2 Ukrainian Fighter Jets Shot Down — Live Updates

by Nuzha Nuseibeh

Wednesday, July 23, 8:30 a.m.

Not long after two military transport planes carrying the bodies of the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 departed from eastern Ukraine, two Ukrainian military fighter jets were reportedly shot down in the region. According to The Associated Press, the Sukhoi-25 planes were struck in an area called Saur Mogila, located in the Donetsk Oblast.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said each jet may have been carrying up to two crew members. The pilots reportedly ejected from the planes, but their current condition is unconfirmed. The Ukrainian military said the jets had just completed a mission near Dmytrivka when they were shot down.

This is the first time Ukrainian military jets have been shot down by antiaircraft missiles launched by pro-Russia separatists since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last Thursday. Just a day before the separatists allegedly shot the commercial plane carrying 298 passengers, they brought down a Sukhoi-25 that was flying in the region.

Meanwhile, the bodies of some of the victims of MH17 are currently en route to the Netherlands, where they will be honored in a national day of mourning. The Dutch government said once the bodies arrive, they will be taken to military barracks to begin the identification process.

Tuesday, July 22, 5:21 p.m.

While the U.S. still believes that Russia is to be held responsible for "creating the conditions" that led to the tragedy involving MH17, intelligence officials have cautiously stated that there is no link between the missile and Russian president Putin's administration.

There is still no word on who fired what is suspected to be a SA-11 surface-to-air missile. However, after further investigations, American intelligence officers seem to believe that MH17 was shot down by mistake. Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have previously fired at 12 Ukrainian military aircraft, and may not have realized that the Malaysian Airlines plane was a commercial flight.

Thus far, much of the investigation has relied upon videos taken by eye-witnesses and posts on social media sites, some of which have yet to be confirmed as legitimate.

The Russian government has been accused of helping to train and supply separatists with weaponry, but U.S. officials stated that there is no evidence to suggest that the missile used came from Russia. Mystery still surrounds the origin of the missile, and as one intelligence officer said, "We don't know a name, we don't know a rank and we're not even 100 percent sure of a nationality" in terms of who pulled the trigger.

Tuesday, July 22, 8:00 a.m.

Political tensions remain between Russia and the Western world. On Monday night, Russia asked for evidence that a Russian-made missile struck MH17, claiming that the country is in the middle of “groundless” finger-pointing accusations.

“There have been a lot of accusations and finger pointing towards Russia,” Lyudmila Vorobyeva, President Vladimir Putin’s ambassador to Malaysia, told reporters. “The U.S. claims they have evidence of what happened, where is this evidence?”

Vorobyeva added her condolences to the family members of the 298 victims killed in the crash last Thursday. However, she emphasized that Russia’s current concern is the politicizing of the disaster, which has pitted the eastern and western worlds against each other in recent days.

Vorobyeva said:

I want to make it very clear. In Russia we are not playing these games that our Western counterparts are engaging very much in, blaming someone and accusing some parties without any evidence, we are not doing that. We’re calling for a thorough investigation that could produce evidence who is responsible for this tragedy.

The call for more evidence, as well as a “transparent investigation,” from Moscow comes on the heels of announcements made by both the Ukrainian and U.S. governments that a Russian-made missile downed MH17.

Monday, July 21st, 8:30 p.m.

Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have handed over flight MH17's black box to the Malaysian government. Alexander Borodai, self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the "Donetsk People's Republic" in Eastern Ukraine, insisted during the exchange that the missile that downed the Malaysian Airlines flight on Thursday came from Ukrainian government, not the pro-Russian rebels he's leading.

"We don't have the technical ability to destroy this plane," Borodai said. "The Ukrainians had the technical capabilities and the motives to do it."

He added that the Malaysian government's acceptance of the black box amounts to de facto recognition of the Donetsk People's Republic as a legitimate state.

Monday, July 21, 8:15 a.m.

While speaking to reporters in Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said Russia is “on the dark side,” and held the Russian government, including President Vladimir Putin, responsible for the downing of MH17, which was allegedly hit by a Russian-made missile. All 298 passengers onboard were killed.

Yatseniuk told press:

This is a global threat and Russia is on the dark side. This is our priority and [should be] the key priority of the entire world — to stop Russian aggression. … I expect nothing from the Russian government. What they can do… they can supply weapons, they can send well-trained agents, they can support these guerillas, but they have to stop and Putin has to realize that enough is enough. This is not the conflict just between Ukraine and Russia. This is an international and global conflict after they shot down MH17.

The Ukrainian prime minister added that Russia “trained these bastards [the Ukrainian separatists] and supported them and even orchestrated ‎this despicable crime.” Putin, he said, has created “an international war.”

His statements come on the heels of a newly launched assault in the Donetsk region, where the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight crashed last Thursday. According to BBC News, there have been reports of heavy fighting in the city of Donetsk, which is currently under rebel control. Eyewitnesses said the fighting is occurring near the city’s airport — the second-largest international airport in the Ukraine — and rail station. Donetsk residents are reportedly leaving the city.

Sunday, July 20, 8:00 p.m.

The site of a downed Malaysia Airlines flight heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur before it was struck by a missile on July 17 continued sparking international outrage on Sunday as disputes over the handling of the crash site intensified. The Netherlands, the U.S., the UK, and Malaysia all started pointing fingers at Russian President Vladimir Putin for the mishandling of the MH17 crash site on Sunday. The crash site was called "severely compromised" by Maksym Murbak, Malaysia's transport minister, according to USA Today.

Malaysia is very concerned that the sanctity of the crash site has been severely compromised.

The Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a statement that the way bodies and victims' personal effects were being treated was horrifying, according to The New York Times.

Swift recovery of the victims’ remains is now an absolute necessity and our highest priority. I am shocked by the images of completely disrespectful behavior at this tragic place. In defiance of all the rules of proper investigation, people have evidently been picking through the personal and recognizable belongings of the victims. This is appalling.
Rob Stothard/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Sunday, July 20, 9:45 a.m.

A separatist leader in Ukraine announced Sunday that his rebel group has found MH17's black box, which will reportedly be handed over to an aviation organization. "Some items, presumably the black boxes, were found, and they have been delivered to Donetsk and they are under our control," announced Aleksander Borodai, the leader of the rebels in the city of Donetsk. "There are no specialists among us who could pinpoint the look of the black boxes, but we brought to Donetsk some technical items which could be the black boxes of the airliner." It was subsequently revealed that the equipment will be turned over to the Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations group.

Meanwhile, the bodies from the crash, which the same group is holding, still rest in mystery. Up to 196 corpses have been loaded onto refrigerated train cars now parked at the station in Torez, a town nine miles from the crash site. International officials were allowed to examine the contents of three of the cars, but the bodies' destination remains a mystery.

Saturday, July 19, 8:00 p.m.

Although many state officials from around the world have called for a political ceasefire in the wake of tragedy, some leaders are demanding answers from Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Saturday evening that Putin has “one last chance” to show that he and his country are willing to help.

According to The Guardian, Rutte had a “very intense” conversation with the Russian president on Saturday, and is still disappointed and angered by Russia’s lack of action. On the reports of bodies being treated with disrespect at the crash site, Rutte said: “I was shocked at the pictures of utterly disrespectful behaviour at this tragic spot. It’s revolting.”

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron also addressed the current state of affairs between Russia and the west, calling for a change of approach from the European Union if Russia continues to disregard the conflict in the Ukraine.

“This is a direct result of Russia destabilising a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias, and training and arming them,” Cameron said. “We must turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action.”

Saturday, July 19, 6:00 p.m.

Two days after the deadly crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, tensions continue to mount between the Ukraine and Russia as reports outline incidences of looting, tampering with evidence and unauthorized moving of bodies. Ukrainian state officials have started putting more pressure on its neighbor, claiming on Saturday that they have evidence that the Russian government provided Ukrainian rebels with the missile system that allegedly brought down the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight.

According to The New York Times, Vitaly Nayda, the head of counterintelligence for the Ukrainian State Security Service, revealed the new information at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Nayda presented photographs of three Buk-M1 missile systems on the road heading to the Russian border. The Buk missile launchers were attached to armed vehicles, and reportedly crossed into Russia early Friday morning.

Saturday, July 19, 2:30 p.m.

A Roman Catholic nun who taught high school. A couple returning from a month-long European vacation. A renown AIDs researcher on his way to an international conference. These were among the 298 passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 who were killed Thursday after their plane was struck by a ground-to-air missile and crashed in eastern Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines released the flight's passenger manifesto on Saturday on its website, revealing the names and nationalities of the 298 people on board, who hailed from 11 different countries.

According to Malaysian officials, the majority of the MH17 passengers were Dutch nationals — 193 people in all. There were also 43 Malaysians (including 15 of the plane's staff and two infants), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians (including one infant), 10 Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos, one New Zealander and one Canadian on the doomed flight. The only confirmed U.S. victim was a dual citizen of the United States and the Netherlands.

"Malaysia Airlines requests the cooperation of members of the media to respect the privacy of the grieving families," the airline said in a statement. "The airline’s top priority remains to provide care and assistance to the families of the passengers and crew and any information with regards to their movement will not be made public."

Saturday, July 19, 8:30 a.m.

The investigation into the MH17 crash is not getting any easier, it seems, with rebels being accused of stealing evidence and moving bodies by the Ukrainian government on Saturday. They apparently took 38 bodies to a morgue where they could get "Russian-sounding" experts to perform their own autopsies. Not only that, but the investigators are still finding it hard to even get onto the site — the armed separatists are apparently still blocking the search teams, according to Ukrainian officials.

“Russian-led terrorists are preventing access of the international community and foreign governments to the location where MH17 crashed,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said via Twitter.

Friday, July 18, 11:00 p.m.

Things aren't starting off too well in the MH-17 investigation, where OSCE researchers were apparently barred by armed separatists from investigating parts of the site on Friday — and where no one seems to know the location of the plane's black boxes. Various governments involved in the investigation have repeatedly urged whoever is control of the site (and no one really seems to know) to leave it alone. But as anyone who's browsed horrific photos and descriptions of the crash scene can tell you, that's not what's happening on the ground; a curious public and lots of separatists have been combing through the wreckage.

A spokesman from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Michael Bociurkiw, told CNN on Friday that conditions at the site weren't good.

It basically looks like the biggest crime scene in the world right now, guarded by a bunch of guys in uniform with heavy firepower who are quite inhospitable.

The Associated Press reports that while the OSCE team was allowed to get to the site itself, they weren't allowed to investigate it much. One armed separatist reportedly fired a warning shot into the air when investigators were on-site, though OSCE later said the shot was to warn off civilians. Bodies on the site, which should be kept cooled so autopsies and causes of death can be properly determined, have reportedly started to decompose.

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Bociurkiw, a Canadian, told CNN that when the group asked to talk to whoever is in charge and try and figure out where the black boxes were, a drunk guy showed up. Others looked "slightly intoxicated," Reuters reported Bociurkiw saying in an earlier news conference.

There was one gentleman there in a uniform, heavily armed and apparently somewhat intoxicated, who wasn't very hospitable or helpful at all. In fact in the end he kind of rushed all of them away, including the journalists.

Friday, July 18, 12:25 a.m.

President Barack Obama has addressed the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane crash in Ukraine officially, speaking on Friday from the White House. In his speech, Obama addressed the myriad of misinformation currently out there, and confirmed that there was in fact one American on board the Boeing 777. He also reiterated that there's still no definite word on who fired the sea-to-air missile that brought MH17 down, though he said the "shot was taken in territory controlled by separatists."

Ultimately, the President emphasized the need for a ceasefire, saying: "It’s time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine."

Friday, July 18, 09:15 a.m.

Although nothing has officially been confirmed about who fired the missile that brought down the Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine, CNN is reporting that — at least according to a preliminary assessment — MH17 was hit by pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The report suggests that the rebels thought they were targeting a Ukrainian military plane.

As it stands, there's still a lot of speculation. Yesterday, the New York Times reported American authorities had confirmed that a surface-to-air missile brought down the jet, though the missile's origin remained unclear. Vice President Joe Biden has said that the Boeing 777 — which was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur —was “blown out of the sky,” but stopped short of pointing fingers. Though Ukraine has largely blamed Russia for the "international crime", Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement. (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said flatly: "As for the things they are saying in Kiev, basically accusing us of doing it, over the past months, I have pretty much never heard a truthful statement coming out of Kiev.")

More information about the 298 people on board the plane was also released late Thursday. In spite of earlier reports of U.S. citizens being among the victims, in fact, no Americans were on the plane. The majority of the passengers — 154 — were Dutch; there were also 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, six Britons, four Germans, and four Belgians. At least a hundred of those on board were top AIDS researchers heading to a conference in Australia.

Friday, July 18, 08:30 a.m.

The Russian news site Interfax is claiming that the black box from the crashed jet has been sent to Moscow by pro-Russian separatists.

Friday, July 18, 08:20 a.m.

Reuters is reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin calling for a ceasefire in order to allow for "negotiations."

Thursday, July 17, 21:41

The FAA has banned U.S. airlines from flying over Eastern Ukraine.

Thursday, July 17, 6:35 p.m.

Russian president Vladimir Putin issued a televised statement in which he offered his condolences to the victims' families, and blamed Ukraine for the "disaster." Said Putin "And without doubt the government of the territory on which it happened bears responsibility for this frightening tragedy," adding that the crash would not have happened if Ukraine had not revived its efforts against pro-Russian separatists.

Thursday, July 17, 3:52 p.m.

Following speculation that MH17 was brought down by force, American intelligence officials have confirmed these reports, stating that an antiaircraft missile was responsible for the crash. Though there is no word yet as to the missile's origins, Defense Department officials have reason to believe that Ukrainian separatists used a captured Ukrainian Army Buk missile system. The separatists do not otherwise have weaponry advanced enough to shoot down a plane at 30,000 feet.

Thursday, July 17, 3:27 p.m.

In spite of the separatists' offer of a ceasefire, reports are saying that the scene is chaotic, with "armed terrorists" — presumably pro-Russian separatists — impeding the recovery effort.

Thursday, July 17, 3:18 p.m.

Various sources are now saying that the Ukrainian government has claimed to have proof that the plane was shot down by Russian supporters. They say they have an audio recording of the plane being ordered to be gunned down.

Thursday, July 17, 3:10 p.m.

Reuters is reporting that the rebel forces have agreed to a three-day ceasefire, so that recovery work can get going on the crash site.

Thursday, July 17, 2:59 p.m.

A Ukrainian witness has told NBC News that he saw something he believes to be the missile being fired into the sky. "You know how you see a trail from a plane? It was the same, but it was a missile launched from the ground," the witness said.

Thursday, July 17, 2:52 p.m.

The Kremlin has put out an official statement about the tragedy, expressing condolences to Malaysia's prime minister. Here it is in full, via their website:

Vladimir Putin expressed his deep condolences to Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak in connection with the crash of a Malaysian airlines passenger plane over the Ukrainian territory, which led to numerous casualties.The President of Russia asked the Prime Minister of Malaysia to convey his deepest sympathy and support to the victims’ families.

Thursday, July 17, 2:44 p.m.

Buzzfeed is reporting that the crash site is now completely under the control of the rebel forces, and that they've even stolen the plane's black box.

Thursday, July 17, 2:40 p.m.

The BBC's UN correspondent has tweeted that Britain is calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in response to the Boeing crash.

Thursday, July 17, 2:30 p.m.

Obama has spoken about the fatal plane crash, making the comments right before giving an unrelated speech while on a trip to Delaware. Here's what he said:

The world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border. It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy. Right now we're working to determine whether there were American citizens onboard. That is our first priority and I've directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government. The US will offer any assistance we can to determine what happened and why. As a country our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home.

Thursday, July 17, 1:59 p.m.

The Telegraph has found an amateur video of the plane going down, although they haven't been able to verify it yet. Have a look:

Thursday, July 17, 1:56 p.m.

According to the AFP, the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, is calling the crash a "terrorist act."

Thursday, July 17, 1:41 p.m.

Reuters is has confirmed that 23 U.S. citizens were among those killed in the crash. Over 300 were apparently on board.

Thursday, July 17, 1:38 p.m.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is reporting that the Boeing 777's black box has been found. If so, it'll certainly go at least some way in piecing together this tragic puzzle.

Thursday, July 17, 1:34 p.m.

AP reporters have found 22 people dead among the wreckage, according to an AP Tweet.

Thursday, July 17, 1:32 p.m.

Interfax is reporting that rebel forces from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) are now in the jet's crash site. "Militant units are at the scene already. They have already reported that there are many dead, including children," PR First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Purgin said, according to Mashable.

Thursday, July 17, 1:24 p.m.

Ukraine's Interior Minister adviser, Anton Gerashchenko, has posted a "timeline" of the events leading to the plane's crash on Facebook. He's putting the blame firmly and unequivocally on Putin. "Putin gave the monkeys a grenade and will have to answer for it before an International Tribunal," he writes. He points out that there's no way "our military could bring down the passenger plane."

Thursday, July 17, 1:23 p.m.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has made a statement via Twitter, saying that the U.S. can't confirm or add any details.

Thursday, July 17, 1:11 p.m.

Politico is reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama talked about more than just sanctions this morning. Apparently the two talked about the the Malaysia Airlines plane crash on the phone, but "briefly."

Thursday, July 17, 1:08 p.m.

Here's yet another intense picture of the crash:

Thursday, July 17, 2:05 p.m.

Air France has said it'll avoid flying its planes over the area because of the crash, according to Reuters.

Thursday, July 17, 1:00 p.m.

Malaysian Airlines has now also made a statement and confirmed it lost contact with the Boeing 777. They said online:

Malaysia Airlines confirms it received notification from Ukrainian ATC that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 (GMT) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.Flight MH17 operated on a Boeing 777 departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm (Amsterdam local time) and was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10 am (Malaysia local time) the next day.The flight was carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew onboard.

Thursday, July 17, 12:59 a.m.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has made a statement via Twitter:

Thursday, July 17, 12:51 a.m.

Reuters just tweeted one of the first images of the crash:

Thursday, July 17, 12:45 a.m.

CNN is suggesting that the plane came apart while still in the air, which is apparently indicative of a missile.

Thursday, July 17, 12:32 a.m.

Here's a full transcript of Poroshenko's statement, translated by the good folks at Mashable:

Today, at approximately 4:20 p.m. Malaysian Airlines No. 17, which was flying the route from Amsterdam - Kuala - Lumpur, disappeared from radar screens.In recent days, this is the third tragic accident, after the AN-26 and SU-25 aircrafts of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were shot down from the Russian territory. We do not exclude that this aircraft was also shot down, and stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not commit any actions in the air [at the time of the downing].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.The President appealed to the Cabinet in order to quickly create a State commission to investigate the causes of this tragedy. The President proposed to involve the work of experts of the Commission of the ICAO and other international organizations, and representatives of the Netherlands and Malaysia.We are confident that those responsible for this tragedy will be brought to justice.

Thursday, July 17, 12:31 a.m.

Boeing has just released a statement regarding the crash:

Our thoughts and prayers are with those on board the Malaysia Airlines airplane lost over Ukrainian airspace, as well as their families and loved ones.Boeing stands ready to provide whatever assistance is requested by authorities.

Thursday, July 17, 12:30 a.m.John McCain (R-AZ) is already warning of “incredible repercussions” if the jet was in fact gunned down. "If it is a result of either separatists or Russian actions mistakingly believing that this was a Ukrainian warplane, I think there's going to be hell to pay and there should be," he said, according to the Huffington Post.

Original Post:

On Thursday, a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane reportedly crashed in Ukraine, right near the Russian border. “A Boeing Malaysian Airlines that was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur began to descend about 50km before entering Russian airspace, and was subsequently found burning on the ground in Ukraine,” a source told Interfax.An adviser to Ukraine's interior ministry, Anton Gerashenko, asserted via Facebook that the jet was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher — a huge, terrifying, surface-to-air missile.

Pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels have denied any involvement in the plane crash, and the government is distancing itself too — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that "Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets," according to the AP. The Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has also ordered an investigation into the crash, calling it a "catastrophe."The area has of course been the site of an ongoing conflict between pro-Russian forces and the Ukrainian government’s army. Although Russia has repeatedly denied having any hand in the separatist movement in Ukraine, many pro-Russian separatists are rumored to have been heavily aided by Russian forces.