HRABOVE, Ukraine: A Malaysian airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine yesterday, killing all 295 people aboard and raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels that has set Russia and the West at daggers drawn.
As the US said the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was “blown out of the sky”, probably 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 SA-11 ground-to-air missile.
Leaders of the rebel Donetsk People’s Republic denied involvement and said a Ukrainian air force jet had brought down the intercontinental flight. But separatists have said 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 scale of the disaster, which left scores of unsuspecting foreigners, adults and children, strewn lifeless across the muddy Ukrainian steppe, could prove a turning point for international pressure to resolve the crisis. It has killed hundreds since protests toppled the Moscow-backed president in Kiev in February and Russia annexed the Crimea a month later.
The United Nations Security Council plans an emergency meeting on Ukraine today, diplomats said. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged a full international investigation.
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, 40km from the Russian border near the rebel-held regional capital of Donetsk. More than half of the dead, 154 people, were Dutch. Another 27 were Australian and 23 Malaysian.
The Ukrainian government, condemning an act of “terrorism”, released recordings it said were of Russian intelligence officers discussing the shooting down of a civilian airliner by rebels who may have mistaken it for a Ukrainian military plane.Agencies