A Malaysia Airlines plane with 298 people on board has crashed near the village of Hrabove, about 30 miles from Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia. The flight, which originated in Amsterdam, was bound for Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia Airlines had initially reported there were 295 people on board the flight, but upped the estimate to 298, which includes three infants, according to The Washington Post.
In a speech today, President Obama called the crash a “terrible tragedy’’ and said the United States would provide “any assistance we can’’ to Ukrainian officials. In a phone call to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Vice President Biden repeated the offer. According to ABC News, pro-Russia rebels, not Ukraine, are in control of the crash site.
The United Kingdom has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council over the plane’s crash, according to ABC News.
According to multiplereports, U.S. intelligence has confirmed that a surface-to-air missile was fired at the plane, but are not sure who actually fired it. No one is claiming responsibility. Ukraine provided the Associated Press with recordings of what it claimed were phone calls between rebels and a Russian military intelligence officer in which shooting down an airplane was discussed. Both Ukrainian forces and the pro-Russia rebels who have taken over the Donetsk region where the crash occurred have denied responsibility.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko told Reuters he believes the plane was “brought down’’ and that it was a “terrorist act.’’
Anton Gerashenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, said on his Facebook page that the plane was flying at 10,000 meters (about 33,000 feet) when it was shot down by a Buk missile.
A partial flight manifest released by Malaysia Airlines said 189 of the passengers were Dutch, 27 were Australian, 12 were Indonesian (including one infant), nine were from the UK, four were German and four Belgian, three from the Philippines, one from New Zealand, and one Canadian. There were also 44 Malayians on board, including 15 crew members and two infants. Malaysia Airlines did not know the nationalities of the remaining four passengers.
One Associated Press journalist reported seeing a Buk missile system — capable of hitting the altitude at which the plane was believed to be flying — in a Ukrainian town held by pro-Russia forces. Earlier today, Ukraine’s Security Council said one of its fighter jets was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane. In a statement on the Kremlin’s website, Russian President Vladimir Putin said (in remark translated by BuzzFeed) that the crash was a “terrible tragedy’’ but that Ukraine was responsible because the crash occurred in its airspace.
The FAA banned U.S. flights over parts of the region back in April, though Timereports that the plane was not in banned airspace at the time it went down. Several airlines, including Delta, KLM, British Airways, and Lufthansa, announced that they would avoid Ukrainian airspace after the crash.
According to the Associated Press:
Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher.
CBS This Morning tweeted that there are reports of “hundreds of bodies, body parts found at Malaysia Airlines crash site & miles away from site.’’ A New York Times reporter said “many of the victims were still in their seat belts and attached to pieces of the plane. One man, still in his socks, but without pants, lay akimbo on the field, his right arm placed on his stomach, as if in repose. A young man in blue shorts, wearing red Nike sneakers, lay with his arms and legs splayed outward, clutching his iPhone.’’
The Associated Press reported that President Obama asked advisers to keep him updated on the situation in Ukraine.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday that Obama spoke to Putin before leaving on a trip to Delaware and New York. But Earnest could not say whether it was before or after Obama was aware of reports that the plane was shot down.
Vladimir Putin has expressed his deepest condolences to Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia with regard to the accident in Ukrainian territory of a Malaysian Airlines passenger aircraft, resulting in numerous casualties. The Russian head of state asked him to convey his sincerest words of sympathy and support to families and friends of the victims.
Via the Associated Press, a video showing the crash itself has emerged:
Ukrainian activists also published a video they say shows the plane’s wreckage.
Another video of the plane crash appears to show parts of the plane falling to the ground:
Malaysia Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Razak said on Twitter that he was “shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation.’’
The map below shows what is believed to be the plane’s flight path.
The plane was a Boeing 777 with 43,000 hours of flight time, according to the Associated Press.
Last March, another Malaysia Airlines plane went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. It has not been found.
We will have more information on this developing story as it becomes available.