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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, October 21, 2018

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Malaysia Airlines plane brought down in Ukraine

Malaysian Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Razak in a press conference

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KIEV/KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian Airlines flight has crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border, with all 283 passengers and fifteen crew members on board feared to have been killed.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Razak in a press conference late early Friday morning confirmed the Ukraine authorities believe the aircraft was shot down.

"A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, started descending 50km before entering Russian airspace, and was subsequently found burning on the ground in Ukrainian territory," an Interfax news agency aviation source reported earlier.

The plane disappeared on Thursday night from the radar at 10,000 metres and then crashed near the city of Shakhtarsk in conflict-hit Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian law enforcement authorities.

Those on board comprised comprising 283 passengers including three infants of various nationalities, and 15 crew of Malaysian nationality. The number dead was originally reported as 295 however that number did not take into account the 3 infants.

The UN Security Council has called an emergency session for Friday to discuss the crisis. UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman was expected to brief the council, diplomats said.

US President Barack Obama spoke on the telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin soon after news about the crash was received. A White House spokesman said Obama had asked to be kept updated on the developments and told his officials to be in touch with their Ukraine counterparts.

The Malaysian prime minister at his briefing said he too had spoken to Obama, and the pair had agreed an international team should investigate the downing of the aircraft, and the team should have full access to the crash site.

A group of emergency services personnel, including a disaster, search and rescue team is on the way to the crash scene from Malaysia.

"MAS has lost contact with MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukraine airspace," Malaysia Airlines tweeted.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the plane could have been shot down, but the Ukrainian Armed Forces had nothing to do with it.

"We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine Armed Forces did not fire at any targets in the sky," Poroshenko said in a statement posted on the president's website.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said the government has formed a special investigative commission for the incident.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office said that law enforcement authorities could not access the crash site for investigation, as it is controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).

Andrei Purgin, first deputy prime minister of the DPR, said the first militia units had reached the crash site and found many children dead.

There were reports saying that the plane was shot down by the eastern Ukrainian militants, which was immediately denied by the DPR leadership.

"The plane was shot down by the Ukrainian side. We simply do not have such air defence systems, our MANPADs (man portaable air defence systems) have a firing range of only 3,000 to 4,000 metres, while passenger jets fly at a much higher altitude," Xinhua cited Interfax as quoting DPR officials.

The militants said they did not rule out that the plane could have been brought down by Ukrainian servicemen.

BBC online carried a tweet by Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammed Najib following the incident stating: "I am shocked by reports that a Malaysia Airlines plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation."

This is the second major tragedy for Malaysia Airlines this year after flight MH370 with 227 passengers on board went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing March 8 and has still not been traced.

"This is a tragic day in which has already been a tragic year for Malaysia," the Malaysian prime minister said early Friday at the press briefing. "There were many people, passengers and crew, of all nationalities. Today we are all united in grief."

"Ukraine authorities believe the plane was shot down," Mohammed Najib said.

A number of international airlines including Lufthansa, Emirates, British Airways and Turkish Airlines have announced they will no longer fly over Ukrainian air space.

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