UPDATED: Malaysia Airlines flight 'shot down' in Ukraine; 298 passengers, crew dead
A Malaysia Airlines passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur has crashed near the border between Ukraine and Russia. It was reportedly shot down in Ukraine.
Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.— Malaysia Airlines (@MAS) July 17, 2014
The Boeing 777 reportedly departed from the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol at 12:14 a.m. (Amsterdam local time) and was scheduled to land in Malaysia at 6:30 a.m. (Malaysia local time) with 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board. There were no survivors.
The passengers included at least one American. Nearly two thirds of the passengers (193) were Dutch. All 15 of the crew members were Malaysian nationals.
"Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister, said on Facebook that the plane was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet when it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher," reports the New York Daily News.
I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation.— Mohd Najib Tun Razak (@NajibRazak) July 17, 2014
According to the New York Daily News, "It came down just 20 miles short of entering Russian airspace near the town of Shakhtyorsk, in an area where the Ukrainian government has been fighting pro-Russian rebels."
Our thoughts and prayers are with those on board MH17, as well as their families and loved ones. We stand ready to provide assistance.— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) July 17, 2014
"Tensions have been high between Ukraine and Russia since street protests forced former pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February. Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's southeastern Crimea region, and a pro-Russian separatist rebellion has been raging in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions," details CNN. "Ukraine's government has accused Russia of allowing weapons and military equipment, including tanks, to cross the border illegally into the hands of pro-Russian separatists."
"The Pentagon said Wednesday that Russia now has 12,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, as well as some heavy weapons. The troop numbers had fallen to about 1,000 previously from a high of an estimated 40,000 forces earlier this year," CNN further explains. "On Thursday, CNN reported that Ukrainian officials said a Russian fighter shot down a Ukrainian jet Wednesday as the jet flew in Ukrainian airspace."
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko says, “We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets,” details the New York Daily News. “We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible.”
Pro-Russian rebels, however, blame Ukraine's armed forces and deny shooting down the plane themselves.
According to the Daily News, "Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk ordered an investigation into what he called an 'airplane catastrophe.'"
White House press secretary Josh Earnest has confirmed that President Obama spoke with Russian President Putin this morning at the request of Moscow. It remains unclear whether this call was placed before or after the crash.
Earnest does verify that President Obama was briefed on the horrific incident and has instructed his staff to remain in touch with Ukrainian officials for updates.
Video uploaded to YouTube on Thursday by Andrew Andreysky, a video blogger from the Donetsk region of Ukraine, appears to show debris from the destroyed Malaysian airliner falling to earth and a thick, black cloud of smoke. Watch his video below.