A surface-to-air missile shot down a Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine today, killing all 285 passengers aboard, U.S. intelligence officials have told the Wall Street Journal.
A Ukrainian official has accused pro-Russian separatists in the area, where the Ukrainian government has been trying to suppress militants over the past few months, of using a SA-17 “Grizzly” missile to shoot down the plane. The militants have denied shooting it down. Reportedly, all three sides of the conflict — the Russian government, the Ukrainian government, and the Russian-backed rebels — have SA-17s.
American intelligence agencies told the WSJ that they aren’t exactly sure where the missile originated, but Fox News reports that they’ve ruled out the idea of its coming from the Ukrainian government. They aren’t shy about the possibility of Russian-government involvement: “If the separatists shot it down, it couldn’t have been done without Russian assistance,” an official told the WSJ.
The Kyiv Post reports that the Ukrainian state intelligence agency, the SBU, has released recordings of Russian-backed Cossack militants talking on the phone 20 minutes after the crash, explaining how they’d shot down a civilian plane. (One of the militants is allegedly a Russian military-intelligence officer.)
Russian media report that the plane’s flight recorder (its “black box”) has been sent to Moscow for analysis.
The Ukrainian government says that 23 Americans were aboard the plane, and that more than 300 people were killed in the crash. President Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin discussed the incident today when Putin brought it up on a phone call, according to the White House (the call had been scheduled to discuss a new, more aggressive round of sanctions the U.S. had just implemented on Russia).
Eleven Ukrainian military aircraft have been shot down by the separatists since the crisis began, according to Business Insider, but they were all flying at a much lower level than the Malaysian plane, which would have been flying at commercial-airline altitude. The Ukrainian Armed Forces say the plane was hit at 10,000 meters.
Reuters offers the following map of the plane’s path and where it crashed: