U.S. believes Malaysia Airlines plane shot down over eastern Ukraine

Both Ukrainian government and pro-Russia separatists in region deny shooting down plane

People inspect the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine on Thursday, July 17, 2014. (Dmitry Lovetsky/AP)

People inspect the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine, Thursday, July 17, 2014. Ukraine said a passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday as it flew over the country, and both the government and the pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied any responsibility for downing the plane. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

WASHINGTON — American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile took down a passenger jet in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, a U.S. official said, but the Obama administration was still scrambling to confirm who launched the strike and whether there were American citizens killed in the crash.

Vice-President Joe Biden said the incident was “not an accident” and described the Malaysia Airlines plane as having been “blown out of the sky.”

Among the unanswered questions was whether the missile was launched from the Russian or Ukrainian side of the border they share, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly by name and insisted on anonymity. But the official said U.S. intelligence assessments suggest it is more likely pro-Russian separatists or the Russians rather than Ukrainian government forces shot down the plane.

The U.S. has sophisticated technologies that can detect missile launches, including the identification of heat from a rocket engine.

President Barack Obama, speaking during a trip to Delaware, made no mention of who might be responsible for the crash of the plane carrying 295 people, and called the incident a “terrible tragedy.”

Following the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration said U.S. airlines voluntarily agreed not to operate near the Ukraine-Russia border. The agency said it was monitoring the situation to determine whether further guidance was necessary.

A global air safety group said an international coalition of countries should lead the investigation of the crash. Safety experts say they’re concerned that because the plane crashed in area of Ukraine that is in dispute, political considerations could affect the investigation.

Kenneth Quinn of the Flight Safety Foundation said only “an independent, multinational investigation can truly get to the bottom of it without political interference.”

The incident came one day after Obama levied broad economic sanctions on Russia as punishment for its threatening moves in Ukraine. Moscow is widely believed to be supporting pro-Russian separatists fomenting instability near the border, though the Kremlin denies those assertions.

Obama discussed the new sanctions by phone Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House said reports of the downed plane surfaced during that call and Putin mentioned the incident to his American counterpart.

Speaking later during a trip to Delaware, Obama said “the world is watching” the deadly incident.

“It looks like it might be a terrible tragedy,” he said. “Right now we’re working to determine whether there were American citizens on board. That is our first priority.”

White House officials said Obama still planned to go ahead with an evening of fundraising in New York.

Officials said Obama called both Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak from Air Force One as he travelled to the events. The White House said Obama and Poroshenko agreed that all evidence from the crash site must remain in Ukraine until international investigators were able to examine it.

The U.S. planned to send a team of experts to Ukraine to assist with the investigation.

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on his Facebook page that the plane was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet when it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher.

U.S. officials said Russia has sent a wide range of heavy weaponry into eastern Ukraine in recent months, although it is uncertain whether that includes the Buk air defence system, which is operated by a tracked vehicle. The U.S. suspects that Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons have been provided to the separatists.

According to a Ukrainian state-owned import-export firm that specializes in military technology and weaponry, known as Ukroboronservice, the Ukrainian military operates the Buk-M1 system, which is designated by NATO as the SA-11 Gadfly. It is designed to shoot down military aircraft, including helicopters, as well as cruise missiles.

The Russians also are believed by U.S. officials to have provided the separatists in eastern Ukraine with other heavy weaponry such as artillery, multiple-launch rocket systems, tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

The Federal Aviation Administration had previously warned U.S. pilots earlier this year not to fly over portions of the Ukraine in the Crimea region, according to notices posted on the agency’s website.

The notices were posted on April 23. The U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization and the aviation authorities in most countries issue similar notices for areas where unrest or military conflict creates a risk of being shot down.”




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U.S. believes Malaysia Airlines plane shot down over eastern Ukraine

  1. FYI. The United States military has also shot down a civilian airliner.

    Iran Air Flight 655 was an Iran Air civilian passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai that was shot down by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes on 3 July 1988, says Wiki. The attack took place in Iranian airspace, over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, and on the flight’s usual flight path. The aircraft, an Airbus A300 B2-203, was destroyed by SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles fired from the Vincennes.

    All 290 on board, including 16 crew, died.[1] This attack ranks ninth among the deadliest disasters in aviation history, the incident retains the highest death toll of any aviation incident in the Persian Gulf and the highest death toll of any incident involving an Airbus aircraft anywhere in the world.[2] The Vincennes had entered Iranian territorial waters after one of its helicopters drew warning fire from Iranian speedboats operating within Iranian territorial limits.[3]

    According to the Iranian government, Vincennes negligently shot down the civilian aircraft: the airliner was making IFF squawks in Mode III (not Mode II used by Iranian military planes), a signal that identified it as a civilian craft, and operators of Vincennes mistook for Mode II.[4]

    According to the United States Government, the crew incorrectly identified the Iranian Airbus A300 as an attacking F-14 Tomcat fighter (a plane made in the United States and operated at that time by only two forces worldwide, the United States Navy and the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force).

    The event generated a great deal of controversy and criticism of the United States. Some analysts have blamed U.S. military commanders and the captain of Vincennes for reckless and aggressive behavior in a tense and dangerous environment.[5][6]

    In 1996, the United States and Iran reached “an agreement in full and final settlement of all disputes, differences, claims, counterclaims” relating to the incident at the International Court of Justice.[7] As part of the settlement, the United States agreed to pay US$61.8 million, an average of $213,103.45 per passenger, in compensation to the families of the Iranian victims. However, the United States has never admitted

    • And if Ukraine government says they have one, how did they get something like that past the border? Did they lose one and not follow up to disable it?

  2. If a Buk launcher was used, bet it was originally shipped to Ukrainian government. And sorry, I don’t trust the Ukrainian government as they are murdering their own people which has escalated this.

    Buk launcher is big, it isn’t smuggled into a country, as it would be easily recognized at a border. And I really doubt those with blind hate are right that Russia did this, as Russia wouldn’t want them used against Russia.

    Reality is it was obtained in Ukraine. IF the rocket launcher was used, it was probably issued to the Ukraine government. So either government used it or lost one to the separatists. And if lost to separatists, I question why they were not disabled….

    Could be either party, is not the first time:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberia_Airlines_Flight_1812

    So lets not be too quick here on which side did what. As it could even be one of the Ukraine SU-25s that were in the area thinking it was a Russian incoming.

    Many even suspect the other Malaysian plane was also a military shoot down and cover up. No plane can disappear without a trace.

    A lot of propaganda in politics and media these days that doesn’t jive with reality.

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