Malaysian passenger plane carrying 295 people 'shot down' over Ukraine near Russian border
A Malaysian Airlines passenger plane has been shot down on the Russian-Ukraine border, killing all 295 people on board, according to a Ukrainian interior ministry official.
Flight MH17, which was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew, was flying between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur after taking off at lunchtime today.
The Interfax news agency reported that the aircraft went missing near Donetsk, where pro-Russian rebels have been fighting Ukrainian government forces.
TV pictures from the scene showed a pall of smoke billowing into the sky apparently from the stricken aircraft.
It is believed the plane was struck by BUK surface-to-air missile at 33,000ft around 20 miles before entering Russian airspace.
Disaster: Smoke billows into the sky after a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 295 people on board
Tragedy: TV pictures show a pall of smoke billowing into the sky apparently from the stricken aircraft
The shoulder-launched Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missile can be packed into a golf bag and assembled and fired very rapidly by one person with minimal training.
Defence experts have expressed fears in the past they could be used to target at civil aircraft.
A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier today.
However, defence analyst Major Charles Heyman, who edited a book called Armed Forces of the European Union, believes it could have been downed by a 'slack' Ukraine air defence centre.
He told Sky News: 'It looks like confusion. It’s possible that Ukraine thought it was hostile and not civilian and shot it down.'
Malaysian Airlines said they have no information about any survivors.
In a tweet, the airline said: 'Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.'
The jet would have been flying at high altitude on an intercontinental flight that took it over the crisis hit region of Ukraine, where the authorities have accused Russia-backed separatists of previous attacks on aircraft.
Earlier today the Ukrainian authorities said one of their fighter jets was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane and Ukrainian troops were fired upon by missiles from a village inside Russia.
The alleged episodes mark what Ukraine says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine who have substantial quantities of powerful weapons.
Ukraine said a military transport plane was shot down Monday by a missile fired from Russian territory. Security Service chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko said he had "unconditional evidence" that Russia was involved in downing that aircraft.
Downed: A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, similar to the passenger plane that has crashed in the Ukraine
The crash comes three months after the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 which is though to have crashed into the Indian Occean.
Two weeks ago, investigators say what little evidence they have to work with suggests the plane was deliberately diverted thousands of kilometres from its scheduled route before eventually plunging into the Indian Ocean.
The search was narrowed in April after a series of acoustic pings thought to be from the plane's black box recorders were heard along a final arc where analysis of satellite data put its last location.
But a month later, officials conceded the wreckage was not in that concentrated area, some 1,000 miles off the northwest coast of Australia, and the search area would have to be expanded.
The next phase of the search is expected to start in August and take a year, covering some 60,000 sq km at a cost of AU$60 million ($56 million) or more. The search is already the most expensive in aviation history.
The new priority search area is around 2,000km west of Perth, a stretch of isolated ocean frequently lashed by storm force winds and massive swells.
A Ukrainian military transport plane which was shot down along the country's eastern border was likely to have been hit by a rocket fired from neighbouring Russia, Ukraine's defence minister has claimed.
Rebels in conflict-wracked eastern Ukraine immediately claimed responsibility for downing the Antonov-26 which authorities say may have been carrying up to 20 people.
But Ukrainian defence minister Valeriy Heletey said the plane was flying at an altitude of 21,300 feet, which is too high to be reached with separatists' weapons.
The tail-section of the Ukraine military An-26 transport aircraft which was shot down close to the Russian border. Pro-Russian rebel groups have claimed responsibility for the attack
The shooting followed a Moscow threat to use 'surgical retaliatory strikes', according to respected newspaper Kommersant.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the report. 'I don't comment on this in any way. It's complete nonsense.' In the last two weeks, the government has halved the territory held by pro-Russia separatists, who have been forced back into strongholds around the eastern cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.
Those two mostly Russian-speaking regions have declared independence from the government in Kiev.
Fighting intensified around Luhansk as government forces stepped up efforts to disrupt rebel lines and reclaim more territory from the faltering insurgency. One resident said panic was gripping the city.
Despite reports of military successes, however, Ukraine's president announced he has more evidence that Russia has directly supported a separatist insurgency against his government that is dragging into its fourth month.
A destroyed armoured vehicle on the road of the airport in the south of Lugansk. Russia's defence ministry said today that Ukrainian jets carried out five air strikes against separatist positions
There was no confirmation of rebel claims that Kiev had massed tanks in the outskirts ahead of a major push into the city of Lugansk
The defence ministry said government troops had retaken several villages around the rebel-controlled city of Luhansk and had reopened a corridor to its civilian airport
Today Russian state television has aired an unconfirmed report claiming the Ukrainian army publicly nailed a three-year-old boy to a board in a former rebel stronghold.
In move that has provoked a storm of criticism, Channel One broadcast an interview in which a woman gave graphic details of the alleged incident.
She said she recently saw Ukrainian soldiers round up people in the Ukrainian flashpoint city of Slavyansk and nail an insurgent's child to a notice board.
Attempts to corroborate the report have so far failed and Ukraine responded by accusing Russia of ratcheting up its propaganda war.
A spokeswoman for Ukraine's interior ministry, Natalya Stativko, on Monday slammed the report as 'following in the footsteps of Goebbels,' Nazi Germany's minister of propaganda.
'The cruder and the more monstrous the lie, the better it will look for the Russian propaganda machine,' Stativko said.
Five busloads of 'Internally Displaced People' from the towns of Slavyansk, Karlovka, Maryinka and Donetsk left this morning for the Rostov region in Russia to ask for refugee status there
Refugees look through a bus window as they depart to Russia in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine
Residents of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine prepare to board buses for Rostov-on-Don in Russia from a collection point in Donetsk
Galina Timchenko, former editor of Lenta.ru, a prominent news portal in Moscow, said the report was a gross breach of professional ethics by one of Russia's most watched channels.
'This is an egregious violation of professional ethics,' she said. 'Not only is there no proof anywhere -- this is not even being questioned.'
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny denounced the channel as 'nutty' for airing the report.
'Are they completely sick to be concocting this?' he wrote on his blog. 'The people behind this are a danger to society and what they are doing is a true crime.'
Representatives of Channel One declined immediate comment.
The report featured a woman named as Galina Pyshnyak, who was interviewed at a refugee camp in Russia, describing the incident that she labelled an act of revenge.
'They gathered women on the square because there are no more men. Women, girls, old people,' Pyshnyak said.
'They took a child of around three years old, a little boy in his underwear and a T-shirt and nailed him to a notice board like Jesus. One was nailing him and two others holding him.'
Russian official rhetoric often compares events in Ukraine to Nazi Germany and calls the pro-Western Kiev government a 'fascist junta'.
A Ukrainian serviceman patrols as the de-miners neutralise mines and other explosives in the village of Semenovka, near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk in the Donetsk region
Ukrainian troops claimed fresh gains around one of the main remaining separatist strongholds as Moscow reportedly weighed up 'targeted' cross-border strikes following the alleged deadly shelling of a Russian town
A Ukrainian de-miner carries a mortar shell as they neutralizes mines and other explosives in the village of Semenovka, near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk
Russia's defence ministry said today that Ukrainian jets carried out five air strikes against separatist positions close to Lugansk but there was no confirmation of rebel claims that Kiev had massed tanks in the outskirts ahead of a major push into the city.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin today threatened military strikes on Ukraine in an alarming escalation of the worst conflict between former member countries of the Soviet Union.
RUSSIA MASSING BORDER TROOPS
Russia is swelling its troop numbers again on the border with Ukraine amid new fears of an invasion of the east of the country, claimed Kiev sources yesterday.
The force could be sabotage squads or masked as 'peacekeepers', warned military analyst Dmytro Tymchuk.
Tymchuk claimed Russian special forces and intelligence brigades were massing across the border from Ukraine's Donetsk territory.
'Special force units are coming to Rostov region,' he said. 'This is reconnaissance and sabotage groups of staff brigades of the Russian GRU intelligence special forces.
'According to our data, the commanders of these units have been told that they will be brought into the territory of Ukraine on July 15.'
Tymchuk, coordinator of the Information Resistance Group, has previously accurately predicted troop deployments in the bloody conflict which has seen almost 600 people killed in the EU's backyard.
He warned that Russian forces could be sent into Ukraine as "peacekeepers" or in green uniforms without insignia as happened when Crimea was grabbed in March.
Or a wave of sabotage squads could be sent into Ukraine to back "terrorists" - as pro-Western Kiev refers to insurgent pro-Moscow fighters.
Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko yesterday claimed Russian troops were already fighting alongside the rebels inside his country.
'Russian staff officers are taking part in military operations against Ukrainian forces,' he said.
And official sources echoed the fears of a troop build-up, the month after Vladimir Putin assured Western leaders his armed forces were going back to their barracks.
'Deployment of Russian units and military equipment across the border from the Sumy and Luhansk border points was noticed. The Russian Federation continues to build up troops on the border,' warned Ukraine national security council spokesman Andriy Lysenko.
Kiev insists that a Russian man killed at a border town was shot by pro-Moscow separatists in an act of provocation.
'Fighters systematically fire mortars and shoot into Russian territory, which killed a Russian citizen," said Lysenko.
The threat will cause deep concern in the West and comes amid reports of residents fleeing the city of Donetsk amid fears of a major battle between Ukrainian troops and rebels.
Moscow is considering 'surgical retaliatory strikes' on the Ukrainian territory following claims that people in Russia were killed and wounded after being struck by shells from across the border.
'Our patience is not boundless,' a source told Kommersant newspaper, owned by Arsenal Football Club shareholder Alisher Usmanov.
'This means not a massive action but exclusively targeted single strikes on positions from which the Russian territory is fired at.'
The Russian side 'knows for sure the site where the fire comes from', said the source. ,
The proposed plan echoes a statement by a deputy speaker of Russia's upper house, Yevgeniy Bushmin, who told RIA Novosti news agency that using precision weapons in response to Ukraine's shelling would prevent further Kiev's attacks of Russian territory.
'There is a feeling that if before firing was not aimed against Russian border guards, now provocations have been on the rise as there is no other means of forcing us to join in the standoff with Ukraine's security troops,' he said.
'The only way to fight against this like civilised countries do, namely the US and the EU. We should use precision weapons, like Israel, to destroy those who fired this shell.'
Ukraine claimed that the attack was staged by pro-Moscow rebels, denying any involvement by its armed forces.
One Russian citizen was reported killed when a shell exploded in a yard of a house in a small border town also called Donetsk, the same name as the Ukrainian city.
Another shell hit a house, injuring two women, a 82-year-old mother and her daughter. The elderly woman was hospitalised with concussion and fractures.
Meanwhile there were reports that rebels have started using a Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft - their first warplane - against Ukrainian forces.
Today's threat from the Kremlin followed a warning on Sunday by the Russian foreign ministry of 'irreversible consequences' from the border 'attack'.
Moscow deemed it 'an extremely dangerous escalation' .
Kiev claims that Moscow is arming rebels with Grad multiple-rocket system, and alleged any shooting across the Ukraine-Russian frontier was by insurgent fighters and not its armed forces.
The Kremlin allegation was 'total nonsense', it claimed.
Moscow earlier appeared to pull back tens of thousands of troops close to the border amid fears it could invade eastern Ukraine.
The Russian senate also rescinded permission for Vladimir Putin to deploy forces in Ukraine.
Russia 'shoots down Ukraine jet on mission over Luhansk' as Putin hits out at tougher sanctions
A Ukrainian air force fighter jet has been shot down by a missile fired from a Russian plane, according to Ukraine's Security Council.
The pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet was forced to bail out after his plane was hit, said spokesman Andrei Lysenko.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian rebels claimed responsibility for strikes on two Sukhoi-25 jets.
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The Sukhoi-25 ground attack aircraft was shot down by a Russian jet according to Ukrainian sources, file photo
Rescuers search for bodies after an airstrike destroyed an apartment complex in Eastern Ukraine killing 11
Pro-Russian rebels blamed the major attack in Snizhne, in the east of the country upon the Ukrainian air force
Ukraine's Defence Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but the pilot was unhurt and managed to land safely.
Moscow denies it is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighbour's territory.
The incidents came after Russian president Vladimir Putin criticised the latest round of US sanctions against Moscow, saying they are harming bilateral relations and hurting not only Russian but US businesses.
Mr Putin's comments came hours after president Barack Obama announced broader sanctions against Russia, targeting two major energy firms, a pair of powerful financial institutions, eight weapons firms and four individuals. The increased US economic pressure is designed to end the insurgency in eastern Ukraine that is widely believed to be backed by the Kremlin.
The US penalties stopped short of the most stringent actions the West has threatened, which would fully cut off key sectors of Russia's oil-dependent economy. But officials said those steps were still on the table if Russia failed to abide by the West's demands to stop its support for pro-Russia insurgents who have destabilised swathes of eastern Ukraine.
Pro-Russia insurgents have been fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine for four months in a conflict the UN says has killed more than 400 and displaced tens of thousands.
A Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane and Ukrainian troops were fired upon by missiles from a village inside Russia, a spokesman for Ukraine's Security Council said Thursday.
The alleged episodes mark what Ukraine says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine who have been seen to have substantial quantities of powerful weapons in recent weeks.
Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the air-to-air missile Wednesday evening was forced to bail after his jet was shot down. He said the rockets launched at Ukrainian troops were fired from the Russian village of Kuibyshevo.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, right, talks to an officer during inspection of a Ukrainian Army position outside the eastern town of Slovyansk, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. Yatsenyuk hopes to restore the infrastructure in Donetsk and Lugansk regions from state budget, thanks to private investors and international aid, he said during his visit to the Slovyansk on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko, Pool)
Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets.
The Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely
Moscow denies Western charges that is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighbor. The Russian Ministry of Defense could not be reached for comment Thursday about the latest accusations and Russia's foreign ministry did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Earlier this week, Ukraine said a military transport plane was shot down Monday by a missile fired from Russian territory. Security Service chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko said he had "unconditional evidence" that Russia was involved in downing that craft.
The rebels are known to possess portable anti-aircraft rocket launchers, but Ukrainian officials say that kind of weapon would have been unable to reach the plane at the altitude at which it was flying Monday. Aviation experts, however, have questioned whether the stricken transport plane was flying at the altitude Ukrainian officials had claimed.
Although the pro-Russia insurgents fighting the government in Kiev suffered a major setback earlier this month when they abandoned their stronghold in the city of Slovyansk, they still appear well-supplied militarily and have incurred heavy losses among government troops.
An Associated Press reporter on Thursday saw seven rebel-owned tanks parked at a gas station outside the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne. In the town, he also observed a Buk missile system, which can fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet).
Ukraine's border service said Thursday it has evidence that five Grad multiple-rocket launchers and two armored personnel carriers were brought across the border Wednesday from Russia.
"Having crossed 60 meters (yards) over the border, they fired in the direction of Ukrainian army positions," the border service said in a statement. "In the location from which they fired, we found fragments of missiles and the traces of burned ground."
The U.S. slapped tougher sanctions against Russia on Wednesday for its actions in Ukraine. That prompted a strong reaction Thursday from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said the sanctions will hamper bilateral relations and hurt not only Russian but also American businesses.
Russia's benchmark MICEX was down 2.4 percent in trading late Thursday after news of the sanctions while Russia's biggest oil company, Rosneft, was 4.4 percent down.
The U.S. sanctions target Rosneft and another major Russian energy firms, a pair of powerful financial institutions, eight weapons firms and four individuals.
The U.S. penalties, however, stopped short of the most stringent actions the West has threatened, which would fully cut off key sectors of Russia's oil-dependent economy. But officials said those steps were still on the table if Russia fails to abide by the West's demands to stop its support for the pro-Russia insurgents.