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Malaysian Airliner Shot Down by Missile in Ukraine

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All 298 people on a Malaysia Airlines flight died when a missile apparently struck the plane on Thursday. It was traveling from Amsterdam, Holland to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the time.

The wreckage fell over a wide area around Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian government forces are fighting pro-Russia separatists in that area.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama called the incident an “outrage of unspeakable proportions.”

“Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine.”

Mr. Obama spoke from the White House. He did not say who was responsible for the crash. But he did note what he called a steady flow of support from Russia for the separatists.

“This includes arms and training. It includes heavy weapons and it includes anti-aircraft weapons.”

Mr. Obama called for an immediate cease-fire between the Ukrainian government and the separatists. He said the two sides must stop fighting to permit an investigation.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led a worldwide call for an open investigation of the crash. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the crash was, in his words, “not an accident; it’s a crime.” And German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “There are many indications that the plane was shot down, so we have to take things seriously.”

Malaysia’s Transport Minister said it would be an “outrage against human decency” if the airliner was shot down on purpose.

The crash of flight MH17 happened four months after another Malaysia Airlines plane, Flight MH370, went missing. That plane was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China. Extensive searches have taken place across the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. But it has not been found.

On Thursday, officials from Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said that MH17 was flying at a height of about 10,000 meters when a Buk missile struck it. The Buk is a Russian-made surface-to-air missile that can hit extremely high targets. A Malaysia Airlines statement said Flight MH17 lost contact with Ukrainian air-traffic controllers at 2:15 UTC.

About the same time, social media postings on Twitter and the Russian website VKontakte claimed that separatists had shot down an AN-26 military transport plane near the town of Torez, not far from the where the passenger plane crashed. A separatist leader and Russian citizen known as Igor Strelkov reportedly placed the posts.

The VKontakte posting included a video showing smoke rising from the fields outside Torez. It said the military transport was shot down in the area somewhere near the Progress coal mine.

Later, a new posting on the Vkontatke Website and Twitter replaced it. The new posting came from Alexander Borodai, the leader of the separatist People’s Republic of Donetsk. It said a passenger jet had crashed near Torez. The separatist leader denied involvement in the crash and suggested that Ukrainian government forces were responsible.

Nationalities of passengers on MH17
Nationalities of passengers on MH17

Most of the passengers on the Malaysian plane were Dutch. Many were scientists heading to an international AIDS conference in Australia.

Emergency workers reported that more than 180 bodies have been located. Reports conflict about whether the plane’s audio and video recorders have been recovered.

And that’s In The News, from VOA Learning English.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

This story is based on VOA reports from Mike Eckel, Jurij Hiltajczuk, Mary Alice Salinas and Jeff Seldin. It was written in Special English by Hai Do and edited by Jeri Watson.

Go to for the latest developments in this fast-moving story.