A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 — Flight MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur — with 295 people aboard crashed in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border on Thursday. Ukrainian officials said it was shot down by pro-Russia militants, possibly with a heavy, Soviet-era ground-to-air missile.
Malaysia Airlines, still reeling from the mysterious loss of another Boeing 777 flight in March, said it had lost contact with the flight over Ukraine. “The last known position was over Ukrainian air space,” it tweeted. It said Ukrainian aviation authorities said they had lost contact with the flight at 2:15 pm GMT. It said the plane, carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew members, had left Amsterdam at 12:15 pm and was due to arrive at Kuala Lumpur at 6:10 am Friday.
Full Coverage: Malaysian jet shot down over Ukraine
The plane came down near the city of Donetsk, a stronghold of pro-Russia rebels, Ukrainian Interior Ministry official Anton Geraschenko said on Facebook, adding that it was “shot down with an anti-aircraft system by terrorists” — the term the Kiev government uses for pro-Russia militants. He said the plane was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet, adding that a BUK launcher can fire missiles up to an altitude of 72,000 feet.
Geraschenko wrote that earlier on Thursday, people in eastern Ukraine had reported seeing a BUK system being moved from the town of Torez towards the town of Snezhnoye.
The Donetsk region government confirmed that a plane had crashed near a village called Grabovo, about 40 kms from the Russian border. Reporters arriving at the scene near Grabovo said they saw dozens of bodies, mostly intact, in a wheat field with purple flowers, with pieces of the plane scattered across a road lined with fire engines and emergency vehicles. One passenger in a black sweater lay on her back, with blood streaming down her face and her left arm raised.
An emergency services rescue worker said at least 100 bodies had been found so far, and the debris from the wreckage was spread across an area up to about 15 km in diameter.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak tweeted that he was “shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation.” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described it as an act of terrorism and called for an international investigation.
But Andrei Purgin, Deputy Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the insurgent group in eastern Ukraine, denied in a telephone interview that the rebels had anything to do with the loss continued…