A Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 295 people crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday and may have been shot down, Russian and Ukrainian media reported.
An adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said the Boeing 777-200ER was downed by a ground-to-air missile over territory controlled by pro-Russia separatists near the city of Donetsk.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew members from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it failed to confirm its entry into Russian airspace on schedule at 5:20 p.m., Russia’s Interfax news agency said.
The plane began losing altitude about 35 miles before entering Russian airspace and “fell down,” minutes later, setting off its emergency beacon, the Itar-Tass news agency said.
The aviation website Flightaware said the last recorded position of MH17 was made at 6:20 a.m. PDT just west of the eastern border of Ukraine.
“This part of the world has limited coverage for us, so gaps of minutes or even an hour are not uncommon,” Flightaware said.
A Russian emergency response team was dispatched to the crash site in the village of Torez, near Shakhtarsk, about 25 miles west of the Russian border. The area has been the scene of fierce fighting between pro-Russia militants who have seized and occupied much of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Ukrainian government troops trying to recover control of the eastern territory.
The plane “disappeared from radar at 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) and then crashed near the city of Shakhtarsk in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, a source in the Ukrainian law enforcement authorities said,” according to Interfax-Ukraine.
Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said the plane was hit by a rocket fired from a Buk anti-aircraft system provided to the rebels by Russia. Ukrainian officials have accused the Kremlin of supporting the separatist rebels, an accusation Moscow denies.
“The cynicism of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and his terrorists has no limits,” Gerashchenko said in a post on his Facebook page in Russian.
The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his nation’s armed forces “did not take action against any airborne targets.”
State-controlled Russia Today television said it had been told by officials of the separatist-proclaimed Peoples Republic of Donetsk that the rebels had nothing to do with the Malaysian jet crash.
Malaysia Airlines reported on Twitter that it lost contact with a plane after its last known position over Ukrainian territory.
Russian news agencies said an emergency assistance team had been dispatched to the crash site.
Malaysia Airlines also lost a Boeing 777 on March 7, when MH370 en route to Beijing went missing, setting off a vast search and a mystery that continues to hold the world’s attention.
By Carol J. Williams - Los Angeles Times (MCT)
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