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Flight MH17 was 'Blown out of the sky'

Tensions in Ukraine are increasing after Malaysia Airlines passenger flight MH17 was shot down.

A picture taken on 17 July 2014 shows the wreckage of Malaysia Airline flight MH17 which was shot down over Ukraine. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG/UKRAINE - A Malaysian airliner was shot down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard and sharply raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels that has set Russia and the West at daggers drawn.

As the United States said the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was "blown out of the sky", by a ground-launched missile, Ukraine and Russia traded accusations of blame, cranking up global pressure for a way out of a bloody local conflict that risks fuelling a new Cold War.

Ukraine accused pro-Moscow militants, aided by Russian military intelligence officers, of firing a long-range, Soviet-era BUK M1 surface-to-air missile.

Leaders of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic denied any involvement and said a Ukrainian air force jet had brought down the intercontinental flight.

But separatists have said that they took control of such a missile system last month and had used it to shoot down a Ukrainian military transport plane that was destroyed on Monday.

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.

Post by Malaysia Airlines.

The airline also revised the death toll early Friday morning from its initial figure of 283.

#MalaysiaPlane #MalaysiaAirlines have revised the death toll from flight #MH17 to 298. pic.twitter.com/z5rIx5knez

'BLOWN OUT OF THE SKY'

US Vice President Joe Biden said it appeared that the downing of the plane was not an accident and that the passenger jet apparently was "blown out of the sky."

"This is truly a grave situation," Biden said in a speech in Detroit.

He said he had seen reports that Americans may have been on board and that "we're now working every minute to try to confirm those reports as I speak."

Biden said the downing of the jet was tragic and said he spoke to Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko over the phone.

"Nearly 300 souls have been lost. The families need consolation and our prayers. And there are many questions that need to be answered, and we'll get those answers. And we will take the next steps accordingly."

. @JoeBiden tells a crowd that #MalaysiaAirlines #MH17 "had been shot down." http://t.co/s1Vd3bEzSo pic.twitter.com/CZXSGMY7e3 via @cnnvideo

The White House also released a statement offering their deepest condolences to all those who lost loved ones on board.

"We offer our deep condolences to all those who lost loved ones on board." - @PressSec on #MH17: pic.twitter.com/LN4gNIXfZh

CARNAGE

Reuters journalists saw burning and charred wreckage bearing the red and blue Malaysia insignia and dozens of bodies strewn in fields near the village of Hrabove, 40 km from the Russian border near the rebel-held regional capital of Donetsk.

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 M1 surface-to-air-missile by terrorists" - the term the Kiev government uses for militants seeking to unite eastern Ukraine with Russia.

Malaysian Airlines flight #MH17 reported to have been shot down by BUK-M1 [aka SA-11] surface-to-air missile system pic.twitter.com/UWwFifWhZr

An emergency worker said at least 100 bodies had been found so far and that debris was spread over 15 km.

People were scouring the area for the black box flight recorders and separatists were later quoted as saying they had found one.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak demanded swift justice for those responsible and said the crash site must not be interfered with before international experts had access.

"MH-17 is not an incident or catastrophe, it is a terrorist attack," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted. He has stepped up his military campaign against the rebels since a ceasefire late last month failed to produce any negotiations.