Malaysia Airlines flight 17

Malaysia Airlines passenger jet ‘shot down’ over Ukraine

Plane flying at 10,000 metres hit by missile and crashes over strife-torn Donetsk region, with no survivors reported among the 295 on board

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 2:34am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 9:34am

A Malaysia Airlines plane with 295 people on board was hit by a missile and crashed over eastern Ukraine last night.

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 metres.

He said it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher, adding that there were no survivors.

The Donetsk regional government said the plane crashed near a village called Grabovo, which is currently under the control of armed pro-Russian separatists.

The region where the flight was lost has seen severe fighting in recent days between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels.

The plane was due to travel from Amsterdam on an overnight flight to Kuala Lumpur and was expected in the Malaysian capital at about 6am today.

Dozens of bodies were scattered around the smouldering wreckage, according to a Reuters reporter.

An emergency services rescue worker said at least 100 bodies had so far been found at the scene and that debris from the wreckage was scattered across an area up to about 15km across.

Separatist leader Aleksander Borodai blamed the downing of the airliner on the country's government forces.

"Apparently, it's a passenger airliner indeed, truly shot down by the Ukrainian Air Force," Borodai told Russia's state-run Rossiya 24 broadcaster.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his country's armed forces did not shoot at any airborne targets.

"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."

A launcher similar to the Buk missile system was seen by witnesses near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne, which is held by pro-Russia rebels, earlier yesterday.

On Wednesday evening, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said yesterday.

It is the second tragedy to strike a Malaysia Airlines plane in less than six months. Flight MH370 disappeared in March while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

It has not been found, but the search has been concentrated in the Indian Ocean far west of Australia.

Malaysian officials said they were shocked by last night's tragedy and urged citizens to "keep calm".

Prime Minister Najib Razak said: "We are launching an immediate investigation."

Hishammuddin Hussein, the politician who became the public face over the unsolved disappearance of Flight 370, said the prime minister and the foreign, transport and defence ministries would be working to piece together the sequence of events.