A Malaysian passenger plane carrying 295 on board has crashed in Ukraine near the border with Russia. Few details have been confirmed right now and this story continues to develop. The plane was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and was found burning on the ground in Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials are suggesting that the plane, a Boeing 777, could have been shot down by a surface-to-air Buk missile system, though this has not been confirmed.
The Russian news service Interfax reports that 23 U.S. citizens were on board. "It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy," President Obama said Thursday from Wilmington, Delaware. "We're working to determine whether there were American citizens on board—that is our first priority. And I have directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed the crash earlier Thursday. "We do not exclude that this plane was shot down," Poroshenko said, "and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets." In a later statement, he described the incident as "terrorist action." Vice President Biden spoke to Poroshenko by phone Thursday afternoon.
Pro-Russian rebels are denying any involvement in the crash. "We do not have any idea what this is about and who shot down the plane. We're heading there now to investigate everything independently," Tatyana Dvoryadkina, co-chair of the Donetsk People's Republic, a pro-Russian Ukrainian rebel group, told Gazeta, a Russian newspaper.
A Ukrainian government spokesman said (in spotty English) at a press conference Thursday afternoon that his government has intercepted phone calls "where terrorists are discussing to each other that they arrived to the place where the plane shot down" and that "they recognized that the plane is civilian"
Basically, everyone is blaming everybody for the crash. The most extreme example? Russia's RT is nowsuggesting that Vladimir Putin's plane may have been the target for a Ukrainian missile that ultimately took down MH17.
This wouldn't be the first time a plane has been shot down near the Ukraine-Russia border. Just last month, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "condemned in the strongest terms" an attack that brought down a Ukranian military plane in eastern Ukraine, killing 49 people.
Malaysia Airlines confirmed it had lost contact with the flight MH17 earlier Thursday.
Malaysia Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.— Malaysia Airlines (@MAS) July 17, 2014
President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone earlier Thursday. "During the call, Pres. Putin noted the early reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border," the White House press office relays.
The U.K. is pushing for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to go over the crash.
On MSNBC earlier Thursday, Senator John McCain gave an indication of how serious the global ramifications would be if Russia or pro-Russian separatists are found responsible for the crash. "If it is a result of either separatist or Russian actions mistakenly believing this was a Ukrainian war plane, I think there's gonna be hell to pay and there should be," McCain said.
This is the path the plane travelled before it was lost, according to the flight tracking website flightstats.com.
The flight path of Malaysia Airlines 17 ends in the area near the Ukraine-Russia border. (FlightStats)
This path represents a typical flight pattern through the region. However, the FAA has issued flight advisories for the region, saying flying through Ukrainian airspace is a "potentially hazardous situation."
Emma Roller, Kaveh Waddell and Matt Berman contributed to this article.