Live: MH17 bodies arrive in Netherlands
Tracking live updates in the aftermath of the crash of MH17, which was shot down over the Ukraine-Russia border.
7.25 pm: Two Ukraine fighter jets shot down in east of the country
Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down in rebel-held eastern regions, the country's defence ministry said Wednesday.
"We have information about the downed fighter jets; now we are investigating the circumstances of the incident," Alexei Dmitrashkovsky, a spokesman for the ministry, told reporters.
Dmitrashkovsky later wrote on his Facebook page that the pilots of the jets had parachuted, but their whereabouts remained yet unknown, according to Xinhua.
7.16 pm: MH17 bodies arrive in Netherlands
The bodies from the MH17 plane crash have just landed in the Netherlands. They were received by a huge delegate of dignitaries including the Dutch royal family.
The military plane, which landed in the city of Eindhoven, was carrying the bodies of 16 victims, Xinhua reported.
Before the departure, a mourning ceremony was held at Kharkiv airport, attended by Ukrainian officials and representatives of embassies of the Netherlands, Canada, Britain, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia and the US.
During the ceremony, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman expressed his condolences and sympathy to the families who have lost their loved ones in the tragedy.
6.30 pm: No deal with separatists for handing over black boxes, says Malaysia
Malaysia today said the pro-Russian separatists did not get anything in return for handing over Malaysia Airlines flight MH17's black boxes and the remains of victims.
Deputy premier Muhyiddin Yassin said there was "no deal" involved in the agreement made with Alexander Borodai, the leader of the Russian separatists.
His remarks came in response to questions raised by several Opposition MPs in Parliament who wanted to know if the separatists had asked for anything in return.
"It was done in a smart way by the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. He told me there were no other deals. There were only the three agreements we outlined," said Muhyiddin.
8.22 am: Dutch hand black boxes to British aviation investigators for probe
The black boxes recovered from the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine will be sent to British aviation investigators for analysis, Malaysia has said.
The decision by the Dutch-led team probing the disaster came after pro-Russian rebels controlling the crash site handed the boxes over to Malaysian officials on Tuesday, following an intense international outcry.
Transport minister Liow Tiong Lai said in a statement late Tuesday that it was normal procedure to send the boxes, which record cockpit activity and flight data, to the nearest laboratory approved by the United Nations aviation agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
"The international investigation team, led by the Netherlands, has decided to pass the black boxes to the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch for forensic analysis," he said.
The boxes will be flown to Farnborough, England, accompanied by Malaysian officials and other members of the investigation team, Liow added.
All 298 people, including 193 from the Netherlands, aboard MH17 were killed when it went down over crisis-hit eastern Ukraine on Thursday. The jet is believed to have been shot by a surface-to-air missile.
Malaysia had announced late Monday a breakthrough deal with separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, following direct negotiations.
Besides the handover of the black boxes, the agreement also says that bodies from the crash will be sent to the Netherlands for analysis before being returned home, and provides for a safe route to the site controlled by the insurgents.
The pro-Russia rebels currently stand accused by the US and some other nations of bringing down the aircraft, allegedly with a missile supplied by Moscow.
--End of updates for 22 June--
7.25 pm: Putin vows to make rebels comply, help ensure full probe
AFP reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin promised today to do everything possible to influence pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and help ensure a full probe into the Malaysia Airlines crash last week.
However he added that it would not be enough with Kiev's continuing military operation against the rebels, adding that the West must push Ukraine's authorities to declare a ceasefire.
"Russia will do everything in its power for a full, comprehensive, deep and transparent investigation," Putin told a meeting of the national security council, according to excerpts broadcast by Russian state television.
"We are asked to exert influence on the militants of the south-east (of Ukraine). Of course we will do everything in our power.
"However this would be absolutely inadequate" given fresh attacks by Ukrainian troops, said Putin.
"Tanks broke through to the train station," he said of yesterday's clashes on the outskirts of Donetsk.
"International experts who came to the tragedy could not lift their heads."
Ukrainian "authorities must be called upon to abide by elementary decency, to introduce a ceasefire, at least for a short time for the investigation," Putin added
11.20 am:There has been 'industrial scale' tampering of evidence, says Aus PM Abbott
Evidence had been tampered with on an "industrial scale" at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday, calling it "a cover-up", news agency AFP reported.
Abbott, whose government was behind a UN Security Council resolution that on Monday unanimously demanded full access to the site in rebel-held east Ukraine, admitted progress had been made but said more needed to be done.
"There is still a long, long way to go," he told a press conference of the quest to repatriate bodies and bring those responsible for the 298 deaths to justice.
"After the crime comes the cover-up," he added.
"What we have seen is evidence tampering on an industrial scale. That has to stop." - AFP
10.35 am: Rebels agree to release bodies, declare truce around crash site
A train carrying the remains of 280 people killed in the Malaysian plane disaster was finally allowed to leave a rebel-held region in eastern Ukraine as the militants declared a truce Tuesday around the crash site.
Five days after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was allegedly shot out of the sky, pro-Russian separatists conceded to a furious international clamour for the bodies and the plane's black boxes to be handed over to investigators.
Loaded on a train, the bodies will arrive in the government-controlled city of Kharkiv on Tuesday before being put on a plane to the Netherlands, where the flight to Kuala Lumpur originated and which suffered the greatest loss, with 193 citizens killed in the crash.
The rebel concessions came after US President Barack Obama insisted that Moscow force the insurgents it is accused of backing to cooperate with an international probe into the disaster. - AFP
8.20 am: Russia votes in favor of UNSC resolution, seeks 'full, unrestricted access' to crash site
The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an international investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight (MH17) in eastern Ukraine and demanded that armed groups allow investigators "full and unrestricted" access to the crash site.
The 15-nation Council adopted the Australian-drafted resolution on Monday and condemned "in the strongest terms" the downing of MH17 on July 17 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, which resulted in the tragic loss of 298 lives.
Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member, also supported the resolution after intense negotiations resulted in some changes to the text, including terming the incident as "downing" of the airliner instead of "shooting down.
"The resolution supported efforts to establish 'a full, thorough and independent international investigation' into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines."
Expressing "grave concern" at reports of "insufficient and limited access" to the crash site, the resolution demanded that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area "refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site. - PTI
8.00 am: Rebels hand over black boxes to Malaysian investigators
The leader of the pro-Russian rebels handedover both black boxes from Flight 17 to Malaysian investigators who are in Ukraine, Malaysia's Prime Minister said early today, The Associated Press reported.
Prime Minister Najib Razak also said that as part of an agreement he reached by phone with rebel leader Alexander Borodai this evening, independent international investigators will be given "safe access" to the site where the Malaysia Airlines jet went down in eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, killing all 298 people onboard. - AP
7.20 am: Dutch king shares national anger over MH17 disaster
An emotional Dutch King Willem-Alexander today said he shared national frustration over the fate of bodies from the downing of flight MH17, a disaster that has left "a deep wound in our society", news agency AFP reported.
"Many people said to us: we just want to say a proper goodbye to our loved ones," the king said after meeting with around 1,000 relatives of the 193 Dutch citizens killed when the plane was shot down over rebel-held Ukraine on Thursday.
"We understand their frustration and their concern, and we share their wish for clarity about what caused this disaster," he said on television, addressing the nation for the first time.
"This awful disaster has left a deep wound in our society." - AFP
Updates for 21 July end
10.35 pm: Ask pro-Russia rebels to cooperate in probe, Obama tells Putin
US President Barack Obama today asked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to prevail upon Russia-backed Ukrainian separatists to cooperate in the international investigation into the downing of the Malaysian plane and allow investigators access to the crash site.
Obama, in a statement to White House reporters, alleged that Russia-backed Ukrainian separatists are denying access to the crash site to the team of international investigators including those from the US.
He also accused the separatists of destroying crucial evidence from the crash site including removal of bodies.
"Separatists are removing evidence from the crash site. All of which begs the question, what are they trying to hide?" asked the US president.
International investigators, Obama said, are prepared and organised to conduct what should be the kinds of protocols that should follow any international incident like this.
"What they need right now is immediate and full access to the crash site," he said.
Noting that Russia has influence over the Ukrainian separatists, Obama urged Putin to ask them to cooperate fully in the investigation.
"Given its direct influence over the separatists, Russia has direct responsibility to encourage them to stop tampering with the evidence," said Obama.
"Now's the time for President Putin and Russia to pivot away from the strategy that they've been taking and get serious about trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine," Obama said. "And time is of the essence," he added.
2.47 pm: Residents flee as fighting in Donetsk intensifies
Intense shelling rocked the area around the train station in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Monday, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Insurgent fighters had closed off the roads in the area on the edge of the city and terrified civilians were fleeing the fighting in minibuses and on foot.
A rebel fighter told AFP that government troops had attacked their positions close to the transport hub at around 10 am (0700 GMT).
"They came within about two kilometres of the station," insurgent gunman Volodya told AFP.
Local authorities warned residents in the area not to go outside or leave the confines of their homes and said the fighting had set a market ablaze close to the station.
Sporadic clashes have taken place around the separatist bastion as both sides have ignored calls for a ceasefire following Thursday's downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in rebel-held some 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Donetsk.
2.39 pm: International investigators should be granted safe access to crash site, says Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday it was essential for international investigators to be granted safe access to the crash site of flight MH17 in Ukraine.
In a video address released by the Kremlin in the early hours of Monday, Putin vowed that Russia will do all it can to bring about a settlement of the Ukraine conflict following the downing of the Malaysian passenger plane last week.
"Russia will do everything in its power so that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moves from today's military phase to the phase of negotiations by peaceful and diplomatic means," he said.
Western leaders are demanding Putin use his influence to persuade the rebels controlling the crash site in eastern Ukraine to hand over the bodies of the 298 victims and allow international investigators full access.
Putin said it was "essential" for experts mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation to be granted access to the rebel-held site.
While he promised no concrete steps by Moscow, he said "absolutely everything must be done for their full security and to guarantee the humanitarian corridors necessary for their work".
Kiev says the Boeing was shot down with a surface-to-air missile by a system that was brought to eastern Ukraine from Russia, while Washington has also pointed the finger of blame at Moscow.
The Russian leader reiterated his claim that the Malaysia Airlines crash would not have happened if Kiev had not resumed its military operation against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"We can say with certainty that if military actions in eastern Ukraine had not resumed on 28 June, this tragedy would most likely not have occurred," Putin said.
"With that said, nobody has the right to use this tragedy for their narrow selfish political ends," he said from his Moscow region residence.
2.35 pm: Dutch investigators inspected bodies recovered MH17
Dutch investigators inspected bodies recovered from downed passenger airliner MH17 which had been loaded onto a train under rebel control not far from the crash site, an AFP reporter said.
Each of the train wagons carrying the corpses was opened and examined by two men wearing masks and headlights. The stench from the wagon was overpowering and, contrary to claims that the carriages were refrigerated, there was little sign that the remains in black body bags were being chilled.
2.18 pm: Kiev agrees Dutch should lead MH17 crash investigation
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Monday that the Netherlands should head up the investigation into downed flight MH17 and that Kiev was ready to "send all bodies to Amsterdam".
"We are ready for the Netherlands to take upon itself the coordination of the international investigation as the country that suffered the most," Yatsenyuk said.-AFP
2.00 pm: Russia-friendly media accuse west of blame game
A chorus of Kremlin-friendly media declared that the truth about what happened to the Malaysian jet would likely never be found out, accusing the West of heaping the blame on Russia.
"Western press already knows who is to blame for the loss of the airliner -- Russia obviously," said popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Mass-circulation Moskovsky Komsomolets accused the West of pinning the blame on Russia before the results of a yet-to-begin investigation are out.
"Those guilty have been designated," it said, recalling that the United States had falsely accused dictator Saddam Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"It is unclear whether it is possible to tell the truth from the lies in this wonderful new information world," Moskovsky Komsomolets added.
Government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta pointed the finger squarely at Kiev authorities, accusing them of refusing to cooperate with Moscow.
"Kiev is not in a rush to answer '10 questions' about the Boeing," it said, referring to a litany of queries released by the Russian defense ministry over the weekend.
Broadsheet newspapers took a more measured approach, saying the disaster ushered in a grim new era in ties between Russia and the West.
"The catastrophe not only in the skies but also in relations between Russia and the West," said Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
"The wreckage from the Boeing is falling on Russia," added Kommersant daily, noting that the outcome of the inquiry into the crash will determine the future of Russia's ties with the West.
The newspaper cited analyst Alexander Golts as saying that if probe results end up pointing the finger at Moscow, it would once again be perceived in the West as an "Evil Empire."
But if the investigation proves the jet was shot down by Ukraine Kiev would lose Western support, the expert was quoted as saying.
Liberal daily Vedomosti said it was not too late for Russia to mend fences with the West.
"Russia should start rebuilding trust in ties with Europe," it said.
"Much has become irreversible but precise and responsible steps can still point to a path of mutual understanding."
And Novye Izvestia featured on its front page a poem by prominent poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko saying all parties were to blame for the death of 298 people on flight MH17.
"And I am crying, your unnamed brother/Forgive me for this. I am guilty." -AFP
1.15 pm: Shelling reported around Donetsk train station
Intense shelling on Monday rocked the area around the train station in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Insurgent fighters had closed off the roads in the area on the edge of the city and terrified civilians were fleeing the fighting in minibuses and on foot.
12.57 pm: 21 more bodies discovered at crash site
Another 21 bodies have been found in the east Ukraine village where Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 crashed last week. All 298 people aboard were killed. Local rescue workers had piled 21 black body bags by the side of the road in Hrabove early on Monday, adds the Associated Press report.
It was unclear how quickly they would be transported to refrigerated railcars in the nearby town of Torez, where the other bodies are being held.
11.40: Russia's President Putin blames 'others' for exploiting MH17 tragedy
According to an Associated Press report, Putin lambasted those who use the downing of a passenger jet MH17 in eastern Ukraine for "mercenary objectives," in a statement posted on the Kremlin website.
Putin again lashed out at Ukraine for ongoing violence with pro-Russian rebels in the eastern part of the country. He says the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash is being used for others' "mercenary objectives," although he does not say specifically who.
10.55 am: Chief investigator of MH370 probe to lead Aus team probing MH17 crash
The former Australian defense force official who led the international search for the wreckage of missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 arrived in Kiev on Monday to lead a 45-man Australian team, which will inspect the MH17 crash site, Xinhua reported.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a press conference on Monday that former Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston has been sent to the Ukraine capital as his "personal envoy" to ensure " justice is done." - Xinhua.
10.40 am: Asian markets bounce back after MH17 loss
Asian markets took a lead from Wall Street and rebounded Monday from last week's losses that were fuelled by the downing of a Malaysian airliner in Ukraine.
Hong Kong added 0.10 percent, Shanghai was flat, Sydney edged up 0.12 percent and Seoul was 0.47 percent higher. Tokyo was closed for a public holiday. With few catalysts to drive business, investors took the opportunity to pick up cheap shares after a broad sell-off Friday in response to the Malaysia Airlines plane crash, which fanned already high tensions in battle-wracked Ukraine. - AFP
8.20 am: Will ensure Putin acts on his words, says Aus PM Tony Abbott
Russian President Vladimir Putin said "all the right things" in a call with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who on Monday demanded he back his words with action over Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, news agency AFP reported.
The two leaders spoke overnight in their first conversation since the plane, carrying 298 people, crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, apparently shot down by pro-Russian rebels with a surface-to-air missile.
In separate phone calls, Putin promised Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte "full cooperation" in retrieving the bodies and black boxes, while Australia's premier Tony Abbott said the Russian leader had said "all the right things".
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, British counterpart David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande also piled pressure on Putin over the weekend in phone calls.
While Abbott would not divulge details of what was discussed, he said the onus was now on Moscow to act, using its influence with pro-Russian separatists to ensure experts can access the site of the crash.
"He did say all the right things and now he has to be as good as his word," he told Macquarie Radio.
"I am not going to have this conversation and say 'well, that's nice, President Putin said everything will work out fine' and just accept that.
"I am now going to try and ensure, as far as Australia humanely can, we insist upon these things happening." - AFP
7.00 am: UN security council to vote on MH17 disaster resolution
The United Nations Security Council is expected to consider a resolution demanding that pro-Russian separatists provide "full and unrestricted access" to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that was
The document, proposed by Australia and co-sponsored by countries like France, also calls on all actors in the region to fully cooperate in an international probe of the incident.
It demands that all military activities, including by armed groups, be "immediately ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation."
A vote was set for Monday at 3:00 pm (1900 GMT).
Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has the right to exercise its veto power to scrap the resolution.
World leaders have demanded Russian President Vladimir Putin use his influence to persuade the rebels to hand over the victims and allow full access to the crash site.
Major European nations have warned Moscow of additional possible sanctions over the crash.
On Friday, panel members, including Russia, demanded a full, independent probe of the downing.
-- 20 July --
9:23 pm: Intercepted phone conversations of rebels discussing shooting down MH17 genuine, says the US
Alleged intercepted phone conversations released by Ukraine's security service of pro-Russian rebels discussing how they shot down Malaysian airliner MH17 are genuine, the US embassy in Kiev said Sunday.
Ukraine's SBU security agency on Thursday released recordings of what it claimed were phone talks involving rebels and a Russian military intelligence officer admitting that they had hit the passenger jet after mistaking it for a military aircraft.
The recordings were presented as key evidence to back up Kiev's claims that rebels -- supported by Russia -- downed the jet while the separatists accused Ukraine's army of being responsible.
"Audio data provided to the press by the Ukrainian security service was evaluated by Intelligence Community analysts who confirmed these were authentic conversations between known separatist leaders," the US embassy in Ukraine said in a statement.
In one of the recordings a rebel commander nicknamed the "Major" says rebels shot down the plane and tells a disbelieving comrade that the jet is "100 percent a civilian aircraft."
On Sunday Ukraine's security agency released a fresh batch of alleged leaked conversations of rebels organising to hide the flight's black boxes from international monitors at the crash site.
9:03 pm: Extraordinary circumstantial evidence shows Russia supplied arms, says Kerry
US Secretary of State John Kerry laid out "extraordinary circumstantial evidence" on Sunday that Ukrainian pro-Russian rebels were behind the downing of a Malaysian jet hit by weapons obtained from Russia.
US intelligence suggests that a sophisticated SA11 missile system was used to bring down flight MH17 on Thursday as it flew at some 33,000 feet over Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Kerry said. A total of 298 people on board were killed in the disaster that has shocked the world.
"It's pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists," Kerry told CNN as he blitzed the Sunday television talk shows.
"We know with confidence, with confidence, that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point in time. So it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists."
The top US diplomat also slammed "grotesque" scenes at the crash site where he said rebels were hampering the investigation and the proper removal of the bodies.
International monitors said Sunday that pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine had loaded scores of bodies from the crash site into train cars. The rebels said the bodies would be kept in the refrigerated cars, and that they had to be removed from the crash site because of the heat and fears they would become prey for wild dogs.
World leaders have demanded Russian President Vladimir Putin use his influence to persuade the rebels to hand over the victims and allow international investigators unfettered access to the crash site in eastern Grabove.
US evidence pointed to the involvement of the separatists in Thursday's horrific crash, Kerry, a former prosecutor said, adding Washington had "extraordinary circumstantial evidence" although he stopped short of actually accusing them of firing a missile at the plane.
"We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory," he told NBC's "Meet the Press." "We know where it came from. We know the timing."
"And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar. We also know, from voice identification, that the separatists were bragging about shooting it down afterwards."
Kerry also told CNN's "State of the Union" that "we know for certain that the separatists have a proficiency that they've gained by training from Russians as to how to use these sophisticated SA11 systems. We know they have the system."
And "within hours of this event, this particular system passed through two towns right in the vicinity of the shootdown," he said.
Kerry added there was also video of an SA11 launcher being trucked back into Russia after the disaster, with "at least one missing missile."
"We need a full access to this site to be able to conduct a thorough investigation," he insisted on CBS's "Face the Nation."
7:38 pm: Ukraine says it can't ensure safety of investigators
Ukraine said Sunday that it could not ensure the safety of investigators at the crash site of downed Malaysian airliner MH17 in an area under the control of pro-Russian rebels.
"We as the Ukrainian authorities cannot provide security on this territory," deputy prime minister Volodymyr Groysman told journalists.
6:54 pm: Missile system which downed MH17 came from Russia: Kerry
The missile system used to shoot down a Malaysian airliner was handed to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine by Moscow, the top US diplomat said Sunday.
"It's pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists," US Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN, as he also slammed the "grotesque" scenes at the MH17 crash site where he said rebels were hampering the investigation and the proper removal of bodies of 298 victims.
6:30 pm: Aus PM calls for respect for MH17 victims as bodies are moved from crash site
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott demanded Sunday that the bodies of those killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashed be "treated with respect" and said he feared interference with evidence would continue.
Abbott joined a growing chorus of outrage from world leaders demanding Russia's full cooperation with what is becoming a monumentally challenging investigation into the downing of MH17 while bound from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people from a dozen countries on board.
Twenty-eight Australian nationals and nine residents were on the flight which is believed to have been shot down over Ukraine on Thursday, and Abbott said recovering the bodies was a priority.
He told Australia's Nine Network the crash site was being "absolutely trampled" with "bodies being put into bags and carted off to who knows where", amid reports OSCE observers had found corpses packed into a series of refrigerated train wagons miles from the site.
"We owe it to the families -- all the families -- to do everything in our power to respect the bodies, to find the truth and to ensure that justice is done," he said.
Abbott had earlier condemned the "absolutely chaotic" scenes of bodies rotting in the cornfields of the separatist eastern Ukraine region where the plane crashed.
"The kinds of things that would normally be happening in an air crash site are not happening," he told the ABC.
Abbott said several attempts to reach the wreckage, which is strewn across a large area, were hampered by the conflict.
Australia is pushing for a full and impartial investigation into the crash, but Abbott said a key difficulty was that there was "no-one in authority in charge on the ground".
He said Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko had invited Australia to "fully participate" in the investigation, and to be part of the body recovery operation.
"My fear is that Russia will say the right thing, but that on the ground interference with the site, interference with investigators, interference with the dignified treatment of bodies will continue," he told ABC.
6:10 pm: Britain, France, Germany thrteaten Russia with EU sanctions
France, Britain and Germany warned Russia Sunday it could face further EU sanctions if it did not press pro-Kremlin separatists in Ukraine to allow unfettered access to the crash site of flight MH17.
Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and David Cameron held a conference call Sunday morning to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine days after a Malaysia Airlines jet crashed, killing 298 people on board after what is believed to have been a strike by a surface-to-air missile.
Concerns have been mounting that the separatists are blocking access to key evidence and to the bodies of the passengers, scores of which were moved from the crash site by train on Sunday.
"They... agreed that the EU must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on Tuesday," a spokesman for Downing Street said in a statement, adding that Cameron was due to speak to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin later Sunday.
A French presidency statement about the three-way conference call similarly warned that "consequences" would be drawn at Tuesday's meeting "if Russia does not immediately take the necessary measures."
The presidency said the three leaders had agreed to call on Putin to pressure the rebels into allowing rescuers and investigators "free and total access to the site of the MH17 flight disaster to accomplish their mission."
"Russia must understand that resolving the Ukrainian crisis is more than ever an imperative after this tragedy which has outraged the entire world," it added.
5:54 pm: Rebels to give MH17 black boxes to intl aviation organisation
A separatist leader in eastern Ukraine says rebels have recovered the black boxes for the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Alexander Borodai said Sunday that the devices would be handed over to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
He also said the bodies recovered from the crash site in eastern Ukraine would remain in refrigerated containers at a train station in the town of Torez until the arrival of an international aviation delegation.
The plane was shot down Thursday over disputed territory, killing 298 passengers and crew.
4:58 pm: Consequences if Russia doesn't tells rebels to cooperate says French prez
France warned Russia there would be "consequences" if Moscow did not put pressure on pro-Kremlin separatists in Ukraine to allow rescuers and investigators unfettered access to the crash site of flight MH17.
"If Russia does not immediately take the necessary measures, consequences will be drawn by the European Union at the Foreign Affairs Council which takes place on Tuesday," the French presidency said in a statement after the leaders of France, Germany and Britain held a conference call.
1.30 pm: 'Rebels haven take all recovered bodies to an undisclosed location'
A spokeswoman for the Ukrainian emergency services says separatist rebels have taken away all the 196 bodies that workers had recovered from the Malaysian Airlines plane crash site.
Associated Press journalists saw rebels putting bagged bodies onto trucks and driving them away on Saturday. On Sunday, AP journalists saw no bodies at the crash site.
Ukrainian spokeswoman Nataliya Bystro said on Sunday that emergency workers have been working under duress and were forced to give the bodies to the armed rebels. She said the government has no idea where the bodies were taken to. - Associated Press
11.57 am: 'Will guarantee safety of international monitors if Kiev agrees to truce'
A top Ukrainian rebel leader said on Sunday that the pro-Russian fighters will guarantee the safety of international monitors at the Malaysian jet's crash site if Kiev agrees to a truce.
"We declare that we will guarantee the safety of international experts on the scene as soon as Kiev concludes a ceasefire agreement," the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic's deputy premier Andrei Purgin said in a statement. - AFP
11.50 am: US 'deeply concerned' about crash site, Kerry tells Russia
Top US diplomat John Kerry told his Russian counterpart on Saturday that Washington was "deeply concerned" that international investigators were being denied access to a passenger jet's crash site in Ukraine.
In a telephone call, Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that "the United States remains deeply concerned that for the second day in a row, OSCE monitors and international investigators were denied proper access to the crash site," the State Department said.
"The United States is also very concerned about reports that the remains of some victims and debris from the site are being tampered with or inappropriately removed from the site." Read more here.
11.10 am: Malaysia Airlines to refund cancellations after MH17
Malaysia Airlines said it would offer full refunds to customers who want to cancel their tickets in the wake of the MH17 disaster, just months after the carrier suffered another blow when flight MH370 disappeared.
Passengers can change or cancel their tickets without financial penalty until Thursday for travel throughout the rest of the year, the struggling national airline said.
"In light of the MH17 incident, Malaysia Airlines will be waiving any change fees for passengers who wish to make changes to their itinerary to any MH destinations," it said in a statement. - AFP
10.20 am: This is a horrific, horrific crime, says Australian PM Abbott
An emotional Australian PM Tony Abbott said he feared that the on-going chaos at the crash site will hamper investigations and dignified recovery of bodies.
"You look at the faces of the dead and they’re your neighbours, they’re your friends, they could be your kids because let’s face it, we are a people who like to travel and my own daughters flew on MH17 some months ago on their way home from Europe. So this is a tragedy which touches us deeply," Mr Abbott said.
"This is a horrific, a horrific crime and we will do what we can to ensure that people are treated with respect but that justice is done." Read more here.
9.55 am: Russia to blame if rebels responsible for downing on plane, says Cameron
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Saturday that if it were proven that Ukrainian separatists were behind the downing of a Malaysian jet carrying 298 passengers, Russia would be to blame for having destabilised the country.
"If this is the case then we must be clear what it means: this is a direct result of Russia destabilising a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them," he wrote in The Sunday Times newspaper. Read more here.
9.33 am: Dutch PM Rutte shocked by images at scene of MH 17 crash site
The Netherlands' Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, expressed shock at the utter disrespect being shown to Malaysian Airlines' plane crash site near Ukraine border.
"I am shocked by the images of totally disrespectful behaviour at the scene of the MH17 crash in Ukraine," Xinhua quoted Rutte as saying during a press conference.
Updates for 19 July end
8.02 pm: Russia not exerting influence on separatists, claims Britain
Britain on Saturday said Russia was not exerting its influence over pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine to get them to allow international access to the Malaysian plane crash site, reported AFP.
"We're not getting enough support from the Russians, we're not seeing Russia using their influence effectively enough to get the separatists, who are in control of the site, to allow the access that we need," Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters.
"The world's eyes will be on Russia to see if she delivers."
7.59 pm: Forensic experts gather material to identify MH17 crash victims
According to Associated Press forensic teams fanned out across the Netherlands today to collect material including DNA samples that will help positively identify the remains of victims killed in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine.
Police said in a tweet that 40 pairs of detectives from the National Forensic Investigations Team would be visiting victims' relatives over the coming days.
Their aims is to build a database of material including DNA and photographs of distinguishing features like scars and tattoos that can be used to identify bodies and body parts recovered from the crash site in eastern Ukraine.
Malaysia Airlines said 192 of the 298 passengers and crew killed in Thursday's aviation disaster were Dutch.
The European Union police coordination body Europol said today it would assist Interpol and other agencies in identifying victims in Ukraine.
"We will do our utmost to support the work that must be done following this horrific incident, where hundreds of families and friends to the innocent victims on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 are grieving and left with unanswered questions," Europol Director Rob Wainwright said in a statement.
6.06 pm: MH17 black boxes not found says pro-Russian rebel leader in Ukraine
Aleksandr Borodai, the pro-Russian rebel leader in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, denied on Saturday that black boxes of the Malaysian passenger plane that crashed Thursday had not been found.
Borodai said they had not touched the site where the passenger flight crashed but they reserved the right to begin the process of taking away the bodies since the bodies would decompose in the heat, according to Xinhua.
"We ask the Russian Federation to help us with this problem and send their experts," Borodai, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, told a press conference.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed Thursday afternoon in the conflict-hit Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.
5.45 pm: Pranab Mukherjee sends condolence message to King of Malaysia
President Pranab Mukherjee has deeply condoled the crash of the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet in eastern Ukraine and expressed grief and sympathy over the tragedy which has claimed 298 lives.
In a message to the King of Malaysia, Abdul Halim, the President said, "I wish to convey my sincere grief and sympathy to the government and people of Malaysia on the crash of the Malaysian Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine yesterday leading to the loss of so many precious lives.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the nationals of Malaysia and other countries who lost their lives in this tragic incident," he said.
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 crashed after it was shot down by suspected pro-Russian Ukraine rebels, killing all 298 people on board.
5.29 pm: Merkel, Putin agree on international probe into MH17 crash
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed for an international investigation into the downing of a Malaysian plane over Ukraine, and for rapid access to the crash site, Berlin said on Saturday.
The two leaders, who spoke on the telephone, "agreed that an international, independent commission under the direction of ICAO (UN's International Civil Aviation Organization) should quickly have access to the site of the accident... to shed light on the circumstances of the crash and move the victims," said a German government statement.
A Kremlin statement on the same phone call said that "both sides stressed the importance of a thorough and objective investigation of all circumstances relating to what has happened."
4.58 pm: Russia slams US for blaming flight MH17 crash on rebels
Russia on Saturday launched a blistering attack against Washington after US President Barack Obama said that a missile fired from territory controlled by Moscow-backed rebels downed the Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine.
In his most extensive comments on the tragedy that killed 298 people aboard MH17 flight en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Obama said on Friday that "evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine."
On Saturday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the US administration sought to pin the blame on separatists and Russia without waiting for the results of an investigation.
"The statements of representatives of the US administration are evidence of a deep political aberration of Washington's perception of what is going on in Ukraine," he told Russian news agencies.
"At least, that is how the relevant statements can be interpreted," the foreign ministry quoted him as saying.
"Despite an obvious and indisputable nature of the arguments provided by rebels and Moscow, the US administration is pushing its own agenda," he said.
Ryabkov reiterated accusations that Washington had triggered tensions in the ex-Soviet country by meddling in its domestic affairs and provoking an uprising that ousted Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in February.
"In the geopolitical frenzy and attempts to apply methods of social and political engineering everywhere, the United States acts like a bad surgeon: to cut deeper at first, and then stitch up sloppily so that it would hurt for a long time."
Deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin added: "The White House clearly established who's guilty even before the investigation of the Boeing catastrophe," he said on Twitter.
Russian mass-circulation daily Moskovsky Komsomolets on Saturday quoted military analyst Viktor Murakhovsky as saying that the pro-Moscow rebels were unlikely to have the experience and technical capabilities to operate the sophisticated Buk missile system that is thought to have been used to shoot down the Malaysia flight.
And the Kommersant broadsheet said that the damage sustained by MH17 was similar to that suffered by a Russian Tu-154 passenger plane that was shot down by Ukrainian armed forces during military exercises in 2001, killing 78 people on board.
4.08 pm: Malaysia issues plea for protection of flight MH17 crash site
Malaysia issued an impassioned plea Saturday for the MH17 disaster site in Ukraine to be protected from tampering, saying evidence was being compromised in what it called a "betrayal of the lives that were lost."
Concerns are mounting over the integrity of the crash zone in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, with the government in Kiev on Saturday accusing Moscow of helping pro-Russian separatist insurgents destroy evidence.
"Malaysia is deeply concerned that the crash site has not been properly secured," Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters.
"The integrity of the site has been compromised, and there are indications that vital evidence has not been preserved in place."
Liow, who leaves for Kiev later Saturday to join Malaysian officials already there in hopes of assisting an investigation, called "for all parties to protect the integrity of the crash site, and to allow the investigation to proceed".
A Ukraine government statement said pro-Russia rebels had removed 38 bodies to a morgue in the insurgent-controlled city of Donetsk where "specialists with clearly Russian accents" were to conduct autopsies.
3.55 pm: Australian PM demands international probe into flight MH17 crash
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott today called for an independent international probe into the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that claimed 298 lives, including of 28 Australians.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flight MH17 was blown up over Eastern Ukraine by a sophisticated BAK surface-to-air missile believed to be fired by pro-Russia rebels.
Abbott said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will fly to the United States today evening to campaign for an international investigation into what has happened.
Bishop is expected to head Australia's efforts in pushing for a UN Security Council resolution seeking open and independent access to the MH17 crash site.
Six officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been deployed to Kiev, and more are on their way, including a five-member emergency response team as well as a team of The Australian Federal Police.
Abbott said Australia will do whatever is humanly possible to ensure the "matter is absolutely, thoroughly investigated" and to "bring the perpetrators to justice".
"Our objective is to ensure for the dead and for the living, dignity, respect and justice," Abbott said adding that "Right now, for all we know - because this site is controlled by Russian-backed rebels - bodies remain strewn over the fields of the eastern Ukraine and armed rebels are trampling the site".
"So it is absolutely vital that an independent, international investigation begin as soon as possible so that we can identify and recover the remains of all the Australians onboard. And we are working urgently with our international partners to that end", he said.
Bishop said the government's appeal would go before the UN.
"I have spoken with our representative in the UN and I understand that our calls for a binding resolution will be debated during the course of next week," she said.
"That is why I will be leaving for New York as soon as possible to work with our Australian officials and representatives to secure that binding resolution for theindependent investigation," she added.
3.10 pm: Now Russia hits back, demands answers from Ukraine on MH17 crash
Russia fought back on Saturday against claims of its involvement in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, instead implying that the government in Kiev might be responsible, reports AFP.
Russian deputy defence minister Anatoly Antonov went on national television on Saturday to reel off a list of 10 "simple" questions for the Ukrainian government, which he said were key to determining who shot down the Malaysian airline.
"Answers to these questions would allow all of us, not only in Russia but also in the West and the east, in Asia, to try and find an answer to the most important question: what happened in the sky over Ukraine and what we need to do so that this does not happen again," Antonov said.
He said Kiev should release details regarding its alleged use of Buk missile systems in eastern Ukraine, and explain why they were being operated if separatists don't possess aircraft.
The Russian defence ministry on Friday claimed that the radars of Ukraine's Buk missile systems -- the weapon thought to have been used to shoot down the jet — were in use on the day of the crash.
Antonov added that Ukraine's armed forces should give international experts access to documents relating to their air-to-air missiles and ground-to-air missiles.
He also wondered why Ukrainian air-traffic controllers had allowed the passenger jet to stray to the north, in the direction of a conflict zone.
Both Russia and Ukrainian forces have variants of the Buk, a surface-to-air missile believed to be the most likely culprit for the downing of the jet.
Ukraine blames Russian-backed separatists, while Russia says that Ukraine was operating missile systems on the day of the tragedy.
3.07 pm: Failure to secure MH17 crash site betrayal of lives lost, says Malaysia
After Ukraine accused Russia of helping rebels destroy evidence at the crash site, Malaysia has hit out saying it was a betray of trust.
According to AFP reports Malaysia says, "Failure to secure MH17 crash site 'betrayal' of lives lost."
2.22 pm: Ukraine accuses Russia of helping rebels destroy evidence
Ukraine on Saturday accused Russia of helping separatist insurgents they say shot down Malaysian airliner MH17 try to destroy evidence at the crash site.
"The Ukrainian government officially announces: terrorists with the support of Russia are trying to destroy proof of this international crime," Ukraine's government said in a statement, adding that rebels had removed 38 bodies from the scene and were blocking Ukrainian investigators from accessing the site.
12.42 pm: Malaysia disaster response team arrives in Ukraine
A Malaysian team including two air accident investigators arrived in Kiev on Saturday and the transport minister was expected to follow as the Malaysian prime minister appealed for access to the MH17 crash site.
A 62-member Malaysian team arrived in Kiev on Saturday, a member of the delegation told AFP.
It was to include two accredited air crash investigators invited by Ukraine to help probe responsibility for the disaster.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai was due to leave for Kiev later Saturday, Malaysia's Star daily said.
Earlier, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak said he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone late Friday to stress the need for an objective, unfettered probe into the crash that killed 298 people, amid concerns the site was vulnerable to tampering.
"I also told Putin that the site should not be tampered (with) before the team begins its investigation," he was quoted saying by national news agency Bernama.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 came down in a separatist-held region, with the United States saying it was shot down in a missile attack, a possible casualty of Ukraine's battle with pro-Russia rebels.
12.37 pm: Malaysia transport minister flies to Kiev to ensure access to crash site
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai will fly to the Ukraine capital of Kiev on Saturday to ensure an investigating team gets safe access to the site of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
The United States believes the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile fired from rebel-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed.
"We will want to ensure a safe corridor to the site," Liow told reporters. "... we sent a team to Kiev yesterday night. I will be leaving for Kiev tonight to ensure we have access to the site."
Defence Minister and former Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, the public face of the government during the crisis over the missing MH370 airliner in March, said the main priority was to ensure security and that any debris was not tampered with.
"We want to get to the bottom of this," he added, saying international cooperation was needed and that Malaysia had been in touch with officials in Russia, Ukraine, the United States, Britain and China.
"We do not have a position until the facts have been verified, whether the plane was really brought down, how it was brought down, who brought it down."
12.11 pm: Ukraine, rebels agree to 'security zone' around crash site
Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels have agreed to set up a security zone around the crash site of a Malaysian jet that was apparently shot down in the separatist east, Ukraine's security service chief said on Saturday.
Internationally mediated talks "concluded with an agreement to set up a 20-kilometre security zone so that Ukraine could fulfil the most important thing -- identify the bodies (and) hand them over to relatives," Ukrainian Security Service head Valentyn Nalyvaychenko said in televised remarks.
11.24 am: Obama says MH17 tragedy is a wake up call for Europe
In calls to the leaders of Germany, Britain and Australia, Obama pressed for "a prompt, full, unimpeded and transparent international investigation", and stressed the need for immediate access to the crash site.
The US leader, who stiffened sanctions on Russia on Wednesday, also prodded Europe to do more to restrain Putin, who he said had the power to rein in separatists but refused to use it.
"I think that this certainly will be a wake-up call for Europe and the world that there are consequences to an escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine," Obama said.
The UN Security Council unanimously demanded a "full, thorough and independent investigation" at the start of a meeting on the Ukraine crisis that saw fraught exchanges between Western countries and Russia.
US Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk for the second day running.
Tusk and Biden noted that Russia was "supplying weapons and training -- including anti-aircraft weapons -- to the separatists, with profoundly de-stabilizing consequences," a White House statement said.
In Buenos Aires, China's President Xi Jinping said Beijing favored a "fair and objective" probe.
11.00 am: Six AIDS activists aboard MH17, not 100 as originally reported
International AIDS Society president Francoise Barre-Sinoussi on Saturday said six colleagues heading for a global conference in Melbourne were on a Malaysian plane that crashed over Ukraine, not 100 as reports suggested.
"The number that we have confirmed through our contacts with authorities in Australia, in Malaysia and Dutch authorities as well is six people. It may be a little bit more, but not the numbers that have been announced," she said.
10.20 am: Investigators face massive hurdles as they seek access to crash site
Investigators faced massive hurdles Saturday as they sought access to the grisly crash site of a Malaysian plane in eastern Ukraine, with the area controlled by armed rebels blamed for downing the jet with a missile.
Despite a hail of calls from around the globe for a swift probe into the crash, initial efforts by international monitors to gain full access to the site have been impeded by pro-Russian separatists locked in fighting with Ukraine forces.
The fate of the vital black boxes -- at least one of which was reported to have been recovered -- was unknown. AFP journalists at the site say dozens of mutilated corpses remained scattered around the vast area, the scale of which appears to have overwhelmed local rescue workers.
While the rebels, who Kiev and the US believe fired a sophisticated surface-to-air missile at the jet, have vowed to protect the scene, they have ruled out a ceasefire and rocket-fire still rings out in the distance.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, whose nation was stunned by the loss of nearly 200 citizens in the crash, arrived in Kiev Friday with a team of 15 forensic experts.
A 62-strong Malaysian disaster response team was due to arrive on Saturday, and Prime Minister Najib Razak urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phonecall to help them gain access to the site.
Concerns over the site's vulnerability are high after international observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were blocked from fully accessing the sites by armed rebels "for their own" safety.
9.14 am: UN refutes Malaysia charges, says it doesn't clear safe routes
The UN civil aviation body has said that it was not responsible for issuing warnings about potential dangers such as military conflicts, saying that duty fell to individual nations.
The role of the International Civil Aviation Authority has come under scrutiny after a Malaysian airliner was shot down by a missile on Thursday over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people.
Montreal-based ICAO rejected suggestions it should have issued a warning about the potential dangers of flying over the area.
"ICAO does not declare airspace safe or unsafe or undertake any other direct operational responsibilities with respect to civilian air services," said spokesman Anthony Philbin.
8.29 am: Malaysia PM calls Putin, asks for access to MH17 crash site
A Malaysian disaster response team including two air accident investigators was due in Kiev on Saturday, after the country's leader appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to help them gain access to the MH17 crash site.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters late Friday that he spoke to Putin by phone to stress the need for an objective, unfettered probe into the crash that killed 298 people, amid concerns the site was vulnerable to tampering.
"I also told Putin that the site should not be tampered (with) before the team begins its investigation," he was quoted saying by Malaysian national news agency Bernama.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 came down in cornfields in a separatist-held region, with the United States claiming it was shot down in a missile attack, a possible casualty of Ukraine's battle with pro-Russian rebels.
A 62-strong Malaysian team was expected to arrive in Kiev early Saturday, a Malaysia Airlines source told AFP.
Malaysia's Transport Ministry said on Friday that the team would include two accredited air crash investigators that have been invited by Ukraine to take part in the probe into who was responsible for the disaster.
-- Updates for 18 July --
9.37 pm: MH17 crash is a wake up call for the world, says Obama
Obama said that this incident will be a wake up call for the world. "It shows that violence in eastern Ukraine is not localised and will have implications across the world," Obama said.
9.30 pm: Will impose higher sanctions on Russia if they don't comply, says Obama
Obama said that the focus should be on finding the truth on flight MH17. "There is no time for propaganda. We need to find who was behind this outrage," he said.
"Our preferred path is to solve this diplomatically. That means Putin must act to rein in Ukraine separatists," says Obama.
"As Russia continues to help the separatists, we will continue to impose higher sanctions," Obama warned.
9.20 pm: Downing of flight MH17 was a global tragedy, says Obama
US President Barack Obama today said that the shooting down of Malaysian flight MH17 was a global tragedy and confirmed that one American had died in the incident.
"This was a global tragedy. There has to be credible international investigation," Obama said in a press conference.
"This plane was brought down by Russian backed terrorists. This is not the first time a plane has been shot down. These separatists have received heavy flow of weapons from Russia. Ukrainian separatists are heavily armed and trained because of Russian support." Obama said and added, "Russia and Ukraine must go for an immediate ceasefire. The US stands ready to provide any assistance necessary."
Criticising Russia, Obama said, "Russia has continued to violate sovereignty of Ukraine and has done nothing to reduce crisis."
"Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions," Obama told reporters as he pressed for an international investigation.
9.10 pm: Shooter that downed flight MH17 must be punished, says Malaysian PM
Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has demanded punishment for whoever shot at the ill-fated flight MH17.
AFP quoted Razak as saying, "Shooter of downed MH17 must be punished for inhumane act."
8.44 pm: Russia's role in shooting down flight MH17 can't be rule out, says US
US Ambassador Samantha Power said Friday the United States cannot rule out help from Russia in the launch of the surface-to-air missile that shot down a Malaysian airlines jet killing all 298 people on board.
Power said the US believes the SA-11 missile was fired from an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists who previously boasted about obtaining such missiles. She said Russia has provided SA-11s and other heavy weapons to the separatists.
"If indeed Russian-backed separatists were behind this attack on a civilian airliner, they and their backers would have good reason to cover up evidence of their crime," Power told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. "Thus it is extremely important than an investigation be commenced immediately."
The Security Council approved a statement calling for "a full, thorough and independent international investigation."
The press statement expresses the council's "deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims, and to the people and governments of all those killed in the crash."
Council members stood in a moment of silent tribute to the 298 victims at the start of the emergency council meeting, called by Jordan.
The council called for an investigation "in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines and for appropriate accountability." It stressed the need for "immediate access by investigators to the crash site to determine the cause of the incident."
8.08 pm: International monitors arrive at MH17 crash site
According to AFP reports, international monitors have arrived that the crash site of the Malaysia airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine.
7.40 pm: UN Security Council demands thorough probe into flight MH17 shooting down
The UN Security Council on Friday demanded a full, independent and international probe into the apparent shooting down of a Malaysian jet over Ukraine that killed 298 people on board.
"The members of the Security Council called for a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines and for appropriate accountability," the council said in a unanimous declaration.
6.13 pm: Malaysian flight MH17 had clean maintenance record, says airline
The Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine killing 298 passengers on board, had a clean maintenance record, AFP quoted an airline official as saying on Friday.
"The aircraft had a clean maintenance record," Malaysia Airlines' European vice president Huib Gorter said, adding "all systems on the aircraft were running normally" when contact was lost.
5.55 pm: Putin asks warring sides in Ukraine to lay down arms
Vladimir Putin has told warring sides in Ukraine to lay down their arms and engage in talks, reports Associated Press.
Meanwhile AFP reports Putin saying he was in touch with Ukraine leaders, hopes crisis will be solved.
5.38 pm: Russia won't take flight MH17 black boxes, says Sergei Lavrov
According to Reuters, Russia does not plan to take the "black box" flight recorders from a Malaysian airliner downed in territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.
"Despite what Kiev is again saying, we do not plan to take these (black) boxes. We do not plan to violate existing (international) norms for such situations," Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state television.
"We want international experts to get to the site of the crash as soon as possible so that they get the black boxes right away."
5.13 pm: Prince William speaks of "deep sadness" over MH17 incident
Britain's Prince William spoke of his "deep sadness" Friday after a Malaysia Airlines plane was apparently shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, reported AFP.
William offered the "thoughts and prayers" of Britain's royal family to the relatives of those who died in the disaster during an event at Australia's diplomatic mission in London.
"I know that I speak for all of us here when I acknowledge our deep sadness following yesterday's disaster in the Ukraine," William said.
"For all of us who have lost fellow countrymen and women in the tragedy, words cannot do justice to our sense of loss," AFP quoted William as saying.
The flight was carrying 173 Dutch citizens as well as 43 Malaysian nationals, 28 Australians and nine Britons.
"For Australians, and for our Malaysian brothers and sisters in the Commonwealth, the crash is a particularly cruel tragedy coming so soon after the loss of MH370," the prince added.
"Please be assured of my family's thoughts and prayers at this time."
4.50 pm: Pro-Russian insurgents had assumed MH17 as Ukrainian army plane
According to AFP social media posts by pro-Russian insurgents — most of them hastily removed — suggest the rebels thought they had shot down a Ukrainian army plane before realising in horror that it was in fact a packed Malaysian airliner.
The Twitter and blog messages were immediately publicised by top Kiev officials in their furious information war with the Kremlin for global opinion and the hearts and minds of ethnic Russians caught in the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.
Confirmation of separatist fighters killing 298 passengers and crew on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur would further complicate Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to paint their uprising as a fight for self-determination.
Russia's state media avoided any mention of the controversial posts and instead reported militia leaders' later charges that the Ukrainian air force had shot down the Boeing 777 liner instead.
- 'We downed an An-26' -
The rebels first claimed to have downed at least one Ukrainian army plane over the strife-torn eastern rustbelt on late Thursday afternoon.
The VK social networking page of Igor Strelkov -- "defence minister" of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic -- first announced: "We just downed an An-26 near (the town of) Torez."
"And here is a video confirming that a 'bird fell'," said the post.
The website then provides a link identical to that published by Ukrainian media in reports about the Malaysia Airlines jet.
The video shows locals referring to the same coal mine in the region mentioned by Strelkov.
The strongly pro-Kiev Ukrainska Pravda news site later posted an audio recording of what it claimed were the intercepted field communications between rebels and a Russian agent discussing the downing.
"We just downed a plane," a rebel the recording identifies as Bes (Demon) tells an alleged Russian military intelligency officer.
Another recording shows one alleged fighter reporting from the site of the plane's remains that it was "100 percent certain this is a civilian aircraft."
He spits out a Russian expletive when asked whether there were a lot of passengers on board.
- 'We have seized missiles' -
The VK post was soon removed -- but not before its screen grab was captured and distributed in an English-language press release by the military headquarters of Kiev's eastern campaign.
The comments attributed to Strelkov did not identify what missile was used to down the craft at what Kiev said was an altitude of 10,000 metres (33,000 feet).
But a message on the official Twitter account of the Donetsk People's Republic had announced hours earlier that insurgents had seized a series of Russian-made Buk systems capable of soaring to that height.
"@dnrpress: self-propelled Buk surface-to-air missile systems have been seized by the DNR from (Ukrainian) surface-to-air missile regiment A1402," said the post.
That tweet was later deleted as well.
4.45 pm: Putin has gone too far, says Hillary Clinton
Following the shooting down of Malaysian flight MH17, Hillary Clinton has hit out at Russia saying "Putin has gone too far."
Huffington Post reported "The former US secretary of state and likely 2016 presidential candidate said yesterday that "there does seem to be some growing awareness that it probably had to be Russian insurgents" who shot down the passenger jet."
4.19 pm: After MH17 incident, Russia says it will respond to cross-border shooting from Ukraine
Russia warned Friday it may respond if cross-border shooting from Ukraine continues, sharply raising tensions over the crisis a day after a Malaysian jet crashed in the country's rebel-held east killing all 298 people aboard.
"We already warned that if this continues then we will take measures. At least if it is clear that this has been done deliberately I am convinced that such a firing position should be neutralised as a one-off measure," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Rossiya 24 state television.
"We have delivered a serious warning to our Ukrainian colleagues," he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
3:55 pm: WHO spokesman among the 298 killed
Glen Thomas, a spokesman for the World Health Organisation, was among the 298 people killed in the crash in eastern Ukraine of a Malaysia Airlines jet, the UN agency said Friday.
Thomas was headed to Melbourne for a global AIDS conference along with dozens of others on the flight that ended in tragedy on Thursday.
"It is with deep sadness that WHO lost one of our colleagues in the Malaysia crash," communications official Gregory Hartl told reporters in Geneva.
Thomas came to WHO from the BBC and was passionate about public health issues, Hartl said, flanked by press service colleagues, several in tears.
"His twin sister said he died doing what he loves," Hartl said, adding that no other UN staff were aboard the doomed airliner.
Many of the journalists attending the briefing had worked with Thomas, and a minute of silence was held in his memory.
3:52 pm: Woman loses relatives in both MH370 and MH17 air disasters
An Australian woman who lost her brother in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has now learned that her stepdaughter was on the Malaysia Airlines flight shot down over Ukraine.
Kaylene Mann's brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows were on Flight 370 when it vanished in March. On Friday, she found out that her stepdaughter, Maree Rizk, was killed along with 297 other passengers on board Flight 17 when it crashed in Ukraine.
Mann's brother Greg Burrows says news of the second tragedy to hit the family has "ripped our guts again."
Rizk and her husband Albert were returning home to Melbourne from a four-week European vacation.
3:29 pm: 181 bodies located so far
A Ukrainian official says 181 bodies have been located so far at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine Foreign Ministry representative Andriy Sybiga cited local emergency workers at the site for the numbers Friday. He said the bodies will be taken to Kharkiv, a government-controlled city 270 kilometers (170 miles) north of the crash site, for identification.
Authorities say 298 people were killed when the plane traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down Thursday.
3.13 pm: Malaysia PM's grandmother was aboard crashed plane
Malaysian newspaper reports have said that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s step-grandmother Puan Sri Siti Amirah was one of the 43 Malaysians aboard the ill fated MH17 flight.
According to a family spokeswoman, Siti was travelling alone on her way back to Jogjakarta, Indonesia from Amsterdam and intended to transit at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
She was 83 years old, and was once married to Tan Sri Mohammad Noah Omar as his second wife. Noah, who passed away in 1990, was Najib's grandfather.
"She was a very, very nice lady. A kind-hearted, beautiful woman. She was a homemaker who looked after my grandfather very well. We called her 'ibu' (mother)," family spokeswoman Datin Dr Faridah Abdullah told The Star over the phone on Friday.
2.40 pm: Malaysia transport minister provides new breakdown of nationalities
Malaysia's transport minister Liow has provided a new breakdown of the nationalities of those known to have been on board MH17, writes Kate Hodal in Kuala Lumpur.
Some 21 passengers are accounted for, another 20 still have as yet to be verified as they were transit passengers, he said:
The latest breakdown of known nationalities of those on board is as follows:
173 from the Netherlands
9 from the United Kingdom
1 New Zealander
Once all passengers have been identified, Malaysia Airlines will release the full passenger manifest.
2.30 pm: Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has been granted access to the crash site
The Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe has been granted access to the site, according to their Twitter account update. You can check out the tweet below:
— СММ ОБСЄ в Україні (@OSCE_SMM) July 18, 2014
The group has been monitoring the crisis in Ukraine and had earlier tweeted saying that they had "requested people and resources closer to the place of the disaster MH17 with the purpose of fact-finding and reporting." 2.20 pm: Ukraine government denies that its missiles were involved in bringing down MH17 According to a report in The Guardian Ukraine’s foreign minister said there is no chance that the missile apparently used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines jet. Pavlo Klimkin told the Guardian, “We are absolutely sure and we checked yesterday that no missiles have been taken from the Ukrainian army.” 2.00 pm: Ukraine rebels say they have most of the plane's recorders Separatist rebels who control the area where the plane went down said they had recovered "most" of the plane's black boxes and were considering what to do with them, according to Associated Press. Ukraine, whose investigators have no access to the area, has called for an international probe to determine who attacked the plane and insisted it was not its military. US intelligence authorities said a surface-to-air missile downed the plane, but could not say who fired it. The report quotes an assistant to the insurgency's military commander, Igor Girkin, as saying that eight out of the plane's 12 recording devices had been located at the crash site. He did not elaborate. The assistant said Girkin, was still considering whether to give international crash investigators access to the sprawling crash site. Any investigators would need specific permission from the rebel leadership before they could safely film or take photos at the crash site. 1.45 pm: Malaysia govt to send 62-member disaster team to Ukraine The Malaysian government has said that it plans to send a 62-member disaster team to Ukraine. Speaking to international media, the Prime Minister said that it was essential that the crash site integrity is preserved'. He added that responsibility for all further information was now on Ukraine. The Premier also confirmed the nationality breakdown of all the passengers who were aboard flight MH17. 154 Dutch passengers, 43 Malaysians, including 15 crew, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos and one Canadian on board the doomed flight, he said. A total of 121 bodies have been found at the MH17 crash site as of 0700 local time (0400 GMT), Ukraine's State Emergencies Service says. 1.35 pm: Malaysia Airlines to arrange access to crash site Malaysia Airlines is trying to arrange safe access for relatives of victims to the site in eastern Ukraine where its Boeing 777 airliner crashed killing all 298 on board, a spokeswoman for Amsterdam airport said on Friday. "The relatives, a few hundred of them, are currently being housed in a hotel at Schiphol," the spokeswoman said. On Thursday, the airline's European head said it was sending a Boeing 747 to Amsterdam to take relatives to the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Meanwhile People are continuinge to search for bodies at the site of the crash. Reporters at the scene earlier had said there was a bitter acrid smell. Ukrainian officials have complained that rebels around the crash site are hampering access. 1.19 pm: Putin calls up Dutch PM, seeks urgent settlement of Ukraine crisis Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an urgent settlement of the Ukraine crisis Friday as he expressed condolences to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte over the Malaysian jet crash. "The head of Russia stressed that the tragedy once again highlighted the need for an urgent peaceful settlement of the most acute crisis in Ukraine and noted there is a need for a thorough and objective investigation of the air crash," the Kremlin said in a statement after Putin spoke with Rutte by phone. 12.40 pm: There was no threat to PM Modi's plane, says govt The Indian Government has said there was no threat to Air Force One, the aircraft that flew Prime Minister Narendra Modi back from Germany over the airspace where Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down yesterday. "I think that is speculation .... There was no danger to our PM's aircraft. No problem. On Air Force One, the flight data is on foreign radar," Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju told reporters when asked whether there was any threat to the PM's plane which flew over the same airspace. The Prime Minister returned last night after his trip to Brazil for the BRICS Summit. "What happens is that whenever any air route (for a VIP aircraft) is finalised, the countries involved get to know about it. If you don't keep them informed, there is another type of problem," he said. "So generally whenever any civilian aircraft flies over a country, suppose India, obviously the Government of India will know what aircraft it is, to whom it belongs, what its intentions are," Raju said. 12.28 pm: Crash felt like an earthquake, say residents near site Dozens of mutilated corpses and body parts were strewn around the smouldering wreckage in the village of Grabove, near the Russian border. Rescuers say that they have recovered 21 bodies as of now. Shocked residents of the village said the crash felt "like an earthquake". Meanwhile the BBC says it has learned that four pilots were on board MH17 - two captains and two co-pilots, the BBC has learned. The two captains were among Malaysia Airline's most experienced pilots - one was an instructor on the airline's Boeing 777 fleet and both had flown the route before. 11.52 am: Air India asked to avoid flying over Ukraine Civil Aviation Minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju today held a meeting with senior ministry officials. In this meeting, it was decided to ask Air India to avoid flying over the troubled area of Ukraine. It is not clear if flights will avoid Russian airspace too. A source in the Ministry said Air India has been directed to take alternate flight paths and that private airlines will be asked to take a call individually. He also said it is likely that a complete evaluation of all flight paths, which go over sensitive areas or countries where fighting is on at present, will be done. But he did not provide any further details. No NOTAM (note to airmen) has been issued by the aviaton regulator DGCA as of now about avoiding airspace over Ukraine as of now. 11.45 am: Malaysia Airlines says it will change flight route to and from Europe Malaysia Airlines says that it has changed the route it planes will take on flights to and from Europe, following the shooting down of flight MH17 in Russian airspace. The airline said in a statement Friday on its website that all of its European flights "will be taking alternative routes avoiding the usual route." "The usual flight route was earlier declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization. International Air Transportation Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions," the airline said in a statement on its website. Even though there were no restrictions, Malaysia Airlines may still face questions about why it continued with flight paths over eastern Ukraine — at the heart of a violent rebellion against Kiev — when some airlines decided months ago to change routes to skip around the area. In Seoul, Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said Asiana had a once-a-week cargo flight that had flown over Ukraine but re-routed the flight in early March amid the worsening situation over the Crimean peninsula. Korean Air Line also said it had rerouted cargo and passenger flights in early March amid the worsening situation over the Crimean peninsula. Likewise, Australia's Qantas stopped flying over Ukraine several months ago and shifted its London-Dubai route 645 kilometers (400 miles) to the south. Air China changed its route for flights between Beijing and Rome to avoid Ukrainian airspace following Thursday's incident, according to an employee of the airline's publicity department, who would give only his surname, Xu. Xu said the airline has several possible routes for each flight and removed the one that passed through Ukraine from its list of options for Rome flights. A statement from Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department said local "airlines do not use air routes that cross Ukrainian airspace." 11.37 am: Rescue workers recover second flight recorder Rescue workers have recovered a second flight recorder from the crash site in eastern Ukraine, according to a report by BBC News. Rescue workers, policemen and even off-duty coal miners are combing the area adjacent to the crash site. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Ukraine has accused pro-Russian separatists who control the area of shooting down the plane, a claim they denied. American intelligence authorities said a surface-to-air missile brought the plane down but were still working on who fired the missile. Coal miners joined the rescue effort early Friday morning. Police and rescue teams were combing the area, looking for bodies and debris. An Associated Press journalist said that he saw bodies and body parts strewn across the field outside the village of Rozsypne about 4 kilometers away from the crash site. 11.19 am: BREAKING: Ukraine rebels guarantee investigators access to MH17 crash site Ukraine rebels have guaranteed investigators "safe access" to the crash site of Malaysian Airliner MH17 in territory they hold, negotiators said after talks with the insurgents. The separatists committed to providing "safe access and security guarantees to the national investigation commission, including international investigators, in the area under their control," the trilateral Contact Group on the Ukraine Crisis said in a statement, adding rebels would also close off the site and allow local authorities to recover the bodies of the victims. This is in line with a US demand that international investigators are granted access to the site of the crash. The White House has also demanded an international probe into the incident. 11.05 am: PM Modi condoles with MH17 victim's families Prime Minister Narendra Modi today condoled the loss of lives in the Malaysian airline tragedy and said India stands with the families of victims in this hour of grief. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives on board Flight MH17. We stand with them in this hour of grief," he said in a tweet. https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/489995615347032064 In a strange coincidence the Prime Minister's plane from Frankfurt had been on the same route as the Malayasia Airlines plane. It had been about an hour behind the doomed flight. The flight was then rerouted. 11.00 am: Route taken by MH17 had been abandoned by other Asian airlines The Malaysian airliner apparently shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine was flying over airspace that a number of other Asian carriers abandoned months ago because of security concerns. South Korea's two main airlines, Korean Air and Asiana, as well as Australia's Qantas and Taiwan's China Airlines said they had all rerouted flights from as early as the beginning of March when Russian troops moved into Crimea. "We stopped flying over Ukraine because of safety concerns," Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyo-Min said. Korean Air re-routed its flights 250 kilometres (160 miles) south of Ukraine from March 3 "due to the political unrest in the region", an official for the carrier told AFP. A Qantas spokeswoman said its London to Dubai service used to fly over Ukraine, but the route was changed "several months ago", while Taiwan's China Airlines diverted its flights from April 3. Quizzed as to why Malaysia Airlines had not taken similar precautions, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said international air authorities had deemed the flight path secure. "The aircraft's flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization. And (the) International Air Transportation Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions," he said. Re-routing would have involved a longer flight-time and therefore higher fuel costs. 10.00 am: UN Security council to hold emergency meeting on Ukraine The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Ukraine, following the downing Malaysia Airlines passenger plane MH17 carrying 298 people over eastern Ukraine. Britain proposed a Security Council press statement calling for "a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident." The statement, obtained by The Associated Press, was circulated to all 15 council members, who must approve it before it can be issued. Earlier, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said "there is clearly a need for a full and transparent international investigation" into the plane crash in Ukraine. Ban said during a media event that the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency, is closely monitoring the disaster involving the Malaysia Airlines plane. 10.00 am: Former International AIDS President, 100 activists were aboard MH17 As many as 100 of those killed on a Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in Ukraine were delegates heading to Australia for a global AIDS conference, reports said. Among the passengers was former president of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange, a well-known HIV researcher from the Netherlands. The Australian broadsheet and the Sydney Morning Herald both said that more than one-third of the nearly 300 who died were AIDS researchers, health workers and activists en route to Melbourne. The Herald said those attending a pre-conference meeting in Sydney were told that around 100 of their colleagues were on the plane that went down, including former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange. 9.30 am: It was a surface-to-air missile: US intelligence AP has reported that US intelligence authorities believe it was a surface-to-air missile that took down the MH17 passenger jet in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, though the Obama administration was still to confirm who launched the strike. There appears to be growing agreement that the pro-Russia separatists may have indeed armed themselves with such a missile, though it was believed until now that the militants only had shoulder-fired 'manpads' that only have a range of about 10,000 feet and can thus target low-flying aircraft only..
A Wall Street Journal report says all eyes would now be on Russia if it emerges that the sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry has been obtained by the militants.
The report adds that in late June, separatist leaders told the Russian news outlets RIA Novosti and Interfax that they had taken control of a Ukrainian air-defense base near the village of Oleksiivka equipped with Buk missiles.
The Donetsk People's Republic also posted a photo of the missiles, sometimes known as Gadfly systems, on its official Twitter feed at the time, declaring a victory in having seized the weaponry. The Russian maker of the Buk system, Almaz-Antey, is among the firms the US subjected to new sanctions this week.
On Thursday, separatist leaders denied they had ground-to-air missiles, such as the Buk system, that were powerful enough to shoot down a Boeing 777 flying at such a height. "The plane was shot down by the Ukrainian side," Sergei Kavtaradze, one of the leaders of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic, told the Interfax news agency.
"We simply don't have those kind of air-defense systems."
9.20 am: Phone recording appears to implicate pro-Russia militants
A telephone conversation between alleged Russian-backed Cossack militants appears to indicate their involvement, according to the KyivPost.
The recorded conversation was released by the Security Service of Ukraine between militants code-named named 'Greek' and 'Major'. According to the translated transcript, one admits to shooting down a "100 per cent civilian" plane and says somebody was sent to inspect the site and the bodies.
9.00 am: Unimpeded investigation: Full text of statement put out by the White House Here is the full statement of The White House, seeking a "full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation". The US has also called for an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and ensure that all remains are safely recovered. Significantly, the statement also urges Russia to take steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and to support such a ceasefire and the "path toward peace that the Ukrainian government has consistently put forward".
8.45 am: Malaysia Airlines says MH17 route had been declared safe
Malaysia Airlines said on Friday the flight route taken by the MH17 airliner that came down in Ukraine had been declared safe by the UN aviation arm, the International Civil Aviation Organisation. It also said the International Air Transportation Association "had stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions".
Here is the full flight history of the flight, as recorded by the live air traffic tracking site, flight radar 24.
It shows that the flight took a slight deviation from its planned route, which meant that it flew across the length of Ukraine.
The airline said the plane was carrying a total 298 people, including three infants, 283 passengers and 15 crew. It earlier said it had been carrying 295 people.
8.30 am: Malaysia Airlines stock plummets 18% as country wakes up to crash
Shares in Malaysia Airlines tumbled almost 18 percent on Friday after one of its passenger jets crashed in violence-wracked Ukraine, just months after the carrier was hit by the loss of a plane over the Indian Ocean. The firm fell 17.8 percent to 0.185 ringgit at one point in morning trade on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange, before paring some of those losses to sit 13 percent lower.
Malaysia Airlines is still reeling from the unexplained disappearance March 8 of flight MH370 with 239 people aboard. Combined with the airline's perennial losses, the MH370 debacle has pummelled its shares this year -- it has lost more than a third of its value since January 1 -- and sparked intense speculation over whether it may be sold off or restructured. The latest crash worsens the carrier's outlook, said Mohshin Aziz, research analyst at Maybank Investment Bank.
"In the history of aviation... there's never been an airline that had to go through two huge disasters in the span of four months, so I don't think there's any historical evidence that they can get out of this," he told Dow Jones Newswires.
8.20 am: US demands ceasefire to access crash site
In a statement, the White House has urged Russia, pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine "to support an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and in order to facilitate the recovery of remains". Meanwhile US vice president Joe Biden has said that the plane 'was blown out of the sky' and that it was 'not an accident'.
7.40 am: Australia PM lays blame on 'Russia backed' rebels, Putin blames Ukraine
Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbot has laid the blame on 'Russia' backed rebels, showing that the West is determined to lay the blame where it feels it belongs. "This is a grim day for our country and it's a grim day for our world."
He said MH17 was shot down, "it seems by Russia-backed rebels". Meanwhile Putin said Ukraine bore responsibility for the downing of a passenger plane in the country's east, saying it would not have happened if Kiev had not resumed a military campaign against separatists. "This tragedy would not have happened, if there had been peace on that land, or in any case if military operations in southeastern Ukraine had not been renewed," he said in televised comments.
"And without doubt the government of the territory on which it happened bears responsibility for this frightening tragedy," he said, adding that he had urged the Russian authorities to do everything possible to help with the investigation into the incident.
7.12 am: Flight carrying PM Modi was on same flight route as MH17
A flight carrying Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on the same flight route as the Malaysian Airlines plane that is believed to have been shot down, according to a report in The Hindu.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flight back to India, which took off from Frankfurt two hours before the crash and was in the same flight corridor, was rerouted", the report said. “There was no danger to the PM’s plane, but obviously the area that they would have flown over would have been the same", the report quoted an aviation official as saying. Read the Hindu report here
Meanwhile Newsweek tweeted out this map of the airspace over Ukraine after the plane was shot down:
7.00 am: Malaysian PM demands swift justice if flight was shot down
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak demanded swift justice against those responsible if a Malaysian airliner that came down in Ukraine was found to have been shot down. Najib, reading out a statement at a news conference on Friday, said Malaysia had not been able to verify what caused the Boeing 777-200 to crash while on a flight from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, but it had not made a distress call.
But he said he had agreed in talks with U.S. President Barack Obama that investigators must get full access to the site of the crash. "The Ukrainian authorities believe that the plane was shot down," Najib said in the statement.
"At this stage, however, Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy. But we must, and we will, find out precisely what happened to this flight. No stone will be left unturned." "If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice."
6.45 am: MH17 had 154 Dutch passengers aboard, says Malaysian Airlines
At least 154 Dutch citizens have been killed in the Malaysian passenger crash in the eastern part of Ukraine Thursday, the airlines' European head said. Huib Gorte said that the victims include 154 Dutch passengers, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, 6 Britons, 4 Germans, 4 Belgians, 3 Philippines, one Canadian and 47 of yet unknown identities, Xinhua reported.
Meanwhile a tweet from the airline said that it was in the process of identifying next of kin of the passengers:
The Malaysia Airlines MH17 passenger plane crashed Thursday in Ukraine near the Russian border, with all the 280 passengers and 15 crew members on board reportedly having been killed. All 15 crew members are Malaysians. Jos Nijhuis, president and CEO of the Schiphol Airport Group, said: "We sympathize with the families who have been affected. We will do everything in our power to accommodate and support them as well as possible and support."
6.30 am: Germany demands independent probe into shooting down of flight MH17
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday called for an independent, international investigation into the downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine. Ukraine accused "terrorists" - militants fighting to unite eastern Ukraine with Russia - of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines' Boeing 777 as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 295 people aboard.
Leaders of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic denied any involvement. Merkel called for an "immediate, independent investigation into the causes of the crash", German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement. "For the chancellor, the suspected circumstances in which the plane was allegedly shot down from a great height are shocking", he said.
- - end of updates for 17 July --
11.01 pm: 22 bodies counted at Malaysian airlines flight crash site
An Associated Press journalist has counted at least 22 bodies at the plane wreckage site in eastern Ukraine involving a Malaysia Airlines commercial flight. The plane appeared to have broken up before impact and the wreck is scattered over a wide area in the eastern Ukraine village of Grabovo.
The field around the burning wreck was strewn with body parts and the belongings of the passengers Thursday. Malaysia Airlines has said 295 people were aboard the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
10.43 pm: Body parts scattered to about 15 kms, says official
Ukraine official on the site has said at least 100 bodies were seen at the site. He also said that body parts were scattered around an area of 15 kms, reported CNN.
10.30 pm: Russia's rebel leader had boasted of having shot down plane
Reports suggest that a rebel leader in Russia had boasted of shooting down a plane right before reports of Malaysian flight MH17 appeared.
A website reports that "in a post on his VKontakte page, Russia's largest social media site, separatist leader Igor Girkin, aka Strelkov, wrote: "In the vicinity of Torez, we just downed a plane, an AN-26. It is lying somewhere in the Progress Mine.
We have issued warnings not to fly in our airspace. We have video confirming. The bird fell on a waste heap. Residential areas were not hit. Civilians were not injured."
10.23 pm: Obama asks officials to keep him updated on MH17
President Barack Obama is asking his advisers to keep him updated on reports of the Malaysian plane MH17 thats was shot down over Ukraine. But the White House says it cannot confirm the reports. Meanwhile Obama has also discussed the plane crash with Vladimir Putin over the phone.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday that Obama spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin before leaving on a trip to Delaware and New York. But Earnest could not say whether it was before or after Obama was aware of reports that the plane was shot down.
An adviser to Ukraine's interior minister says a passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down near the Russian border. Malaysian Airlines said it lost contact with one of its flights over Ukrainian airspace. Earnest says Putin requested the call to discuss new sanctions imposed on Russia Wednesday.
10.13 pm: Ukraine pro-Russia rebels say they didn't shoot down airline
This comes right after even the Ukraine president denies involvement in the country's army in the shocking incident. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the downing an act of terrorism and called for an international investigation into the crash.
The Donetsk region government said a plane crashed Thursday near a village called Grabovo, which it said is currently under the control of the separatists. The region where the flight was lost has seen severe fighting between the two sides in recent days. Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet).
He said it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher, which can fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet). The Malaysia Airlines plane is a Boeing 777-200ER, which was delivered to Malaysia Airlines on July 30, 1997, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets, which sells and tracks information about aircraft.
It has more than 43,000 hours of flight time and 6,950 takeoffs and landings. Poroshenko said his country's armed forces didn't shoot at any airborne targets. "We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets," he said.
"We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible." Separatist leader Andrei Purgin told The Associated Press that he was certain that Ukrainian troops had shot the plane down but gave no explanation or proof for his statement.
Purgin said he did not know whether rebel forces owned Buk missile launchers, but said even if they did, there had no fighters capable of operating it. A launcher similar to the Buk missile system was seen by Associated Press journalists earlier Thursday near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne, which is held by the rebels.
It was the second time that a Malaysia Airlines plane was lost in less than six months. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in March while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It has not been found, but the search has been concentrated in the Indian Ocean far west of Australia.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said on Twitter there's no confirmation that Thursday's plane was shot down. He said he has instructed the country's military to check. There have been disputes over planes being shot down earlier in the region. On Wednesday evening, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday, adding to what Kiev says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the separatist insurgents.
Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the air-to-air missile was forced to bail after his jet was shot down. Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely Moscow denies Western charges that is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighbor.
The Russian Defense Ministry couldn't be reached for comment Thursday about the Ukrainian jet being shot down. Earlier this week, Ukraine said a military transport plane was shot down Monday by a missile fired from Russian territory.
9.58 pm: Here are images of the parts of the crashed Malaysian flight
9.51 pm: Ukraine army did not shoot down plane, says prez Petro Poroshenko
Ukraine's president says his country's armed forces did not shoot at any airborne targets, after reports that a Malaysian Airlines plane went down over Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko says Thursday "we do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets."
Poroshenko said "we are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible."
9.39 pm: I am shocked that an MH plane has crashed, says Malaysian PM
Najib Razak, Malaysian Prime Minister said he was shocked by the news of the Malaysian Airlines crash in a tweet. "I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation," Razak said.
9.37 pm: Aware of situation, gathering information, says Boeing spokesperson
The spokesperson for Beoing said, "We are aware of the media reports and are trying to gather information."
9.31: Video shows smoke billowing from area of crash
A video put up by The Telegraph shows huge clouds of smoke billowing from the area of the crash. Here is the video courtesy The Telegraph
9.23 pm: Shivraj Singh Chouhan condemns incident
Crash of Malaysian Airlines planes is shocking. We cannot ignore regional conflicts, the consequences always have global implications. — ShivrajSingh Chouhan (@ChouhanShivraj) July 17, 2014
9.15 pm: Crashed Malaysia airline flight with 295 on board was hit by missile
A Ukrainian official said a Malaysian passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday over a town in the east of the country, reported Associated Press.
Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher.
A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.
Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed that it "has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow."
The region has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatist rebels in recent days.
On Wednesday evening, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday, adding to what Kiev says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the air-to-air missile was forced to bail after his jet was shot down. Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely Moscow denies Western charges that is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighbor. The Russian Defense Ministry couldn't be reached for comment Thursday about the Ukrainian jet and Russia's foreign ministry didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.
Earlier this week, Ukraine said a military transport plane was shot down Monday by a missile fired from Russian territory. The rebels are known to possess portable anti-aircraft rocket launchers, but Ukrainian officials say that kind of weapon would have been unable to reach Monday's plane at the altitude at which it was flying Monday. Aviation experts, however, have questioned whether the stricken transport plane was flying at the altitude Ukrainian officials had claimed.
9.10 pm: Lost contact with flight, says Malaysia airlines
After reports emerged of Malaysia airlines flight flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur having crashed near the Ukraine border, the airline has confirmed that they had lost contact with the plane. CNN reports that no other details of the reason behind the crash is available yet.
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
8.57 pm: Was crashed Malaysia Airline flight shot down?
Since the area where the plane went down was an area of intense fighting between Russia and Ukraine, CNN correspondent from Ukrain says that the possiblity of the plane having been shot down cannot be ruled out.
8.50 pm: Malaysian passenger airline crashes in Ukraine
A Malaysian passenger airliner with 295 people on board crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border, Interfax cited an aviation industry source as saying on Thursday, reported Reuters.
It said the Boeing plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Reuters could not immediately confirm the Interfax report.
The crashed flight was a Boeing 777-200.
This comes around four months after MH370, another Malaysian Airline flight mysteriously disappeared on 8 March 2014.
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