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Malaysia Airlines Flight #MH17 Crashes over Ukrainian Airspace, May have been Shot Down by Russian Antiaircraft Missile

( [email protected] ) Jul 17, 2014 03:14 PM EDT

Update: The United States also has concluded that the plane was shot down, but hasn't pinpointed who was responsible, a senior U.S. official told CNN. A radar system saw a surface-to-air missile system turn on and track an aircraft right before the plane went down, according to the official. A second system saw a heat signature at the time the airliner was hit, the official said. U.S. is analyzing the trajectory of the missile to try to learn where the attack came from. 

Malaysia Airline MH17 Crash in Ukraine
Wreckages of the Malaysian airliner carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed in rebel-held Eastern Ukraine. DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP/Getty Images
Malaysia Airline MH17 Crash in Ukraine
People walk amongst the debris, at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine. Dmitry Lovetsky / Associated Press

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine Thursday, carrying 295 people. The New York Times reports that the Boeing 777 might have been shot down by a Russian antiaircraft mechanism on its way toward Kuala Lampur, Malaysia from Amsterdam. No survivors have been reported.

Officials at Malaysia Airlines say they lost contact with the crew of flight MH17 while the plane neared the eastern Ukrainian border. The plane reportedly crashed near the town of Grabovo, where fighting between Russian separatists and Ukrainians has been escalating. Fox News reports that 23 of the passengers on the flight manifest were Americans.

Both Ukrainian president Petro O. Poroshenko and Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak have instigated investigations of the crash. "The President of Ukraine on behalf of the State expresses its deepest and most sincere condolences to the families and relatives of those killed in this terrible tragedy ... Every possible search and rescue effort is being made," says Poroshenko. President Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin have reportedly spoken about the matter over the phone as well.

The leader of the Russian separatists denies that the rebels were involved in the plane crash, and suggests that Ukrainians may have shot the plane down. He also says that the separatists' antiaircraft weapons - though they have been used to shoot down Ukrainian military planes in the past - can only reach around 13,000 feet; a Russian reference manual suggests that some Russian antiaircraft systems can reach up to 72,000 feet, however, and it is suspected that the rebels may have had access to such weapons.

Retired Army Lt. Col Ralph Peters told Fox News that he believes the Russian military might be to blame, however. It is unlikely, he suggests, that Russia would put such a capable antiaircraft missile in the hands of the separatists. The Russian military, which he claims has been shooting Ukrainian military planes down recently, may have accidentally mistaken the Malaysian passenger jet for a Ukrainian aircraft.

The location of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which is suspected to have crashed in March, is still unknown.