Malaysia Airlines MH17 Flight Carried Up To 100 AIDS Researchers - 'The Cure For AIDS Could Have Been On That Plane'

18/07/2014 08:34 | Updated 18 July 2014

As many as 100 of the world's most eminent AIDS researchers and experts may have been on the downed Malaysia Airlines flight, heading to a United Nations AIDS conference in Melbourne.

Trevor Stratton, an HIV/Aids consultant, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC): “The cure for AIDS may have been on that plane, we just don’t know. You can’t just help but wonder about the kind of expertise on that plane.”


Members of the public walk past signage on the Princes Bridge for the 20th International AIDS Conference

Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society, a pioneer of HIV research efforts and a father of five was one of those killed, along with his partner Jacqueline. Lange was the architect and principal investigator of several pivotal trials on antiretroviral therapy and on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The conference was due to be attended by former President Bill Clinton and Bob Geldof. International Aids Society president-elect Chris Beyrer issued a brief statement outside the Melbourne Convention Centre.

“The International AIDS Society today expressed its sincere sadness at receiving news that colleagues and friends en route to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight that has crashed over Ukraine earlier today,” Beyrer said.

“At this incredibly said and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy.

“The IAS is hearing unconfirmed reports that some of our friends and colleagues were on board the flight and if that is the case this is a truly sad day.

“The IAS has also heard reports that among the passengers was a former IAS President Joep Lange and if that is the case then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant.”

“There’s a huge feeling of sadness here, people are in floods of tears in the corridors,” Clive Aspin, a veteran HIV researcher who attended the pre-conference plenary session in Sydney, told Guardian Australia.


Chris Beyrer (3rd R), president-elect of the International AIDS Society, addresses the media

“These people were the best and the brightest, the ones who had dedicated their whole careers to fighting this terrible virus. It’s devastating.”

Prof. Richard Boyd, director of the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, told Guardian Australia: "We've lost global leaders and also some bright young people who were coming through. It's a gut-wrenching loss. I was involved in the aftermath of 9/11 in New York and it brings back that level of catastrophe.

"But the Aids community is very close-knit, like a family. They will unite and this will galvanize people to strive harder to find a breakthrough. Let's hope that, out of this madness, there will be new hope for the world."

Nine Britons are now known to have been on board Malaysian flight MH17. Officials from Malaysian Airlines confirmed that 298 people were on board the Boeing 777-200, which was downed over the war-torn state. The original estimate was 295.

The plane was shot down over Ukraine by a long-range surface-to-air missile on Thursday, a type of weapon owned both by the Russian and Ukrainian armies. The Ukrainian government has said that the weapon was captured by pro-Russia rebels who control the country's east.

Russian media is also reporting the plane crash could be a false flag attack by the Ukrainian army, and even that it was an intended assassination of President Vladimir Putin, who Ukrainians allegedly believed was travelling on the plane, according to an Interfax report.

MH17 Malaysia Airline Plane


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.

Suggest a correction