Ukrainian Separatists Shoot Down Plane, Killing 49
Dozens of people are dead after pro-Russia separatists downed a Ukrainian plane early Saturday morning. The plane, a military transport jet, was trying to land at an airport in the restive eastern part of Ukraine, where rebels have been most active. It was shot down with a shoulder-fired missile in what the country's military is calling a terrorist act. All 49 people aboard the jet died in the crash.
The plane had been attempting a descent in Luhansk, one of several cities where separatists have taken over government buildings and declared sovereignty. The crash is reportedly one of the single bloodiest incidents of the current Ukrainian crisis, and the military has vowed to find the parties responsible. “Ukraine needs peace,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a meeting with military advisors after the crash. “But terrorists will receive an adequate response.”
Nine of the victims were crew members, and the other 40 were Ukrainian paratroopers. The plane was also carrying weapons and ammunition, some of which exploded when the plane was shot and upon impact in a barley field 12 miles from the airport. "It is a great loss not only for the families of the deceased ones, but for the whole country," Poroshenko said in an official statement. "Everyone involved in this cynical, large-scale terrorist act will be punished." He also declared Sunday a national day of mourning.
Russia has not commented on the incident directly, though its foreign minister did call for a halt to Ukrainian military activities in the eastern part of the country. The ministry also released a statement claiming border violations on Ukraine's part, although the claims could not be verified.
A surveillance video allegedly of the crash shows what looks to be the missile streaking up across the sky, followed by a flash of light. The crash itself is only evidenced by a sudden burst of orange light on the horizon. By the next day, debris in various states of destruction was strewn across a large area.
"Brother kills brother. When will this end?" one witness told the New York Times. "I heard the plane when it exploded last night. How many mothers won’t see their sons again? And for what?"