to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 6.10am local time.

A UK Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of reports and we are urgently working to establish what has happened."

A Department for Transport spokesman said of the Malaysian Airlines crash: "Flights already airborne are being routed around the area by air traffic control in the region. Pilots around the world have been advised to plan routes that avoid the area by Eurocontrol, the European organisation for the safety of air navigation."

The incident brings tragedy to Malaysia Airlines for the second time this year.

flight tracker

The flight tracker which reportedly shows the flight over Ukraine

07/25/2014 11:29 PM EDT

Document: EU Extends Russia Sanctions

A document shows that EU sanctions ar targeting Russian businesses, the AP reports:

A European Union document shows that among those targeted by the EU-wide asset freeze and travel ban are Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Russian Federal Security.

Also targeted is Sergei Beseda, head of the FSB service that oversees international operations and intelligence activity.

Read the full story here.

07/25/2014 5:21 PM EDT

AP Journalists Saw Rebels With BUK Missiles Hours Before MH17 Crashed

Associated Press journalists in Ukraine saw a BUK missile system -- the type that the US says downed Flight MH17 -- in rebel hands just hours before the plane was shot down, the news agency says in detailed account of the day's events. AP says that while the rebels officially deny responsibility, "the denials are increasingly challenged by accounts of residents, the observations of journalists on the ground, and the statements of one rebel official." Further, one rebel official told AP that they were behind the plane tragedy.

More from the AP story:

A highly placed rebel, speaking to the AP this week, admitted that rebels were responsible. He said a unit based in the hometown of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, made up of both Russians and Ukrainians, was involved in the firing of an SA-11 from near Snizhne. The rebel, who has direct access to the inner circle of the insurgent leadership in Donetsk, said that he could not be named because he was contradicting the rebels' official line.

The rebels believed they were targeting a Ukrainian military plane, this person said. Instead, they hit the passenger jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people aboard were killed.

Read the full account here.

07/25/2014 2:59 PM EDT

White House: Russia 'Culpable' For Downed Jet

In a briefing on Friday, the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said there has been a "steady flow" of weapons from Russia into Ukraine, and emphasized the position that Russia played a role in the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal's Marketwatch reports.

The Pentagon said on Friday that the transfer of missile systems from Russia to separatists in Ukraine appeared to be imminent. On Thursday, the U.S. claimed that Russia had fired on Ukrainian military positions.

07/25/2014 1:54 PM EDT

Ukrainian Security Release Tape Of Rebels Allegedly Discussing MH17

Ukraine's security service, SBU, on Friday released a recording it said was of a phone call between pro-Russian separatists discussing a plane overhead, minutes before the Malaysian Airlines jet was shot down over east Ukraine. “I see… Roger... Report it upstairs,” the rebel commander says, according to a translation.

Writing for Mashable, Christopher Miller notes that the recording has not been authenticated and the commander "stops short of giving the order to shoot down Flight 17," however the implication is clearly to build a case that the rebels shot down the plane.

07/25/2014 1:14 PM EDT

Russia Accuses U.S. Of 'Smear Campaign' Over Ukraine

Responding to U.S. officials assertion that Russia was firing artillery on Ukrainian military positions across the border, Russia on Friday countered by calling the claim a baseless "smear campaign,"AFP reports.

A statement from the Russian foreign ministry said, "Due to the smear campaign against us that the US Administration has begun... we reject the unfounded public insinuations that US deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf is spreading on a daily basis," adding that Harf has used "a basketful of these anti-Russian cliches," to influence perceptions of Russia. The statement refuted the U.S. State Departments claim on Russia targeting Ukraine military, saying "There are no facts or specifics about these falsehoods."

More from AFP.

-- Andrew Hart

07/25/2014 1:06 PM EDT

U.S. Ambassador: 15,000 Russian Troops At Border

07/25/2014 12:58 PM EDT

More On The Remarks Out Of The Pentagon

Reuters reports:

The Pentagon said on Friday the transfer of heavy caliber multiple launch rocket systems from

Russia to Ukrainian separatists appeared to be imminent, with the arms close enough to the border they could be handed over "potentially today."

"We have indications that the Russians intend to supply heavier and more sophisticated multiple launch rocket systems in the very near future," said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, adding that the weapons were in the over-200mm range.

Warren indicated the weapons had been seen getting closer to the border and the Pentagon believed a transfer was imminent and "potentially today."

"We believe that they are able to transfer this equipment at any time, at any moment," he said.

07/25/2014 12:45 PM EDT

Pentagon Says Russia Is Readying Weapons For Transfer To Ukraine Rebels

07/25/2014 11:34 AM EDT

Australia To Send 100 Additional Police and Personnel To Secure Crash Site

Reuters reports:

(Reuters) - Australia will send 100 additional police and some defense force personnel to Europe to join a planned Dutch-led international security force to secure the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers, some of whom will be armed, will join a contingent of 90 AFP officers already in London waiting for a deal with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to be approved by Ukraine's parliament.

"This is a humanitarian mission, with a clear and simple objective," Abbott told reporters. "I expect the operation on the ground in Ukraine, should the deployment go ahead, to last no longer than a few weeks."

Read the full story here.

07/25/2014 11:03 AM EDT

Russian Newspaper Runs Front Page Apology For MH17

A leading Russian newspaper has issued an apology on its front page, asking for forgiveness from the people of the Netherlands who lost their loved ones in the Malaysian Airlines plane crash. The front page of Novaya Gazeta on Friday featured the words "Vergeef ons, Nederlands" (Forgive Us, Netherlands) in bold above a heartbreaking image of the line of hearses carrying MH17 victim's bodies.

Read the full story on the Huffington Post here.

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