Officials say Malaysian plane shot down over Ukraine
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - An adviser to Ukraine's Interior Minister says a Malaysian passenger plane carrying 295 people has been shot down over a town in the east of the country.
Anton Gerashenko says on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit Thursday by a missile fired from a Buk launcher.
A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.
MH17 was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
Malaysia Airlines says it lost contact with the plane over Ukrainian airspace.
Malaysian prime minister says he is launching immediate probe into reported jetliner crash.
The Donetsk region government said Thursday's plane crashed near a village called Grabovo, which it said is currently under the control of armed pro-Russian separatists. The region where the flight was lost has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatist rebels in recent days.
A launcher similar to the Buk missile system was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.
On Wednesday evening, a Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday, adding to what Kiev says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the air-to-air missile was forced to bail after his jet was shot down.
Pro-Russia rebels, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for strikes Wednesday on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile, but added the pilot was unscathed and managed to land his plane safely.
Moscow denies Western charges that is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest in its neighborhood. The Russian Defense Ministry couldn't be reached for comment Thursday about the Ukrainian jet and Russia's foreign ministry didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.
The rebels are known to possess portable anti-aircraft rocket launchers, but Ukrainian officials say that kind of weapon would have been unable to cause that much destruction.
Ukraine's president says his country's armed forces did not shoot at any airborne targets, after reports that a Malaysian Airline plane went down over Ukraine.
President Petro Poroshenko says Thursday "we do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed forced of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets."
Poroshenko said "we are that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible."
An Associated Press journalist has counted at least 22 bodies at the plane wreckage site in eastern Ukraine involving a Malaysia Airlines commercial flight.
The plane appeared to have broken up before impact and the wreck is scattered over a wide area in the eastern Ukraine village of Grabovo.
The field around the burning wreck was strewn with body parts and the belongings of the passengers Thursday.
NBC has unconfirmed reports 23 Americans were on the plane.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the latest information available.]