GRABOVO, Ukraine, July 17 (Reuters) – A Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian militants on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard, a Ukrainian interior ministry official said.
Raising the stakes in the East-West showdown between Kiev and Moscow, the official blamed "terrorists" using a ground-to-air missile and Ukraine’s prime minister called the downing of the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur a "catastrophe".
A Reuters correspondent saw burning wreckage and bodies on the ground at the village of Grabovo, about 40 km (25 miles) from the Russian border in an area where pro-Russian rebels have been active and have claimed to have shot down other aircraft.
The Boeing 777 came down near the city of Donetsk, stronghold of pro-Russian rebels, interior ministry official Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook, adding it was "shot down with a Buk anti-aircraft system by terrorists" – the term the Kiev government uses for militants seeking to unite eastern Ukraine with Russia
Ukraine has accused Russia of taking an active role in the four-month-old conflict in recent days and accused it earlier on Thursday of shooting down a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet – an accusation that Moscow denied.
The military commander of the rebels, a Russian named Igor Strelkov, had written on his social media page shortly before the report of the airliner being downed that his forces had brought down an Antonov An-26 in the same area. It is a turboprop transport plane of a type used by Ukraine’s forces.
1:35 p.m. EDT: Number of dead from crash of Malaysian passenger plane is more than 300 and includes 23 U.S. citizens – Interior Ministry adviser, quoted by Ifax
12:55 p.m. EDT: Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone conversation told U.S. President Barack Obama that a Malaysian airplane crashed on Ukrainian territory, the Kremlin said on Thursday. The two leaders held a pre-planned call on the situation in Ukraine during which information became available from air traffic controllers about the crash.
12:37 p.m. EDT: Eastern Ukraine separatist leader Alexander Borodai says Malaysian airline shot down by Ukrainian government forces, Kiev has denied involvement
Much more developing here. Please keep all victims and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
Update by Steve:
Governor Palin sends her thoughts and prayers: