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Renowned sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik creates a sand sculpture on shot down Malaysian airlines plane MH 17, at Puri beach of Odisha
All 295 people on board a Malaysia Airlines plane were killed today after the jet was shot down by "terrorists" over war-torn eastern Ukraine near the Russian border, nearly four months after the mysterious disappearance of MH370 in the Indian Ocean. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew. Malaysia Airlines confirmed that it received notification from Ukrainian Air Traffic Control that it had lost contact with Flight MH17 at 1415 GMT (8:45 IST) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border. "Nearly 300 people died when a Malaysia Airlines Boeing- 777 crashed in eastern Ukraine," an advisor to the Ukrainain Interior Minister, Anton Herashchenko, said. "It was flying at the altitude of 10,000 meters. 280 passengers and 15 crew members died," he said in a Facebook post. "The aircraft was shot down over Ukraine by terrorists operating a Buk surface-to-air missile system," he said. Witnesses from the town of Torez in the rebellion-wracked Donetsk region of Ukraine told RIA Novosti news agency that the plane wreckage and dead bodies have been found in the area. At least several dozen bodies were found scattered around the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in eastern Ukraine, witnesses said, adding the debris of the plane covered an area of about one square kilometer. The reports said that 23 Americans, 9 Britons and 71 Dutch nationals were among passengers. Russia sent its Ukrainian colleagues a request to conduct joint rescue works at the crash site. The plane disappeared from the radar and teams from the emergency services have reached the scene. Burning aircraft wreckage and bodies strewn on the ground were seen at the village of Grabovo, some 40 kms from the Russian border in an area where pro-Russian rebels are active. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that the jetliner may have been shot down over his country's airspace. "This incident is not a catastrophe. It is a terrorist act," he said. Ukrainian officials have accused pro-Russian rebels of being responsible for shooting down the plane. But the press service of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic claimed the jet was downed by a missile fired from a Ukrainian air force Su-25 combat jet, a charge denied by Ukraine. "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 posted on the president's website. 
The plane could have been brought down by a ground-to-air missile, sources said. "I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on his Twitter feed. "We are launching an immediate investigation," he said as he rushed to the Kuala Lumpur airport. Workers at the crash site were trying to find the black box. Some media reports said pro-Russian separatists claimed to have found the flight recorders. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also ordered a probe into accident. A number of Ukrainian military planes have been shot down by missiles in recent weeks. Ukraine has accused Russia's military of supplying advanced missiles to the rebels, the BBC reported. Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian officials blamed the Russian air force for shooting down one of its ground attack jets on Wednesday. Tensions have been high between Ukraine and Russia since street protests forced former pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February. Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's southeastern Crimea region and a pro-Russia separatist rebellion has been raging in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Ukrainian forces have been struggling to quell the separatist unrest. Ukraine's government has accused Russia of allowing weapons and military equipment, including tanks, to cross the border illegally into the hands of pro-Russia separatists. US President Barack Obama described the incident as a "terrible tragedy". He said US officials were trying to establish if any Americans were on board. Russian President Vladimir Putin "expressed deep condolences" to Malaysia's Prime Minister over the crash, a post Thursday on the Kremlin's website said. Several airlines, including Air India, Jet Airways Lufthansa and Air France, say they will now avoid eastern Ukrainian airspace.


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