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Malaysian plane downed in Ukraine, 295 dead

People walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a Malaysian plane near the village of Hrabove, Ukraine, Thursday, July 17, 2014. 

A Malaysian airliner that crashed  yesterday in rebel-held eastern Ukraine may have been shot down, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said.

“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 his website.

Russian news agency Itar-Tass cited Ukraine’s aviation authority as saying that all 280 passengers and 15 crew members on board the plane had died.

Poroshenko expressed his “deepest and sincerest sympathies for the families and loved ones of those killed” and vowed that “those behind this tragedy will be brought to justice.”

Rebel leaders told Russian news agencies that they were not responsible for shooting down the plane and pledged to allow “international experts” access to the crash site.

The Boeing passenger liner flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur came down close to town of Shaktarsk in the rebellion-wracked region of Donetsk, local authorities said.

Malaysian Airlines confirmed that it had “lost contact” with one its planes in Ukrainian airspace.

At least 100 bodies have been spotted up to 15 kilometers away from the crash site near the village of Grabovo, an official from the Emergencies Ministry said.

The village is about 40km from the Russian border in an area that has seen intense fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels.

The airline said on its Twitter feed it had lost contact with flight MH-17 from Amsterdam.

“The last known position was over Ukrainian air space,” it said.

Interfax, Ukraine’s media agency, quoted another official as saying the plane disappeared from radar when it was flying at 10,000 meters.

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