Update: Malaysian jet 'shot down' in Ukraine

Update: Malaysian jet 'shot down' in Ukraine

(People walk amongst the debris at the crash site. Picture: AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky )

A Malaysian passenger jet carrying 295 people has crashed in Ukraine, with suggestions that it was shot down.

Flight MH17 – a Boeing 777-200 travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur – was in transit over the war-torn region when it disappeared from radar screens.

Reuters reports that the head of Ukraine's airspace regulatory body says Flight MH17 was flying normally without problems until it disappeared from radar.

Interfax has quoted a Ukraine Interior Ministry adviser as saying the number of dead from the crash is more than 300, including 23 US citizens.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said that there is no indication as yet of any Irish passengers on board.

ITV News has reported, according to sources at Malaysia Airlines, there were nine British passengers on board.

Britain's Foreign Office was unable to confirm this.

Reuters quoted the French foreign minister as saying that at least four French nationals were on board.

Schipol Airtport has released a statement saying: "Flight MH17 of Malaysian Airlines has gone missing during its flight to Kuala Lumpur in the Ukraine.

"Flight MH17 has departed from Schiphol at 12.14 hours.

"A telephone number for relatives of passengers on flight MH17 will be provided as soon as possible as well as assistance."

Update: Malaysian jet 'shot down' in UkraineA picture showing the wreckage of the Malaysian airliner. Pic: Dominique Faget / Getty

An adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister has said that the passenger plane had been shot down.

Associated Press says one of their journalists has counted at least 22 bodies at the plane wreckage site.

The Malaysia Airlines jet plane appeared to have broken up before impact and the wreck is scattered over a wide area in the eastern Ukraine village of Grabovo.

The field around the burning wreck was strewn with body parts and the belongings of the passengers.

Malaysia Airlines has said 295 people were aboard the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Update: Malaysian jet 'shot down' in UkraineA picture showing the wreckage of the Malaysian airliner. Pic: Dominique Faget / Getty

Reuters says that Lufthansa and Air France airlines will avoid east Ukrainian airspace immediately.

A British Department for Transport spokesman said: “Flights already airborne are being routed around the area by air traffic control in the region. Pilots around the world have been advised to plan routes that avoid the area by Eurocontrol, the European organisation for the safety of air navigation.”

Press Association reports that Pro-Russian rebels have denied shooting down the airliner, blaming Ukrainian armed forces for the attack.

Andrei Purgin, deputy prime minister for the rebels, said the plane must have been shot down by Ukrainian government troops. He gave no proof for his statement.

Mr Purgin said he was not aware of any rebel forces owning Buk missile launchers, and added that even if they did, they had no fighters capable of operating the system.

Verified photos from a Reuters photographer are starting to come in from Grabovo.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Russian president Vladimir Putin and US counterpart Barack Obama had spoken by phone and had discussed the crash.

Speaking in Delaware, President Obama said the downed Ukraine plane was a “terrible tragedy”.

Mr Obama said the United States will offer any assistance possible to determine what happened to the jet.

He described the incident as a “terrible tragedy” and said the US is working to determine whether any American citizens were on board.

Malaysia Airlines has confirmed in a statement on its Facebook page that it "received notification from Ukrainian Air Traffic Control that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 14.15 (GMT) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.

"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.

"The flight was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew onboard."

Reuters also said that dozens of bodies and broken pieces of wing with MH17 colors have been found near the town of Grabovo.

President Poroshenko has denied any Ukrainian military involvement, AP and Reuters report.

Mr Poroshenko said: "We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible.''

"This is the third event in the last few days following An-26 and SU-25 planes being brought down. We do not exclude that this plane was also shot down and we stress that the armed forces of Ukraine did not carry out any action to destroy targets in the air," the press service said.

Like Poroshenko, Malaysia's prime minister says he is launching an immediate probe into the reported crash.

AFP reports that Russia's UN envoy has denied any involvement in the incident.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters at UN headquarters in New York: "We didn't do it".

However, Malaysia's defence and acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein says his office will investigate reports the plane was shot down.

Interfax cited an aviation industry source saying the Boeing plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed near the Russian border.

A Russian aviation industry source has said that the plane did not enter Russian airspace when expected and crashed in eastern Ukraine.

Reuters has reported that the Ukraine prime minister has ordered an investigation into the Malaysian "airplane catastrophe", saying the plane was en route from Amsterdam.

Spokesman Anton Gerashenko said on his Facebook page that the plane was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet over eastern Ukraine when it was hit by a missile "fired by separatists" from a Buk launcher.

A similar launcher was reported by journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier today.

An aviation source told Reuters news agency the wreckage of a burning aircraft had been found on the ground.

A spokesman for Boeing said it was aware of reports of MH17's disappearance.

The jet would have been flying at high altitude on an intercontinental flight that took it over the crisis hit region of Ukraine, where the authorities have accused Russia-backed separatists of previous attacks on aircraft.

Earlier today the Ukrainian authorities said one of their fighter jets was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane and Ukrainian troops were fired upon by missiles from a village inside Russia.

A video purported to be from the scene of the crash, via the Independent in the UK.

The alleged episodes mark what Ukraine says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine who have substantial quantities of powerful weapons.

Ukraine said a military transport plane was shot down Monday by a missile fired from Russian territory. Security Service chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko said he had “unconditional evidence” that Russia was involved in downing that aircraft.

The incident brings tragedy to Malaysia Airlines for the second time this year.

In March, one of its jets disappeared with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board in one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time.

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