Early this morning, Russian news agency Interfax reported that a Malaysia Airline passenger jet, carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew members, crashed in the Ukrainian town of Shakhtyorsk. Malaysia Airlines has been unable to confirm the cause of the crash, but has stated over Twitter that it “lost contact” with the Flight MH17 over Ukrainian airspace.
Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow. — Malaysia Airlines (@MAS) July 17, 2014
Videos and photos of the supposed crash have been published by citizens, showing plumes of smoke rising from a burning object in the distance, and what appear to be pieces of the wreckage.
The Interfax report, translated by Reuters, notes that a Russian minister has claimed the plane was shot down by Ukrainian rebels with a surface-to-air missile. However, given the political unrest between the two nations and Ukraine’s recent accusation that Russia shot down one of its fighter jets, whether or not either country’s forces were involved in unclear. Nonetheless, various airlines, including Air France and Transaero, have decided to avoid Eastern Ukraine airspace for current flights.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said in response, “We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine Armed Forces did not fire at any targets in the sky.” The news is devastating for families of the 295 people who left Amsterdam on MH17 bound for Kuala Lumpur, as well as Malaysia Airlines, which was at the centre of a similar situation in March when one of its passenger jets went missing over the Indian Ocean.
UPDATE 9AM: Of the 295 passengers and crew on board, it has been confirmed that 27 of them were Australian. Those concerned about the whereabouts of family and friends currently travelling are being urged to contact the DFAT hotline on 1300 555 135.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in speaking to ABC Radio National has said:
“We can assure families that, at the highest levels of government, we feel for them, we grieve with them and we pray for them. That’s the first thing we go. The second thing is to try to provide whatever practical assistance we can, in terms of counsel and the repatriations of remains and so on.”
“[This tragedy is] made worse by reports it might be a crime rather than an accident.”
“Let’s wait until we’ve got all the facts in… but obviously it is the clear and settled position of the Australian government that larger countries should not bully smaller ones, that countries should not aide people in rebelling against their own government and that disputes between nations should be settled peacefully and under international law.”
“We just have all sorts of reports and claims flying around, that’s all we have at the moment.”
“If it does turn out that this aircraft was brought down by a surface-to-air missile, this would be an unspeakable crime
This post updates.
Words by VINCENT VARNEY.