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

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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.

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These are the first images of aircraft debris from the scene

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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.

Reuters quoted emergency service personnel at the scene who said body parts from the plane's passengers are scattered around up to 15km from the crash site, and at least 100 bodies were on the ground.

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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

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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

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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.

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"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.

In March, one of its jets disappeared with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board in one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time.

flight tracker

The flight tracker which reportedly shows the flight over Ukraine

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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CNN reports that the European Union slapped sanctions on 15 more people and 18 entities due to the Ukraine crisis, according to an announcement Friday. Already 87 people have been subject to EU-wide asset freezes and travel bans, as well as 20 entities, CNN said.

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From the Associated Press:

FIFA rejected calls to move the 2018 World Cup from Russia, saying the tournament "can achieve positive change."

Russia's alleged involvement in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine last week prompted calls from some lawmakers in Germany to review the country's hosting rights.

On Friday, FIFA issued a statement saying it "deplores any form of violence" and questioning the purpose of relocating the sport's showcase tournament.

"History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems," FIFA said, adding that global attention on the World Cup "can be a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments."

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New York-based human rights organization Human Rights Watch has accused both Ukrainian government forces and separatist rebels of using unguided Grad rockets, which they said had killed 16 civilians and wounded many more. “Grad rockets are notoriously imprecise weapons that shouldn’t be used in populated areas,” HRW researcher Ole Solvang said in a statement. "Ukrainian authorities should order all their forces, including volunteer forces, to immediately stop using Grads in or near populated areas, and insurgent forces should avoid deploying in densely populated areas," he added.

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A view of proceedings during a memorial service held for victims of the MH17 disaster at St Mary's Cathedral on July 25, 2014 in Perth, Australia. (Paul Kane/Getty Images)

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Reuters reports:

Russia said around 40 mortar shells fired by Ukrainian forces fell on Friday in its Rostov province near the border with eastern Ukraine where Kiev is fighting pro-Russian separatists.

"Around 40 mortar shells have fallen from Ukraine ... in Rostov province," Vasily Malayev, a representative of the region's Federal Security Service devoted to border security, was cited by the state Ria Novosti news agency as saying.

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From the Associated Press:

In a statement on Friday, the headquarters of the government's military operation in the east listed at least seven locations where rebels attacked Ukrainian troops. They also claimed that attacks on two locations including a border crossing were supported by artillery fire from Russia.

Late on Thursday, Ukrainian troops entered the town of Lysychansk, which has been in rebel hands for several months, the military press office said. Rebels on Friday morning admitted in comments carried by Interfax that they had to flee the town which is 70 kilometers (45 miles) north-west of the regional capital Luhansk.

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The Associated Press reports the countries of the European Union have reached a preliminary deal to impose more sanctions on Russia.

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union ambassadors have reached a preliminary deal on stepped-up sanctions against Russia, targeting its access to European capital markets and trade in the defense sector, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies.

EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic says the proposals were transmitted Friday to EU officials to codify into regulations, with the ambassadors scheduled to meet again Tuesday to review the results. She said EU member states must decide whether the measures need to be approved by a summit meeting of the trade bloc's 28 member countries to go into effect.

The ambassadors also ordered EU-wide asset freezes and travel bans for an undisclosed number of Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians who are accused of undermining Ukraine's sovereignty. The names of those affected should be made public later Friday.

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The black box flight recorders from the doomed Malaysia Airlines jet suffered slight damage in the attack and crash, Reuters reported.

"During the inspection it was established that the recorders have slight mechanical damage which did not affect the intactness of the recorders," Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee, a supervisory body that oversees the use and management of civil aviation, stated.

FMI: Click here.

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Two more planes arrived in the Netherlands carrying the remains of victims on Thursday, AP reports:

Human remains continue to be found a full week after the plane went down, underlining concerns about the halting and chaotic recovery effort at the sprawling site spread across farmland in eastern Ukraine. Armed separatists control the area and have hindered access by investigators.

Read the full story here.

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President Barack Obama spoke with Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte on the phone and they agreed that more sanctions need to be imposed on Russia, Reuters reports:

"Instead of de-escalating the situation, they agreed that all evidence indicates Russia is still arming and supplying separatists who continue to engage in deadly acts of aggression against Ukrainian armed forces," the White House said.

Read more here.

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07/24/2014 5:48 PM EDT
Shelling In Donetsk

Foreign correspondents report shelling in the city of Donetsk on Thursday night.



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Reuters reports:

Gunmen chased investigators from the site where the Malaysian airliner crashed and "lunatics" were still making life difficult for those who wanted to find out what downed flight MH17, officials said on Thursday.

As foreign ministers from Australia and the Netherlands met Ukrainian officials to coordinate the investigation, the head of Ukraine's Emergency Situations Service and the chief of a Dutch police mission said their work at the site was being hampered.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, however, said there had been no incidents, and that they had been joined by experts from Malaysia and Australia, which lost 28 citizens in the crash.

The West has called for a thorough investigation into the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine to get justice for the 298 people who were killed, but have voiced concern that the rebels were preventing investigators from doing their job.

"They took away our tents, the ones which were at our base camp," Serhiy Bochkovsky, the head of the emergencies service, told a news conference in the eastern city of Kharkiv from where the remains of the victims are starting their journey home.

"We were allowed only our equipment and machinery and we were chased away at gunpoint."

He did not say when this happened.

Read the full story here.

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A convoy of hearses carry bodies and remains from those killed on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on July 24, 2014 in Boxtel, Netherlands. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

netherlands
Dutch military personnel carry coffins containing the remains of the victims of the MH17 plane crash to a waiting hearse at the airbase in Eindhoven on July 24, 2014. (MARCEL VAN HOORN/AFP/Getty Images)

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The Washington Post has an infographic showing information surrounding each of the aircraft that have been shot in Ukraine since May 2.

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From Reuters:

Investigators looking into the downing of MalaysiaAirlines flight MH17 have found no evidence that either of the aircraft's two black boxes were tampered with, the Dutch Safety Board, which is coordinating the investigation, said.

In a statement on Thursday, the Board said the data from theBoeing 777's flight data recorder had been successfully downloaded by investigators at Britain's Air Accident Investigation Branch. The other voice recorder was successfully read the day before.

World leaders had expressed concern that the black boxes, which could contain data vital to ascertaining the cause of the crash, may have been manipulated by Moscow-backed rebels who control the territory in which the aircraft crashed last week.

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(Reuters) - Russia will cooperate with the investigation into the downing of a Malaysian airliner a week ago and is satisfied that the Netherlands, rather than Ukraine, is leading the effort, the country's ambassador to Malaysia said on Thursday.

Reuters explains:

The norm under rules set down by the United Nation's civil aviation body (ICAO) is that an air investigation is led by the state in whose territory the plane crash, but Russia had said that Ukraine should not take charge because the rebels who control the crash site did not trust the authorities in Kiev.

Read the full story here.

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07/24/2014 9:35 AM EDT
Fixer For CNN Abducted
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