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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Malaysia airliner: 'We must, and we will, find out precisely what happened to this flight. No stone will be left unturned' - Prime Minister

* All 280 passengers and 15 crew have been killed
* Confirmed nationalities of the deceased: 154 Dutch, 27 Australian, 11 Indonesian, six British, four German; four Belgium, three Phillippines, one Canadian, 23 Malaysian
* Malaysia has launched an immediate probe into the crash
* This is the third aircraft to have been downed in recent days

Denise Calnan and Geraldine Gittens

Published 17/07/2014 | 16:30

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A major investigation has been launched into the Malaysian passenger plane crash in the Ukraine, in which all 295 passengers were killed.

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Interfax news agency said that the plane was shot down at an altitude of 10km (33,000 feet), a typical cruising altitude for airliners.

A Malaysian expert (C) examines a black box belonging to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during its handover from pro-Russian separatists, in Donetsk July 22, 2014. The remains of some of the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane downed over Ukraine were making their way to the Netherlands on Tuesday as Senior Ukrainian separatist leader Aleksander Borodai handed over the plane's black boxes to Malaysian experts. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS TRANSPORT DISASTER CIVIL UNREST)
A Malaysian expert (C) examines a black box belonging to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during its handover from pro-Russian separatists, in Donetsk
A Malaysian expert (L) examines a black box belonging to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during its handover from pro-Russian separatists, in Donetsk July 22, 2014. The remains of some of the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane downed over Ukraine were making their way to the Netherlands on Tuesday as Senior Ukrainian separatist leader Aleksander Borodai handed over the plane's black boxes to Malaysian experts. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS TRANSPORT DISASTER CIVIL UNREST)
A Malaysian expert (L) examines a black box belonging to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during its handover from pro-Russian separatists, in Donetsk
Fires burn as night falls on the crash site of Malaysia MH17 in Ukraine
Fires burn as night falls on the crash site of Malaysia MH17 in Ukraine

All 280 passengers and 15 crew have been killed, including 154 Dutch people, 27 Australians and 23 US citizens, Interfax reports.

Malaysia has launched a probe into the crash, its prime minister Najib Razak said.

“The Ukrainian authorities believe that the plane was shot down."

"At this stage, however, Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy but we must, and we will, find out precisely what happened to this flight. No stone will be left unturned,” Mr Razak said.

"If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice."

"An international team must have full access to the crash site and no one should interfere with the area, or move any debris, including the black box," he said.

He said: "This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia."

Mr Razak added: "our thoughts and prayers" are with the next-of-kin of the deceased.

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The flight path of MH17 before the crash

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An Emergencies Ministry member walks at the site of the plane crash

Mr Razak said Malaysia has been unable to verify reports that the plane was shot down.

He confirmed that flight MH17 did not make a distress call before it crashed.

"We have a flight on its way to Kiev to the area with special emergency personnel and medical personnel," he said.

"I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation," he said earlier.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that if the downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine was a deliberate act, then "it is an unspeakable crime" and the perpetrators must be swiftly brought to justice.

Abbott said he believed at least 23 Australians were on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Abbott was speaking shortly after the European head of Malaysia Airlines said at least 27 Australians were among the 295 passengers on the flight.

If the numbers are confirmed, Australians would represent the second-largest national grouping, behind the Dutch, on the plane that crashed on Thursday.

"It is a very, very sad time, made worse by reports that it might be a crime rather than an accident," Abbott said.

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Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Malaysia Airlines has said the airline’s priority is to look after the next-of-kin of the deceased passengers and crew.

The flight was a code share between Dutch airline KLM and Malaysia Airlines.

A spokesperson for Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said it is investigating the possibility of any Irish involvement in the plane disaster. This is being done through the Irish embassies in Prague, which has responsibility for Ukraine, and the Hague, which is where the flight originated.

The Dutch foreign minister has described today as a "very black day" for the Netherlands.

He said the emergency responders must be given "unhindered and safe" access to the site where the jet carrying at least 154 Dutch citizens crashed.

"This is a very black day for the Netherlands," said Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, adding that there needed to be an independent investigation into the crash.

Ukrainian officials had accused rebels of hampering access to the crash site.

This is the third aircraft to have been downed in recent days, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has confirmed, and he called for international experts to investigate today's tragedy.

Mr Poroshenko said: "We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets."

"We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible."

Blame:

Two intercepted telephone conversations apparently show rebels were responsible for downing the Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's security services produced the recordings and said in the first call rebel commander Igor Bezler tells a Russian military intelligence officer that rebel forces shot down a plane.

In the second, two rebel fighters - one of them at the scene of the crash - say the rocket attack was carried out by a unit of insurgents about 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of the crash site.

Neither recording could be independently verified.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Ukraine bears responsibility for the crash of a Malaysian airliner.

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An emergency worker at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in Grabovo in Donetsk

The plane MH17 crashed to the north of Torez in the Donetsk, an area that is controlled by pro-Russian separatists who are fighting the Ukrainian army.

Early reports had suggested that the airspace in which the aircraft was flying, was closed to civilian aircraft by the State Aviation Administration of Ukraine on July 8.

But it has been confirmed that flight MH17 was flying in open airspace but approximately 1,000ft above closed airspace in the Donetsk region of the Ukraine, close to the Russian border.

Data published by airline data firm FlightAware has shown that MH17 was on the exact same flight path it takes everyday. The flight, which runs daily, always travels through Ukrainian airspace and does not seem to have deviated from the paths of previous flights.

Separatists:

Armed separatists are hindering search efforts at the site in eastern Ukraine, the head of Ukraine's emergency services said.

"The search work is difficult because we are talking about a big radius ... but also because armed terrorists who are on the spot are hampering things," Serhiy Bochkovsky said. He gave no details.

Ukrainian interior ministry official Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook the plane was "shot down with a Buk anti-aircraft system by terrorists" - the term the Kiev government uses for militants seeking to unite eastern Ukraine with Russia.

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Buk missile

The aircraft reportedly had to cross the Russian border at about 9:30 EDT (1.30 GMT).

The aircraft, understood to be a Boeing 777 with flight number MH17, which departed from Amsterdam at 12.14am local time, 15 minutes later than scheduled, according to flight records.

Fears grew this morning when Malaysia Airlines tweeted: "Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow."

International response:

The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: "I am deeply shocked by the dramatic reports on the crash of of Malaysia Airlines MH17."

Meanwhile, David Cameron said earlier today: "I'm shocked and saddened by the Malaysian air disaster. Officials from across Whitehall are meeting to establish the facts."

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Malaysian airliner crash with US President Barack Obama.

A Malaysian Department for Transport spokesman said of the Malaysian Airlines crash: "Flights already airborne are being routed around the area by air traffic control in the region."

"Pilots around the world have been advised to plan routes that avoid the area by Eurocontrol, the European organisation for the safety of air navigation."

A British Airways spokeswoman said: "Our flights are not using Ukrainian airspace, with the exception of our once-a-day service between Heathrow and Kiev."

"We are keeping those services under review, but Kiev is several hundred kilometres from the incident site."

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A file photo of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777

Ukraine

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko appeared to blame separatists for the missile strike, saying the "armed forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets".

The area of Ukraine where the plane was downed, has been the battleground of a months-long war between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels.

A number of Ukrainian military planes have been shot down by missiles in recent weeks, with Ukraine accusing Russia's military of supplying advanced missiles to the rebels.

Second tragedy  for Malaysia Airlines:

This is the latest tragedy to strike Malaysia Airlines in a matter of months. MH370 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that lost contact with air traffic control March 8, and was never found despite international search efforts.

The disappearance of MH370 in March has since remained a mystery, with searches continuing in the Indian Ocean for the plane wreckage.

The flight, with 239 people on board, was believed to be heading on a flight path to a remote island far into the southern Indian Ocean where the search is now focused.

More than 150 of its 227 passengers were Chinese nationals.

Statement from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called for the establishment of the State Commission with the involvement of experts from ICAO and other international organisations to investigate the tragedy with the airplane airline "Malaysian Airlines' Boeing 777.

Today at approximately 16.20 disappeared from radar screens aircraft airline "Malaysian Airlines' Boeing 777, was flying from Amsterdam

In recent days, this is the third tragic accident after the Russian territory were downed aircraft AN-26 and SU-25 Armed Forces of Ukraine. We do not exclude that this aircraft was also shot down, and stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not commit any action to defeat the purposes of the air.

President of Ukraine on behalf of the State expresses its deep and sincere condolences to the families and relatives of the victims of this terrible tragedy. Made all possible search and rescue activities.

The Head of State appealed to the Cabinet of Ministers in order to urgently established the State Commission for the Investigation of the incident in order to properly investigate the causes of this tragedy. The President proposed to involve the Commission experts from ICAO and other international organizations, as well as representatives of the Netherlands and Malaysia.

These tweets are collated from around the world and independent.ie cannot verify their authenticit

Reuters

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