A Malaysian Airlines jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine killing all 295 people on board, with the government in Kiev blaming pro-Russian rebels. The separatists deny the accusation.
The Boeing 777 flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was hit by a missile and went down near the eastern town of Torez, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Russian border, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said on its Facebook page. Rebels in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said they weren’t involved, the Interfax news service reported.
Malaysia Airlines (MAS) said it had lost contact with flight MH17, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
The plane crashed in the main battleground of Ukraine’s civil war and is one of a number to have been downed in the region in the past month. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who’s returning from Moscow from a visit to South America, has repeatedly denied his country has any involvement in the insurgency. The U.S. said this week that Russia is supplying the rebels with weapons and tightened sanctions against it yesterday.
Putin expressed his condolences to the families of the crash victims, according to a statement from the Kremlin.
The ruble weakened the most since Russia intervened in Crimea and stocks in Moscow fell. The currency lost 2.3 percent to 35.1610 per dollar at 8:26 p.m. in Moscow, the most since March 3. The Micex Index slid 2.3 percent to 1,440.63, the lowest since May 30.
Malaysian Airlines is only just recovering after a 777 aircraft carrying more than 200 people to China was lost in March. It still hasn’t been found. Today’s flight was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew, according to Gerashchenko.
Ukraine has lost multiple aircraft to the rebels. It said Russia shot down one of its fighter jets yesterday, while earlier this week, an An-26 transport plane was hit by a “powerful weapon” not previously used by the separatists, probably from inside Russia, according to Defense Minister Valeriy Geletey.
On June 14, a rebel anti-aircraft missile downed a military transport plane as it neared Luhansk airport, killing 49 soldiers.
A White House official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said that over the past month, the flow of heavy weapons from Russia and support for Russian separatists has increased. The training and tactics of rebels in eastern Ukraine has also grown more sophisticated, the official said.
Ukraine’s eastern rebels want to become part of Russia and have appealed to Putin to send military assistance. Putin has refused, and last month asked lawmakers in Moscow to rescind the authorization they gave him on March 1 to use force in east Ukraine.
For its part, the government in Kiev accuses Russia of supplying the insurgents with weapons and other equipment, accusations Putin denies.
“Just now near Torez, terrorists used a Buk missile system kindly provided by Putin to shoot down a civilian plane,” Ukrainian Interior Minister adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook.