As of Friday morning, the U.S. State department has not confirmed any Americans on board. Malaysia Airlines released a list of passenger nationalities, listing no Americans. Passengers included 189 from the Netherlands, 44 (including 15 crew and two infants) from Malaysia, 27 from Australia, 12 (including one infant) from Indonesia, nine from the UK, four from Germany, four from Belgium, three from Philippines, one from New Zealand and one from Canada.There are four passengers whose nationalities have not yet been verified.
Contradicting early, unconfirmed reports about nearly two dozen American citizens being on board the plane, BuzzFeed reports Friday morning that no passengers on the flight used a U.S. passport to check in. There could still have been passengers with dual-citizenship, however.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports about 100 of the passengers on board were headed to Melbourne, Australia, for an international conference on AIDS research. One of the reported victims is former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange. "If that is the case then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant," the IAS released in a statement.
"It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy," President Obama said Thursday from Wilmington, Delaware. "We're working to determine whether there were American citizens on board — that is our first priority. And I have directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government."
The plane crashed near the town of Grabovo, and was said to be flying at about 33,000 feet before radar lost it. Airlines are now avoiding Eastern Ukrainian airspace.
In a statement late Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the plane is Ukraine's "responsibility," as that's where the plane crashed. According to Reuters' translation of his Russian remarks, Putin also suggested that the crash wouldn't have happened "if Kiev had not renewed military operation against rebels in east Ukraine."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed the crash earlier Thursday, stressing "that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets." In separate statement he described the incident as "terrorist action." Vice President Biden, who is in Detroit Thursday, spoke to Poroshenko by phone in the afternoon and offered U.S. assistance. Biden says that the U.S. will send a team to Ukraine "to determine what happened."
Pro-Russian rebels are denying any involvement in the crash. "We do not have any idea what this is about and who shot down the plane. We're heading there now to investigate everything independently," Tatyana Dvoryadkina, co-chair of the Donetsk People's Republic, a pro-Russian Ukrainian rebel group, told Gazeta, a Russian newspaper.
The Russian government also insisted that it had nothing to do with the event. "In view of various types of speculation concerning operations of the Russian armed forces in the areas bordering Ukraine, we affirm that the anti-aircraft means of the Russian armed forces did not operate in that region on July 17," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.