Six Britons are among 300 feared dead after a Malaysian passenger plane crashes in Ukraine near the Russian border – with officials claiming it was shot down by a ground-to-air missile.
Malaysian Airlines confirmed it had lost contact with the flight, saying: “Malaysia Airlines confirms it received notification from Ukrainian ATC that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 (GMT) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.
Video appears to show debris falling from sky. YouTube: PainkillerBo
“Flight MH17 operated on a Boeing 777 departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm (Amsterdam local time) and was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10 am (Malaysia local time) the next day.”
Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.
— Malaysia Airlines (@MAS) July 17, 2014
Najib Razak, the Malaysian prime minister, said in a tweet: “I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation.”
The number of fatalities in the crash is feared to be more than 300. Six Britons are among the dead.
A Ukraine interior ministry adviser is reported to have said that 23 US citizens also died in the accident, while the French government has confirmed that four of its citizens were on board.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called the incident a “terrorist act”. His press secretary said: “Poroshenko thinks this of the plane that was brought down:
it is not an incident, not a catastrophe, but a terrorist act.”
The head of Ukrainian security, Valentyn Nalivaychenko, accused two Russian military intelligence officers of involvement in the downing of the plane, saying he based his allegations on intercepts of phone calls between the two officers, who he said should be punished for this “crime”.
Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook that the plane was brought down by a Buk ground-to-air missile, fired by separatists. He also posted a picture on Facebook which he said was a Buk missile system passing through Torex, near the plane’s final location, hours before the crash.
He said the plane was flying at 33,000 feet, and that all the passengers and crew were dead. He also linked to a video that he said was of the crash (below).
Video credit: Life-Maria Channel
Eastern Ukrainian separatist leader Alexander Borodai said the airliner was shot down by Ukrainian government forces. Ukraine’s presidential press service has said the Ukrainian military was not involved in the crash.
The RIA news agency reported that Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the crash in a phone call. Mr Obama has directed senior US officials to remain in close contact with Ukrainian officials over the incident.
Reuters reported an industry source as saying the flight had failed to enter Russian airspace when expected and was found burning on the ground in eastern Ukraine, an aviation source. A Reuters correspondent on the ground saw bodies around the crash site.
Faced with the grim scene, journalist Noah Sneider tweeted from the site: “Bodies everywhere… Too gruesome to post photographs. This is an absolute disaster.”
— Noah Sneider (@NoahSneider) July 17, 2014
An official from Ukraine’s emergencies ministry at the site said body parts were scattered around up to 15 kilometres from the crash site, and that at least 100 bodies had been seen.
The flight is reported to have come down in Torez, near Shakhtersk.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, flight MH17, was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and flight tracking maps show the flight path heading east past the Ukrainian city Donetsk.
In Kuala Lumpur, journalists gathered for a press conference in a scene eerily reminiscent of those held after the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
blockquote class=”twitter-tweet tw-align-center” lang=”en”>
— Vikas Mishra (@vikasmishraa) July 17, 2014
The reason for the crash is not yet known. On Thursday Ukraine accused Russia of shooting down a Ukrainian warplane in the east of the country.
Last month separatists shot down a Ukrainian military cargo plane, and there has been speculation that the Malaysian flight has been shot down by accident after being mistaken for the Ukrainian military.
Earlier this year Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared over the southern Indian ocean. The plane has still not been found.
Though not known if referring to the same plane, separatist leader Igor Strelkov, also known as Igor Girkin, posted on European social network VK at 3:16pm, boasting of having shot down
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has ordered an investigation into the “airplane catastrophe” in eastern Ukraine, his spokeswoman Olga Lappo said.
A number of flights are being diverting around Ukraine including Turkish Airlines and Aeroflot services. British Airways has said it does not fly through Ukrainian airspace, except for a flight to Kiev, in the west of the country.
Unverified image of MH17 wreckage, via Storyful/Nadezhda Chernetskaya
President Barack Obama said the crash was a “terrible tragedy” and the United States would offer any assistance necessary to help determine what happened and why.
I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation.
— Mohd Najib Tun Razak (@NajibRazak) July 17, 2014
Condolences to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in connection with the crash of a passenger aircraft in Ukraine http://t.co/8jJ11zw8bf
— President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) July 17, 2014
I’m shocked and saddened by the Malaysian air disaster. Officials from across Whitehall are meeting to establish the facts.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) July 17, 2014
A passenger feared to be on board the downed plane posted a picture of the aircraft seven hours ago in Amsterdam. Referring to the mystery of missing MH370, also a Malaysia Airlines plane, he wrote: “Might it disappear, here’s a pic”.