An adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane carrying more than 200 people was shot down Thursday while flying over the east Ukraine region of Donetsk.
Malaysia Airlines confirmed it had lost contact with Flight MH17 and its last known position was over Ukrainian airspace.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 departed from Amsterdam around noon on Thursday and was due to arrive in Kuala Lumpur early Friday.
The plane was shot down near the city of Torez in the Donetsk region while flying at a height of about 10,000 meters, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.
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The crash immediately sparked speculation about the cause amid fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russia separatists. Several other planes have been downed in recent days.
Also fueling speculation is the fact that it involved Malaysia Airlines, the operator at the center of a global mystery over the disappearance of its flight in March.
The war of words kicked off immediately after the crash. In a phone call with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Gerashchenko alleged that pro-Russia rebels had set up a ground-to-missile battery near the Russian border by the town of Snizhne.
“They clearly thought that it was a military transport plane that they were shooting at,” he said. “They were the ones who did this.”
His claims couldn’t be verified. Klavdia Kulbatskaya, a spokeswoman for the rebel-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said she had no information on the incident.
In 2001, the Ukrainian military mistakenly shot down a commercial passenger jet that was en route from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk with a land-to-air missile that was fired during a military exercise. All the 66 passengers and 12 crew members on board the plane were killed in the blast.