Malaysian Passenger Plane Shot Down Near Russian-Ukrainian Border

Flight MH17 crashed near the Ukrainian-Russian border killing all 295 people on board, and evidence suggests it was shot down by a missile or rocket fired from the ground.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Scroll down for the most recent updates of this developing story.

A Malaysia Airlines passenger flight has crashed with 295 people on board, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

When the plane first went down, speculation began that it was shot down by a missile. Senior U.S. intelligence officials later confirmed that it was hit by a missile. Flight MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and went down just outside of Donetsk.

The crash comes just months after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared in March, over the Indian Ocean.

REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

Sources in Ukraine Say News Media Unsure of Crash Origin

Sources within Ukraine tell The Wire that Ukrainian television reporters are stressing that this was a plane "crash," rather than a plane which was shot down. Press in-country are saying Ukrainian authorities have already sent a group there to investigate now.

Our source noted that reports both on Ukrainian and Russian local television were careful to say that Russia is about 200 km away from the crash site. The space above Donetsk, per these reports, is closed airspace. The area was set to be closed through October 31st, offering this explanation, "According to the indication of the aviation authorities of Ukraine the air space over Lugansk and Donetsk areas is closed for flights of civil aircraft."

Amateur Video of the Crash Emerges

Not long after news of the crash broke, amateur video appeared online showing the crash site from a distance, with smoke billowing:

We translated this audio of this video to the best our ability, though please note that due to sound quality, some words may have been difficult to make out.

“What’s going on?"

"It’s a plane. Look!"

"It means the pilot died."


"The plane!"

Someone asks, “Why is everyone so excited?”

Another voice explains, "At first it was flying. It was coming from this side. It was flying, flying."

A third says, “It’s in a couple pieces. That’s what it seems like.”

Gerashchenko Says Separatists Shot Down the Plane

Here's his full quote:

A civilian airliner travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur has just been shot down by a Buk anti-aircraft system ... 280 passengers and 15 crew have been killed."

As for Malaysia Airlines, they have only offered one report on the matter, saying they “lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace."

"The most important thing is a flight flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur would have been at 32,000 feet, and for someone to mistake that for a hostile aircraft would be very very difficult," former NTSB Inspector General Mary Schiavo told CNN. "It would be difficult to see how this would be a mistake and see this as an enemy aircraft."

New Video of Crash Emerges

Another amateur video has emerged:

We translated this video to the best our ability, though please note it is a slightly scratchy video with lower sound towards the end:

"I was looking at it and they shot down the plane, look it’s falling, down, it fell. Look over there, behind there [jumbled.] We went outside, pieces are still falling. Something boomed, it's still falling. There’s a lot of black smoke behind it. Look at it look at it. Come outside, look. It's all red, all the black smoke going up. We were just looking how the plane was falling, we were shocked. They must have shot it down, they must have hit it, they hit it.  Nobody could be alive."
REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

Malaysia's Prime Minister Responds

The Malaysian Prime Minister has issued this statement:
Boeing has limited information on the matter:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Issues Statement

We have this statement from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko:

Separatists Take Responsibility on Facebook

Here we have a potential confirmation of the separatists taking responsibility. One of the group's leaders posted online that they taken down a Ukrainian plane:

Here is the translation, to the best of our ability:

"17.07.2014 (17:50) Information from [separatists who have weapons]

In the area of Topeza, they just shot down an airline AN-26, it is laying behind a mine. The name of these mine is Progress. 

We told them not to fly in "our skies". Here is the video confirming this “bird falling.” The bird behind [unclear], it did not hit a residential area. 

Regular people were not hurt. 

There is also information about the second shot plane, it seems 'Cy.'"

While this post was removed, you can view a cached copy here.

12:55 PM Eastern: Putin and Obama Discuss Crash

The details of the phone call have become available. Here is what the two discussed, via ABC News.

1:10 PM: Airline Carriers Avoiding Ukrainian Airspace

Airline carriers are now making decisions as to whether use Ukrainian airspace going forward. While Emirates Airlines made the decision not to fly to Kiev last week, other airlines are now planning to avoid the airspace due specifically to this crash. Air France, Virgin, Russia Aeroflot, TransAero, Turkish Airlines, KLM, and Lufthansa have all decided to change routes to avoid this airspace. This airspace is contested, and it is unclear if it is owned by Ukraine or Russia, and to which height they are able to regulate the space.

1:16 PM: Both Sides Deny Involvement in the Crash 

Though Gorkin has posted on his Facebook about involvement in the crash, both the Ukrainian government and the separatist leader have denied shooting down the plane. Separatist leader Andrei Purgin told The Associated Press that he was "certain" Ukrainian troops have shot down the plane. Purgin also said he is "not aware" if rebels have access to missile launchers, the weaponry thought to be needed to take down this sort of aircraft. 

1:22 PM: Putin Offers Condolences

REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

1:25 PM: Separatists Say They Will Hand Over Plane's Black Box

According to an Interfax report, the separatist group known as the Donetsk People's Republic will hand over the plane's black box, if recovered, to the Interstate Aviation Committee, the Moscow-based supervising body overseeing civil aviation in Russia. As in the case of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, the black box batteries last 30 days, but should be much more easily found in this wreckage.

1:37 PM: Victims Begin to be Identified

Photos from the wreckage, which are graphic in nature, are now being used to help identify victims. Additionally, photos of passports found on the scene are being circulated on social media. 

Thus far, it has been determined that 23 U.S. citizens were onboard the flight. Reportedly, at least 75 Dutch were on board. D-Reizen, a Dutch travel agency, said 25 of their clients were onboard the flight. Another firm, WTC, said 30 of their clients were onboard. There were also allegedly nine British citizens on board. 

1:48 PM: Map of Flight Trajectory


Reuters tweeted a map of the suspected flight trajectory and crash site.

1:53 PM: Dutch Prime Minister Offers Statement

"I am deeply shocked by the dramatic reports on the crash of of Malaysia Airlines MH17,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Rutte has been in touch with Ukrainian President Poroshenko. "Much is still unclear about the facts, circumstances and the passengers.”
Citizens continue to post images on Twitter, including one of the Dutch embassy in Kiev.
More photos can be found here.

2:00 PM Another Amateur Video Emerges

The Wire has translated this to the best of our ability, please note that the sound quality is not ideal and there may be errors:
Note: this video cannot be embedded, but you may view it in full here.

"The plane fell but the state it is in, we aren’t sure. The smoke is in two places, that's interesting. Thanks, [we believe this word is "Crimea" however, we cannot confirm completely.] It interests me more why there’s two smoking areas. Did it fall apart in the air? There are a lot of cars driving [from that direction.]"

2:16 PM: The White House Comments 

2:20 PM: Report: UN Security Council Schedules Emergency Meeting

RT believes Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s United Nations envoy, has scheduled an "extraordinary meeting" of the UN Security Council. The meeting is meant "consider the implications of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash." The Security Council is currently in session in New York to discuss matters in North Korea. In May, a similar extraordinary meeting was held to discuss Ukraine. 

2:34 PM: Photos Have Emerged of the MH17 Take Off

This photograph was taken by a fourteen year old, who describes himself as an "aviation enthusiast" in the Netherlands.

2:41 PM: Rebel Leader Reports Shooting 1.5 Hours Before News Breaks

Rebel leader Igor Strelkov posted on a VKontakte social media account that an AN-26 aircraft (though he mistakenly called it "military transport aircraft") had been shot down by rebels an hour and a half before the news broke worldwide. Since the news becoming public, he has removed his post, but this screenshot remains:

2:44 PM: Separatists Reportedly Found Black Box

The plane's black box has been found, according to CNN's Anderson Cooper. Interfax is reporting that separatists have the box and, as noted earlier, plan to hand it over to Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee. Flight 17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it abruptly lost contact flying over eastern Ukraine, a region where pro-Russia separatists are fighting the government.

2:52 PM: Plane Was Not In Restricted Airspace

A statement from the International Air Transport Association has confirmed the plane was not in restricted airspace, as earlier concerns believed.

We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the passengers and crew of MH17. Based on the information currently available it is believed that the airspace that the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions.

2:53 PM: Livefeed of Crash Site Available

A livefeed of the crash sight has been posted by Dutch state television station NOS. Please note the images you see there may be graphic. You can view it here.

3:05 PM: Video of the Plane Explosion Emerges

Please note: this video may be difficult for some to watch due to its troubling nature.

3:13 PM: Journalist at the Scene Tweets Wreckage Observations

Freelance journalist Noah Sneider has been reporting from the crash site for the past two hours. Below are his tweets:

3:25 PM: Pilots Say Route Flown By Plane Is Normal

The European Cockpit Association released a statement saying the flight's route is the most common route for flights from Europe to South Asia. "Our first thoughts go to the relatives and friends of the 290 passengers and of the 15 crew members and colleagues on board of the Malaysian flight MH17," the group, which represents European pilot associations, said.
The ECA's statement echoes the IATA's earlier statement deeming the plane was flying through ordinary airspace. However, civilian airliners have been warned since April to avoid flying over certain parts of Ukraine.

3:33 PM: "Armed Terrorists" Hampering Search Efforts

According to the RIA news agency, Donetsk People's Republic Prime Minister Aleksandr Boroday, who earlier accused Kiev of shooting down the plane to frame local militias, has called for a humanitarian ceasefire for two to three days to investigate the causes of the MH17 crash.

4:02 PM: Flights Move Away from Ukraine

The NATO Secretary General has issued this statement,

I am profoundly shocked and saddened by the crash of a Malaysia Airlines passenger aircraft in Ukraine today, with the loss of many lives.

I offer my sincerest condolences to the families and the loved ones of the victims and to all those touched by this terrible tragedy.

Much is unclear about the circumstances of the crash. However the instability in the region, caused by Russian-backed separatists, has created an increasingly dangerous situation.

It is important that a full international investigation should be launched immediately, without any hindrance, to establish the facts and that those who may be responsible are swiftly brought to justice."

4:13 PM: Missile Launch Detected

4:18 PM: Our Interview with an Aviation Expert

The Wire spoke with aviation expert Bruce Rodger, President of Aero Consulting Experts. Rodger notes that Malaysia Airlines, and other airlines, will now face a difficult road with flights in that area going forward: "All in all, airlines will deviated, which will cause delays, which will cause more fuel burn. It'll be an economic impact to airlines and time impact to passengers. Malaysia has lost two of its assets, plus all of the crew members, it has a major impact. It'll be very difficult. the crew lose, the financial lose, the perception."

You can read the full interview here.

4:33 PM: U.S. Confirms Plane Was Shot Down

A senior U.S. official has confirmed to various news outlets that the plane was shot down. They are now working to investigate whether the plane was shot down on the Russian or Ukrainian side of the border. This missile launch has been called a "sophisticated operation."

5:41 PM: Putin Says Ukraine Responsible For Crash

Kremlin released a statement saying Russian President Vladimir Putin told his economic advisers in a meeting that Ukraine "bears responsibility" for the crash.

"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," Putin said. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."

5:51 PM: Obama Speaks with Ukrainian President Poroshenko

CNN's Jim Acosta is reporting Obama is speaking with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Poroshenko earlier in the day to offer assistance.

6:02 PM: Video of Alleged Shooters Discussing Crash

While this video has been passed around as an authoritative source, it has not yet been confirmed. It was originally distributed by Ukrainian intelligence services and claims to be an intercepted conversation among members of a separatist group.  Additionally, this translation, while not misleading, is far from perfect. For the original video, click here. For a more accurate translation, check out this story by Kyiv Post.

6:00 A.M., Friday: The latest updates

An assistant to the Igor Girkin, a rebel separatist leaders, says that his group has recovered eight out of the plane's 12 recording devices, but did specify if they would turn them over to Russian or Ukrainian investigators. Interfax-Ukraine reports at least one black box has already been handed over to Moscow, which could be considered by some to be a violation of international norms. The rebel groups say they will allow access to the crash site, the presence of so many civilians and armed groups, suggests the site has already been contaminated as a crime scene.

Ukraine's permanent representative to the U.N. Yuriy Sergeyev says he will present evidence linking the the Russian military to the crash.

The New York Times has published a series of useful maps related to the incident.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.