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Malaysian airliner crashes in E. Ukraine near Russian border, 298 people on board

Published time: July 17, 2014 15:18
Edited time: July 18, 2014 03:56

A man works at putting out a fire at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014.(Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev )

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A Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing-777 with over 290 people on board has crashed in Ukraine, close to the border with Russia. Both Kiev and the opposition deny involvement in the incident.

LIVE UPDATES: Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane crash in Ukraine

Malaysia Airlines has lost contact with the plane when it was flying over Ukrainian soil. The head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Anton Geraschenko confirmed the plane carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew members fell.

The passenger plane was expected to enter Russian airspace at 5:20pm local time, but never did, a Russian aviation industry source was cited by Reuters.

“The plane crashed 60km away from the border, the plane had an emergency beacon,” ITAR-TASS cited its source.

Residents have reported finding debris from a plane, which they say could belong to the Malaysian Boeing. They said that several dozen dead passengers have been found.

Gruesome images of Malaysia MH17 plane crash in east Ukraine appear online

Groups that are fighting Kiev’s forces in eastern Ukraine have rejected any involvement in the incident, as there are reports that the plane was shot down.

The Donetsk People’s Republic claims its self-defense forces simply don’t have such military equipment. Donetsk People's Republic PM Aleksandr Boroday has called the incident a “provocation by the Ukrainian military”.

“We confirm that the plane crashed not far from Donetsk,” Boroday said. “Representatives of Donetsk People's Republic have headed to the scene of the plane search.”

“Self-defense forces have no air-defense, which could target transport aircraft at that height,” he told Interfax.

“We have only MANPADs (portable anti-aircraft missile complex) which hit targets at 3-4 kilometers,” Sergey Kavtaradze, representative for Donetsk People’s Republic PM, also told journalists.

Russia’s military also says none of its military planes have been flying close to the Russia-Ukraine border on Thursday, RIA Novosti reported citing a military official.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has not ruled out that a Malaysian plane has been shot down.

“We don’t rule out that this plane was shot down and stress that Ukrainian forces did not fulfill any actions targeting in the air,” Poroshenko said. He added that an investigation commission will be launched.

At the same time, Anton Geraschenko said on his Facebook page that the plane was targeted from the air defense missile complex "Buk".

A picture taken on July 17, 2014 shows flames and smoke amongst the wreckages of the malaysian airliner carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine.(AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply )

Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed that according to its information Ukraine had deployed several Buk systems with at least 27 missile launchers in the Donetsk region.

“According to the Russian Defense Ministry information, units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine located in the crash-site are equipped with anti-aircraft missile systems "Buk-M1” ... These complexes in their tactical and technical characteristics are capable of detecting air targets at ranges of up to 160 kilometers and hit them at full altitude range at a distance of over 30 kilometers,” the ministry’s statement reads as cited by Ria.

Kiev deployed powerful anti-air systems to E. Ukraine ahead of the Malaysian plane crash

Experts stress that aircraft flying at an altitude of over 10 kilometers can only be targeted by C-300 class weapons or ‘Buk”.

A source in Russia's federal air traffic agency Rosaviatsia has said that three days ago Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council closed the airspace over eastern Ukraine because of the so-called “anti-terrorist operation” that Kiev conducts in the region.

Earlier a representative of Donetsk People’s Republic said that civil aviation planes could not fly over Donetsk and Lugansk regions. He added that all necessary traffic control and navigation equipment was damaged.

“Dispatching support of all passenger flights is being conducted from Kiev. How this plane could be there - is not clear,” a representative of Donetsk People’s Republic said.

Patrick Lancaster, who was at the crash site of the Malaysian jet, said the self-defense forces on the ground have confirmed the plane was “definitely shot down.”

“Soldiers told us that there are bodies scattered all around the area… They’re waiting on the prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic to come and inspect the area,”
he told RT.

The Boeing-777, whose maiden commercial flight was almost exactly two decades ago, had previously suffered ten serious incidents, according to the Aviation Safety Database.

AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply

The most notorious of these involved another route performed by the same company, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, during which the US-made aircraft disappeared off the radars between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, in March this year. Despite an international search effort costing tens of millions of dollars, the plane, the reasons for whose disappearance have still not been definitively established, has not yet been recovered.

Another widely-covered incident occurred last year, when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 pilot crashed into the seawall just short of the landing strip at San Fransisco International Airport, prompting the fuselage to drag across the runway as it disintegrated in a fire. Three people died as a result of the incident – the first fatalities in the history of the model, which is regarded as very safe in the industry.

Currently, about 1200 modifications of Boeing-777 are operated worldwide.

“A Boeing-777 is an extremely reliable piece of machinery. Modern planes don’t just crash with no reason,” pilot and aviation expert Yury Karash told RT. “Let us recall how a Ukrainian missile downed a Russian TU-154 aircraft ten years ago. I can’t completely exclude the possibility the Boeing-777 was also hit by a missile.”

“I don’t know who could’ve shot it down. But I can allege that it most likely was the Ukrainian armed forces: simply because its military – anti-aircraft defense, in particular – are, unfortunately, unqualified. As judging by the overall state of the Ukrainian armed forces, insufficient attention has been paid to their training,” he added.