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Malaysian airliner with 295 on board crashes in Ukraine

Kuala Lumpur/Kiev, July 17 (IANS) A Malaysia Airlines plane with 280 passengers and 15 crew members on board was “shot down” in Ukraine near the Russian border Thursday, media reports said.

Citing sources, the Malaysian Star said that the Boeing 777, which was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was “shot down” while cruising at an altitude of 30,000 feet.

It crashed in a conflict-hit zone near Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the report said, adding the plane did not enter Russian airspace.

“MAS has lost contact with MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukraine airspace,” the report quoted Malaysia Airlines as tweeting.

It also cited the Ukrainian interior ministry as saying that all 295 people on board are feared dead.

“A Malaysia Airlines 777, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, started descending 50 km before entering Russian airspace and was subsequently found burning on the ground on Ukrainian territory,” a Xinhua report quoted an Interfax news agency aviation source as saying.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday that he cannot rule out that the Malaysia Airlines flight may be shot down.

“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.

BBC online carried a tweet by Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammed Najib following the news which stated: “I am shocked by reports that an MH 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.

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