Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing 298

Saturday, July 19, 2014

File photo from 2010 of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 9M-MRD, the aircraft that was shot down.
Image: Alan Wilson.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile on Thursday according to US officials, over disputed eastern Ukraine by an unidentified party.

The flight, which departed Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in The Netherlands at 10:15 UTC en route to Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia, disappeared from radar at 13:15 UTC near Hrabove, a village in the Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine. 283 passengers and 15 crew were aboard the aircraft, all 298 in total perished. The area the plane was flying over is a conflict zone currently between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatist forces.

United States officials confirmed the aircraft has been shot down, according to data from a surveillance satellite which showed the last trajectory and impact of the missile. The missile is believed to be a Buk M1 surface-to-air missile which are believed to be in the hands of rebels according to reports from the area.

Flight path of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Image: Geordie Bosanko and cmglee.

So far no party has claimed responsibility for the attack. Ukrainian officials denied the missile which shot down the airliner belonged to Ukraine. Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine's foreign minister, said to The Guardian, "We are absolutely sure and we checked yesterday that no missiles have been taken from the Ukrainian army". The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) published on YouTube an alleged wiretap of separatist commanders and Russian intelligence officers discussing the shoot-down and acknowledging the aircraft shot down was civilian.

Meanwhile, Russia's defense ministry has denied involvement, posting a statement on their website which read, "In view of various types of speculation concerning operations of the Russian armed forces in the areas bordering Ukraine, we affirm that the anti-aircraft means of the Russian armed forces did not operate in that region July 17".

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said, "This was not an 'incident', this was not a 'catastrophe', this was a terrorist act". Malyasian prime minister Najib Razak, said, "If it transpires that the flight was shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice."

All civilian aircraft have been barred from flying over eastern Ukraine. The US's Federal Aviation Adminstration issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) prohibiting flight operations by United States carriers over eastern Ukraine. However, questions remain as to why the aircraft was flying over the contested area. Eurocontrol noted airspace was closed up to 32,000 feet. Flight 17 was flying at 33,000 feet just above the restricted airspace. Malaysia Airlines issued a statement saying "The usual flight route was earlier declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). [The] International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions."