News / Europe

Malaysian Airliner Crashes in Eastern Ukraine

  • Emergency workers carry a stretcher with a victim's body in a bag at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.
  • Flowers are placed on a plane engine at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian fighter guards the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.
  • A woman holds an anti-Putin placard to protest the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 in Sydney, Australia, July 19, 2014.
  • Passengers' belongings are pictured at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 before a visit by OSCE monitors, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 18, 2014.
  • People bring flowers and candles to the Dutch embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, to commemorate the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash.
  • People walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine.
  • A relative of passengers on flight MH17 cries as he waits in a bus to be transported to an unknown location to receive more information, at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • People take photos of a screen showing arrival details of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 (C) at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.
  • A woman reacts to news regarding a Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in eastern Ukraine at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia.
  • The upper floor of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is closed for media and reserved for family and relatives of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17.
  • A relative walks past members of the press as he arrives at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • Smoke rises up at a crash site of a passenger plane, near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine.
  • A part of the wreckage of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
  • The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
  • The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
  • The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen at the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region.
VOA News

A Malaysia Airlines jetliner flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed Thursday in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, and Ukrainian government officials said pro-Russian insurgents had shot down the plane.

A senior U.S. official said a surface-to-air missile downed the Boeing 777-200  but analysts don't yet know where the missile was launched from nor who fired it

Related video report by VOA's Sharon Behn:

Ukraine Conflict Tensions Rise With Crash of Malaysian Passenger Planei
X
Sharon Behn
July 18, 2014 1:43 AM
Ukraine on Thursday said a Malaysian passenger plane had been shot down over eastern Ukraine - killing all 298 passengers and crew on board and potentially escalating the conflict between Kyiv and Moscow and Russian-backed separatists. Sharon Behn reports on how the latest developments could affect U.S. and European decisions to impose sanctions on key Russian sectors for violating Ukraine's sovereignty.

 

Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that Flight MH17 lost contact with Ukrainian air-traffic control at around 2:15 p.m. UTC. Many of the passengers were Dutch citizens.

The jet went down in a rural part of the Donetsk region, not far from the Russian border, where the Russian-backed fighters have battled Ukraine governement troops in what increasingly resembles all-out war.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, citing military officials, said the airliner was flying at around 33,000 feet when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile known as a Buk.

The Buk is a sophisticated, medium-range, Soviet-era surface-to-air system that can fire missiles up to 72,000 feet in altitude.

"The plane was shot down, because the Russian air defense systems was [sic] affording protection to Russian mercenaries and terrorists in this area," ministry spokeswoman Natalya Melnychuk said in a statement on Facebook.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he didn't rule out that the airliner was shot down.

"We do not rule out that this plane has been shot down but emphasize that the Armed Forces of Ukraine were not engaged in any activity involving hitting targets in the air," he said in a statement posted on the presidential website.

In a statement posted later on Twitter, Poroshenko wrote: "This is not an incident, not an accident, but an act of terror."

Washington in touch with Ukraine

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says a Malaysian passenger jet was "blown out of the sky" over eastern Ukraine Thursday, and did not crash by accident.

VOA's Pentagon correspondent, Jeff Seldin, says U.S. officials confirm the plane was hit by a missile - but that it is not clear who fired the missile or whether it came from Russian or Ukrainian territory.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that U.S. officials have been in touch with Ukrainian officials, but declined to elaborate. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, called the crash a terrible tragedy.

“Right now we’re working to determine whether there were any American citizens on board.  That is our first priority and I’ve directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government .  The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why," President Obama said during a speech in Delaware. And as a country our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and passengers wherever they call home.”

Watch video report from VOA's Carolyn Presutti:

US: Malaysian Plane Shot Down over War Area in Ukrainei
X
July 18, 2014 3:28 AM
U.S. officials are saying a Malaysian jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down as it crossed eastern Ukraine. The downing of the jet --- the second loss for Malaysia Airlines in four months -- escalates tension in the civil war between Ukraine and Russia. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has more.

Before leaving on his trip, Obama spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A day earlier, the United States announced new economic sanctions targeting major Russian oil and financiali companies, the latest in a series of moves aimed at punishing Russia for its role in Ukraine.

According to the White House, the call had been requested by Moscow. As the two spoke, the first reports of the crash emerged, and Putin brought them up with Obama at the end of the conversation, Earnest said.

Obama also telephoned Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte to offer condolences. White House officials say the two leaders talked about the need to ensure that international investigators have unimpeded and immediate access to the crash site.

In televised comments in Moscow late Thursday, Putin said the Ukrainian government bore responsibility.

"This tragedy would not have happened, if there had been peace on that land, or in any case if military operations in southeastern Ukraine had not been renewed," he said. "And without doubt the government of the territory on which
it happened bears responsibility for this frightening tragedy."

The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to hold an emergency session Friday morning to discuss the crash. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a "full and transparent international investigation."

Crash location

News reports said the plane crashed near the eastern town of Snizhne, near the border with Russia, which has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks. An airstrike there earlier this week killed 11 people. There was no claim of responsibility for that attack, though the rebels blamed Ukraine's air force.

On Thursday, around the time of the reported crash, separatists claimed they had downed an Antonov An-26 miltary transport plane near the town of Torez, which is less then six miles from Snizhne.

MH17 Flight path and crash site
MH17 Flight path and crash site

Social media postings on Twitter and the Russian site VKontakte that were attributed to Igor Strelkov, a Russian citizen who is a top insurgent leader, claimed that insurgents had shot down the An-26 at around the same time that the Malaysian airliner went down.

The VKontakte posting, which also included video showing smoke rising purportedly from the fields outside the village of Torez, was posted at 5:50 p.m. Moscow time, and read:

"In the vicinity of Torez, an An-26 was just shot down, falling somewhere in the vicinity of the Progress coal mine. We warned them about this: Don't fly over 'our skies.' And here is video confirmation of the latest 'bird strike.' The bird fell near the slagheap, the residential district was not struck. No civilians suffered. There's also information about a second downed plane, apparently a [Sukhoi]."

There was no immediate way to authenticate the video or the postings, although the claims appeared to match up with initial reports about when and where the Malaysian airliner went down.
 
The posting was later removed from the VKontakte page.

A later posting on the same VKontatke page and the Twitter feed linked to Strelkov quoted a top official with the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic as confirming that a passenger jet had crashed neared Torez. The post, attributed to Alexander Borodai, denied rebel involvement, instead suggesting that Ukrainian forces were responsible.

Insurgent forces have shorter range anti-aircraft weapons, like those known as "Igla" and have used them to down other Ukainian military flights and possibly even, a helicopter.  Borodai, however, said via Twitter that the rebels do not have weapons capable of hitting an airliner flying at 33,000 feet.

Russian media reports published June 29, however, quoted insurgent officials as having seized a Ukrainian anti-aircraft base where Buk missile systems were based. 

The Associated Press reported seeing a Buk missile system in Snizhne earlier Thursday.

Ukraine's leading security agency, the SBU, released audio recordings in which a man it identified as a rebel commander is heard telling a Russian military officer that insurgents had downed the plane. The recordings, posted on YouTube and elsewhere, could not be independently verified.

In Washington, the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told VOA that analysts were sifting through data to try and determine the missile's origin.

The official also said it was unlikely the plane was hit by accident, though it was possible the attackers could have mistaken the jet for a military plane.


Bodies discovered

A Reuters reporter at the scene of the crash in Ukraine said dozens of bodies were scattered around the smoldering wreckage.

A rescue worker said at least 100 bodies had so far been found, and that debris was spread across an area up to about nine miles in diameter. Broken pieces of the wings were marked with blue and red paint - the same colors as the emblem of the Malaysian airline.

"I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang and shots. Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke," one witness, who gave his name only as Vladimir, was quoted as saying.

A separatist rebel from the nearby village of Krasnyi Luch who gave his name only as Sergei said: "From my balcony I saw a plane begin to descend from a great height and then heard two explosions.

Malaysia launches investigation

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the plane made no distress call before disappearing from radar. Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, meanwhile, said earlier there was no confirmation the flight had been shot down.

The incident comes four months after another Malaysia Airlines plane went missing while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, carrying 239 passengers and crew. That plane has not been found.

 

 

Plane downed Monday

The fighting in eastern Ukraine has ebbed and flowed since erupting in late April and early May. After repeated battlefield failures, Ukrainian forces seized the initiative in recent weeks, re-taking strategic towns around the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Russian support for the insurgents has never been definitively confirmed, though most observers have concluded that the presence of Russian citizens, paramilitary units and heavy weaponry like tanks in eastern Ukraine indicate Moscow's backing. 

Insurgents have downed several aircraft during their rebellion, most recently on Monday, when a Ukrainian military An-26 crashed in Luhansk region.

Separatists also claimed responsibility for hitting a Ukrainian Su-25 with a missile earlier Wednesday. The pilot of that plane managed to bring it down safely.

Also Wednesday, the Ukrainian military said a missile fired by a Russian warplane hit and brought down a Ukrainian Su-25 flying over eastern Ukraine, but that the pilot safely ejected.

Mike Eckel and Jurij Hiltajczuk contributed to this report from Washington, Mary Alice Salinas contributed to this report from the White House, Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from the Pentagon.  Some information provided by Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Mark from: Virginia
July 17, 2014 4:18 PM
Not good for Malaysian Airlines. To lose another aircraft (and both to suspicious circumstances) is not good for any company.

Of course no one is going to take responsibility for this tragedy, to take responsibility for the loss of 295 people who were in no way involved in the fighting in the Ukraine.

And there is no way anyone is going to say they confused a Boeing 777 with an Antonov An-26, they are both completely different in appearance from a silhouette view.


by: Truesage Idowu from: Nigeria
July 17, 2014 3:47 PM
This is indeed a global disaster. The entire Europe, Asian, Americas, Australian African continent and world in particular should react in like terms to all the key actors of this crime against humanity. All Russian and Ukraine embassies must be sent parking. Likewise all assets owned by these two countries in other countries must be nationalized by those parent companies.
The death of over 290 individuals by these mad brothers who you can hardly differentiate in the 21st century is a slap on the human race.
I admonish all countries who have lost their lost ones in this madness to institute a legal case against both countries and sue these idiotic brotherly nation for their lost ones.
In the meantime, the way to putting an end to this mad, bitter and senseless war is for both nations "Ukraine and Russia" to be totally isolated by the rest of the world.
The entire Europe must stop buying oil and gas from either Russia or Ukraine.

In Response

by: Irene from: Ukraine
July 17, 2014 7:12 PM
Are you unwise? Ukraine faces hard non-declared war with Russia, completely ALONE! World is silent, USA, UK and other Guarantors due to Budapeszt memorandum. Russian terrorists are killing Ukrainian people and downing planes every day. World stays apart! And you want punish Ukraine because Russians hit plane on controlled by them territory?! You think God doesn't exist? Better support all Russian neighbor country who are all suffering from aggression and pressure. It will make World safer for sure!


by: Peter from: Netherlands
July 17, 2014 3:20 PM
No doubt,it did Russia! Putin plays hard!


by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
July 17, 2014 1:39 PM
why didn't they tell the world earlier?


by: meanbill from: USA
July 17, 2014 1:30 PM
FOR YOUR INFO? .. The Ukraine government builds the same (BUK missile) defense systems, and uses them in combat, that rumors say shot the plane down....
Belarus, China, and Georgia and other countries also make copies of the Russian (BUK missile) systems, and the Russians don't use this (BUK missile) system anymore.....

In Response

by: Ivan from: Russia
July 18, 2014 3:10 AM
Perhaps, this girl knows everything. )
Irene, who killed J.F.K.?

In Response

by: Irene from: Ukraine
July 17, 2014 7:17 PM
Such systems were never used by Ukraine in current war, just because Russian gunmen on Ukrainian territory do not have aircrafts. There are Russian ones, but shooting only from Russian territory.


by: william li from: canada
July 17, 2014 1:16 PM
clearly Ukrainian government is responsible for this shotdown.
they used snipers to shoot protesters in Kyve and blamed it on the then president. they are doing the samething to blame it on Russia and the rebels. shame on you Ukraine.
this evil government must be removed!

In Response

by: Irene from: Ukraine
July 17, 2014 7:15 PM
Ukraine has another Gov-t now, which did not shoot protesters. This is why Putin shoots Ukrainians and their planes now. We are in war, and World do nothing! And this is result.

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