Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Shot Down Over Ukraine near Russian Border
A Malaysia Airlines plane with 298 people on board, including 27 Australians, has been shot down in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine.
U.S. officials have confirmed to several media outlets that the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane that crashed near the Ukraine-Russia border Thursday was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Plumes of black smoke rose up near a rebel-held village of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine, at the crash site 40 kilometres from the Russian border. No survivors have been found.
The flight MH17, a Boeing 777-200, was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and Malaysian officials lost contact with it about 12.15am Sydney time.
Malaysia Airlines has since released a statement saying there were 298 people on board, not 295 as originally suggested.
The origin of the missile remained unclear, and both government officials and pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied responsibility. Though there were reported recordings of intercepted phone calls between Russian military intelligence officers and members of terrorist groups that took place about 20 minutes after the crash as released by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
One call was apparently made by Igor Bezler, who the SBU says is a Russian military intelligence officer and leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
Igor Bezler: “We have just shot down a plane. Group Minera. It fell down beyond Yenakievo (Donetsk Oblast).”
Vasili Geranin, a colonel in the main intelligence department Russian Federation armed forces then asks: “Pilots. Where are the pilots?”
Bezler replies: “Gone to search for and photograph the plane. Its smoking.”
“We have just shot down a plane” (translated)
A second call was between militants nicknamed “Major” and “Greek” about 40 minutes later.
“It’s 100 per cent a passenger (civilian) aircraft,” Major is recorded as admitting that he had seen no weapons on site. “Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper.”
Australian Federal MP Christopher Pyne said there was no doubt that the plane was shot out of the sky. But Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that at this stage it had been unable to verify the cause of the tragedy.
Malaysia Airlines posted a list of passenger nationalities on its website for the 298 passengers and crew: 154 Dutch, 27 Australian, 43 Malaysian (including 15 crew and two infants), 12 Indonesian (including one infant), 9 British, 4 German, 4 Belgian, 3 Filipino and one Canadian. The airline said it did not yet know the nationalities of the remaining 41 passengers. An aide to Ukraine’s interior minister quoted by Interfax claimed the total number of dead in the crash was more than 300 and included 23 U.S. citizens.
- Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 ‘shot down’ on Ukraine-Russia border; http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/malaysia-airlines-plane-mh17-shot-down-on-ukrainerussia-border/story-fnizu68q-1226992889461