Tensions rise following Ukraine plane crash
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine at Torez, near Shakhtersk.
GRABOVO, UKRAINE - Tensions in Ukraine appear to be increasing on Thursday following the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, with both sides of the territorial dispute in the country accusing each other of shooting the aircraft down.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine at Torez, near Shakhtersk, some 40 kilometres from the border with Russia.
The airline said it lost contact with the aircraft at 3.15 pm South African time after it departed from Amsterdam bound for Kuala Lumpur at 12.15 pm.
Pro-Russian rebels have been highly active in the area of the crash site and have claimed to have shot down other aircraft there.
Raising the stakes in the East-West showdown between Kiev and Moscow, a Ukrainian interior ministry official blamed "terrorists" using a ground-to-air missile and Ukraine's prime minister called the downing of the flight a "catastrophe".
A Reuters correspondent saw burning wreckage and bodies on the ground in the village of Grabovo while an emergency ministry official also on the scene reported seeing body parts scattered around up to 15 kilometres from the crash site.
The Boeing 777 came down near the city of Donetsk, a stronghold of pro-Russian rebels, interior ministry official Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook, adding it 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.
The dead were 280 passengers and 15 crew.
File photo of BUK missile, the type believed to have shot down #MH17. #9NEWS pic.twitter.com/CKw8Ru9H2x
- Brandon Rittiman (@BrandonRittiman) July 17, 2014
A rebel leader said Ukrainian forces shot the airliner down. Ukrainian official said their military was not involved.
Interfax-Ukraine quoted another Ukrainian official as saying the plane disappeared from radar when it was flying at 10,000 metres, a typical cruising altitude for airliners.
Ukraine has accused Russia of taking an active role in the four-month-old conflict in recent days and accused it earlier on Thursday of shooting down a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet - an accusation that Moscow denied.
The military commander of the rebels, a Russian named Igor Strelkov, had written on his social media page shortly before the report of the airliner being downed that his forces had brought down an Antonov An-26 in the same area.
It is a turboprop transport plane of a type used by Ukraine's forces.
Meanwhile, several major airlines have said they will no longer fly over Ukrainian airspace except when necessary, particularly the more volatile areas.
Picture Flight MH17 taking off from Amsterdam and of crash site: AFP.