KIEV: A Malaysia Airlines passenger airliner with 295 people on board crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border yesterday, the Interfax news agency cited an aviation industry source as saying.
The Boeing plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, it said.
The Interfax report said the plane came down 50km (20 miles) short of entering Russian airspace. It “began to drop, afterwards it was found burning on the ground on Ukrainian territory,” the unnamed source said.
The plane appeared to have come down in a region of military action where Ukrainian government forces are battling pro-Russian separatists.
A separate unnamed source in the Ukrainian security apparatus, quoted by Interfax, said the plane disappeared from radar at a height of 10,000 metres after which it came down near the town of Shakhtyorsk.
The Ukraine Interior Ministry was reported as saying the plane was shot down with a ground-to-air missile near the Ukraine-Russian borders. It blamed separatists for the tragedy.
Meanwhile in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines said it had “lost contact” with one of its passenger planes whose last known position was over Ukraine.
“Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam,” the airline, still reeling from the disappearance of flight MH370, said on its Twitter account.
“The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace,” it said, adding that it would provide more details soon.
Ukarine regional officials said the number of dead was “not yet known” but Russian news agency Itar-Tass cited an unnamed source at Ukraine’s aviation authority as saying there were no survivors.
Eyewitnesses quoted by Russian news agency RIA Novosti spoke of dozens of bodies at the crash site.
Interfax also quoted the deputy prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, Andrei Purgin, as saying a group of rebels had arrived at scene and found “many dead”.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the jet may have been shot down.
“We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine Armed Forces did not fire at any targets in the sky,” Poroshenko said in a statement.
The Boeing 777 aircraft was expected in the Malaysian capital at around 6:00 am on Friday Malaysia Airlines said.
Still reeling from the disappearance of flight MH370, Malaysia announced on Twitter the loss of the airliner.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on his Twitter feed he was “shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed.”
“We are launching an immediate investigation.”
Ukraine’s Poroshenko expressed his “deepest and sincerest sympathies for the families and loved ones of those killed” and vowed that “those behind this tragedy will be brought to justice.”
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama had discussed the shocking new development in crisis-torn Ukraine where fighting between pro-Russian separatists and the Western-backed government has claimed over 600 lives.
The incident comes just months after Malaysia’s Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8 with 239 on board. The plane diverted from its Kuala Lumpur to Beijing flight path and its fate remains a mystery despite a massive aerial and underwater search.
Rescue workers say they have found at least 100 bodies, near the village of Grabovo, spread across an area of up to 15 kilometres, Reuters reports.
Broken piecsofd dozens of severely mutilated corpses could be seen strewn in the wreckage of a Malaysian airliner that crashed Thursday in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Debris was spread out for kilometres and the tail of a passenger jet lay in a corn field with the Malaysian Airlines insignia on it while insurgent fighters and several fire trucks were seen nearby the crash site.