What is known about the Malaysian Airlines plane crash in Ukraine
Here is what is known, and what has been claimed, about Thursday’s downing of a Malaysian jetliner carrying 298 people in eastern Ukraine.
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER on Flight MH17, which the carrier said was carrying 283 passengers, including three infants, and 15 crew members from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. After leaving Amsterdam at 12.51pm local time, the aircraft was due to land at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10am local time the following day.
The route taken by the Malaysian jet appears to have been subject to no flight restrictions, industry group the International Air Transport Association, said, even though Ukrainian military aircraft have been shot down over the area by rebels and it has been the scene of fierce fighting. Eurocontrol, a European air safety organisation, said the plane was apparently flying at approximately 10,000 metres, which was authorised, although Ukrainian authorities had closed the airspace at lower altitudes.
Malaysia Airlines said it was notified by Ukrainian authorities that they had lost contact with the plane when it was 30 kilometres from the Tamak waypoint, approximately 50 kilometres from the Ukraine-Russia border. Plane-tracking service FlightAware.com said the last reported position for MH17 was at 10,000 metres just west of Ukraine’s border with Russia. Ukrainian authorities reported the crash, and journalists found the site near a village held by pro-Russia fighters 40 kilometres from the Russia border. The reporter said the aircraft appeared to have broken up before impact. Burning wreckage and the belongings of passengers were strewn over a wide area.
An adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister said the plane was shot down with a missile, but gave no proof. In a counterclaim, a pro-Moscow separatist leader said he was certain that it was Ukrainian troops who downed the airliner, but also offered no explanation or proof. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denied his country’s armed forces fired on any aerial targets on Thursday. Independent Western defence experts said that both Ukrainian and Russian armed forces possess SA-17 missile launchers capable of reaching an altitude of 20,000 metres, and that pro-Moscow insurgents may have acquired one to two surface-to-air missiles when Ukrainian forces retreated.
A launcher similar to the SA-17 missile system, also known as Buk, was seen earlier on Thursday near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne, which is held by the rebels.
At least 154 people on the flight were Dutch citizens, said Huib Gorter, Malaysian Airlines senior vice-president in Europe. There were also 43 Malaysians, including all 15 crew on board, 27 Australians, and 12 Indonesians. Other nationalities so far identified were six passengers from the United Kingdom, four from Germany, four Belgians, three from the Philippines and one Canadian. There are still 47 dead whose nationality has not yet been confirmed, he added.
President Obama, who was informed by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone call of reports of a downed passenger jet, asked that his advisers keep him updated. Boeing offered any assistance that authorities might request. Eurocontrol said Ukrainian authorities informed it that all air space in Eastern Ukraine has now been closed, and that any flight plans filed using these routes would be rejected by Eurocontrol until further notice.