There are reports from Russian agency Interfax that a passenger airliner, believed to be Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, has been ‘shot down’ in eastern Ukraine by a ground-to-air missile, 50km away from Russian airspace. 295 passengers and crew are reported to have been killed.
Malaysia Airlines confirms that it lost contact with flight MH17, from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, in Ukrainian airspace.
Reuters reports that burning wreckage and corpses have been found in eastern Ukraine. Russia Life news reports that Dutch and Malaysian passports have been found on the bodies of the dead.
The Ukrainian Interior ministry says that the missile was fired by separatists, and deny categorically that government forces were involved. The Russian government, meanwhile, has denied its involvement.
BBC Monitoring says that, moments before news of this incident was reported, some separatists claimed that they had downed a Ukrainian plane. Several websites (see here and here) appear to confirm this account.
The alleged missile in question, a ‘Soviet-era’ BUK systems (SA11 & 17), is reportedly used by both the Ukrainian and the Russian militaries. Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, has said:
There have been signs of Russia supplying separatist also with fairly advanced surface-to-air systems recently. Horrible.
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) July 17, 2014
Pro-Russian separatists deny that they are responsible and have pointed the finger at the Ukrainian government, according to reports.
President Putin and President Obama have spoken over the telephone about the incident.
More details as we get them.
Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.