Ukraine plane crash: Live Report

Ruth Holmes and AFP reporters
Belongings of passengers on the site of the crash of the Malaysia Airlines jet, near Shaktarsk, in east Ukraine
View photos
Belongings of passengers on the site of the crash of the Malaysia Airlines jet, near Shaktarsk, in east Ukraine (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget)

London (AFP) - 13:34 GMT - WE OUR NOW CLOSING OUR LIVE REPORT as global calls mount for a full investigation into the Malaysia Airlines crash that killed 298 people in eastern Ukraine.

Among the dead were 189 Dutch passengers aswell as scores of delegates heading to Australia for a global AIDS conference.

Pro-Russian separatist rebels have pledged to allow investigators safe access to the crash site, rejecting Ukraine claims that they they shot down the plane in a "terrorist attack". Emergency crews are still picking through the carnage at the scene.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is in touch with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko and hopes for a peaceful resolution as tensions mount over who was responsible for the crash.

Malaysia Airlines, reeling from its second aviation disaster in four months, says MH17 had a clean service record and underwent maintenance a week ago. The airline says its investigators are on their way to Kiev, but disclosed no information on the plane's black box, which will could be key to any probe. LIVE REPORT CLOSED.

13:31 GMT - Lange tributes - Tributes have poured in for AIDS researcher Joep Lange, a pioneer of cheap anti-retrovirals for the poor. Colleagues say he will be remembered as a man of compassion of vision.

"His contribution to HIV research and treatment, and his determination to ensure access to those treatments for people in Africa and Asia cannot be underestimated," says David Cooper, director of the Kirby Centre at Australia's University of New South Wales.

The 59-year-old Dutchman, who was on his way to Melbourne for the AIDS conference, was killed along with his partner Jacqueline van Tongeren and dozens of other conference delegates.

13:20 GMT - AIDS conference shock - As many as 100 passengers on the crashed jet were heading to Australia for the International AIDS Conference, according to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald. The event is due to begin on Sunday.

The Australian broadsheet reports that 108 attendees and family members were killed, including prominent former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange.

Denis Napthine, the premier of Victoria state which is hosting the conference, says a "substantial" number of those attending were on the plane.

"We know it has been confirmed a number of senior people who were coming out here -- researchers, medical scientists, doctors, people who have been at the forefront of dealing with AIDS across the world -- were on that flight," he says.

13:09 GMT - Victims' identities - Malaysia Airlines has revised the Dutch death toll in the disaster up to 189 and confirmed the identities of dozens more passengers.

The airline says 298 people were killed in total -- 283 passengers, including three infants and 15 Malaysian crew.

Including the crew members and two of the children, 44 of the victims were Malaysian while 27 were Australian.

Twelve were Indonesians including an infant, nine were British, four German, three from the Philippines, one Canadian and one New Zealander.

The airline said four were Belgian but the Belgian foreign minister has said five Belgians were on board. The nationalities of four passengers remain unconfirmed, the airline says.

12:55 GMT - 'Clean record' - More on the statement from Malaysia Airlines on MH17's flight record:

"The aircraft had a clean maintenance record," says Malaysia Airlines' European vice president Huib Gorter, adding "all systems on the aircraft were running normally" when contact was lost.

12:47 GMT - Putin statement - "We are in contact with Ukrainian President Pyotr Alekseyevich Poroshenko," says Putin at a meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, cited by Russian news agencies.

"And I hope that he will manage to offer all the people of the whole of entire Ukraine, all people wherever they live, a way for events to develop that would lead to final, complete and long-term peace on this land."



12:27 GMT - Crash scene - AFP's Stephane Orjollet describes this harrowing scene at the site of the crash: "Lives shattered in a field. Ripped open cases, a shoe, photographs, presents from the airport, a porcelain dutch doll with clogs and blond plaited hair, still in her cardboard box. Swimming suits. Baby nappies. A pink case full of little girl things, with a drawing, the colours all mixed by the rain. Not far away a team of divers are checking a pond."

12:13 GMT - Mistaken identity? - In Russia, conspiracy theories abound as to how the Malaysian air crash happened. One line doing the rounds on TV is that it was a bungled attempt to down President Vladimir Putin's presidential jet.

"The aim could have been Plane No. 1," Russia 24 television says, referring to Putin's presidential jet, quoting an Interfax civil aviation source as saying the logo on the Malaysian plane's wing "looks like the Russian tricolour."

The president returned to Moscow on Thursday from a tour of Latin America, and his plane and the Malaysian liner flew over eastern Europe at roughly the same time, Channel One television noted.

12:04 GMT - Royal 'prayers' - Britain's Prince William voices his "deep sadness" over the deaths and offers "thoughts and prayers" from Britain's royal family to relatives.

Speaking during an event at Australia's diplomatic mission in London, he says: "I know that I speak for all of us here when I acknowledge our deep sadness following yesterday's disaster in the Ukraine.

"For all of us who have lost fellow countrymen and women in the tragedy, words cannot do justice to our sense of loss.

"For Australians, and for our Malaysian brothers and sisters in the Commonwealth, the crash is a particularly cruel tragedy coming so soon after the loss of MH370.

"Please be assured of my family's thoughts and prayers at this time."

12:01 GMT - UK emergency talks - In Britain, where families are mourning the loss of nine passengers, Prime Minister David Cameron has emerged from a meeting of the government's emergency committee Cobra.

He says: "If, as seems possible, this was brought down then those responsible must be brought to account and we must lose no time in doing that.

"It is an absolutely shocking incident and cannot be allowed to stand."

He urges leaders to cooperate with investigations into the crash, and the recovery of bodies, adding: "All governments, the Russian government, the Ukrainian government, all of them must do everything they can so that we can get to the bottom of what happened in this absolutely dreadful loss of life."

11:53 GMT - 'Humanitarian corridor' - More on that announcement from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that it is negotiating safe passage to the crash site with rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The security body is in talks with the rebels to create "a humanitarian corridor allowing access to this region to do the necessary work as well as the investigations," OSCE chief Didier Burkhalter says on Swiss television.

He says the OSCE is also seeking access to the plane's black box flight recorder "currently in the hands of the separatists".

11:43 GMT - Dutch crash probe - Information from Dutch security services suggests the plane likely was shot down, according to a minister.

"Based on information from our (security) services, it seems highly likely that MH17 was shot down," Dutch Justice and Safety Minister Ivo Opstelten tells a press conference in The Hague.

"An investigation will have to point out the cause of the accident."

He says a Dutch team of investigators are to depart for Kiev as soon as possible and will look into "the cause, the passenger list and the route flown."


11:14 GMT - Separatists reject ceasefire - A top separatist leader in east Ukraine rules out a temporary truce with government forces but pledges to allow investigators to access the MH17 crash site.

"There is no question of a ceasefire but we will let experts access the site of the catastrophe," Alexander Borodai, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic", tells journalists.

AFP's Stephane Orjollet says the sound of faraway explosions can still be heard from the scene.

Kiev has blamed the rebels and their alleged Russian backers for downing the plane. But the separatists deny the claim and have vowed to protect the crash site.

11:13 GMT - AIDS conference - The World Health Organisation says one of its spokesmen was killed in the crash. Glenn Thomas was among dozens on the flight who were heading to Melbourne for a global AIDS conference.

"It is with deep sadness that WHO lost one of our colleagues in the Malaysia crash," communications official Gregory Hartl tells reporters in Geneva.

He says Thomas was passionate about public health issues, adding: "His twin sister said he died doing what he loves."

11:09 GMT - Lavrov: 'serious warning' - More on those comments from Russia's Foreign Minister, warning that Moscow may respond if cross-border shooting from Ukraine continues, as tensions mount:

"We already warned that if this continues then we will take measures. At least if it is clear that this has been done deliberately I am convinced that such a firing position should be neutralised as a one-off measure," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tells Rossiya 24 state television.

"We have delivered a serious warning to our Ukrainian colleagues," he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

10:59 GMT - A local farmer in Shaktarsk recounts the horror of watching the plane hit the ground:

"You understand, it was as if a three-storey building came down but missed us," Pavel, 45, tells AFP as he looks at some of the fuselage lying a hundred metres from his house.

"I'm in shock and will never forget it. We really almost died. It smells like death."

10:51 GMT - At the crash site in Shaktarsk, eastern Ukraine, emergency workers pick their way through the grisly carnage, AFP's Stephane Orjollet reports.

Among the wreckage, personal belongings: a guidebook on Bali, a children's card game.

Fire fighters make their way, painstakingly, through the debris -- scattered for kilometres -- stopping to plant sticks tied with white rags to mark the location of some of the 298 victims.

10:43 GMT - Questions over 'shooting' - Questions continue to swirl as to who was responsible for the apparent shooting down of the jet, with the US leading calls for an "unimpeded" international inquiry.

Malaysia's transport minister says it would constitute an "outrage against human decency" if it is confirmed that flight MH17 was shot down.

"Should this be confirmed, it would contravene international law, and be an outrage against human decency," Liow Tiong Lai tells reporters.


10:27 GMT - Double tragedy - While Malaysia is struggling to come to terms with its second aviation tragedy in a matter of months, one Australian family has been hit by both disasters, losing two extended family members in the MH17 crash and another couple on MH370.

Maree and Albert Rizk, who were returning to Melbourne after a month-long holiday in Europe, died when the MH17 came down in eastern Ukraine, Australian media reports.

Maree's father is married to a member of a Queensland family which lost husband and wife Rodney and Mary Burrows on MH370 when it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, Rodney's brother Greg Burrows tells AFP.

Burrows says he had "no ill feelings with Malaysia Airlines."

"Nobody could predict this one and nothing's been proven on the first one, so there's nothing there."

10:22 GMT - Dutch families mourn - Dazed relatives of Dutch victims killed in the crash are struggling to come to grips with the horrific loss of family and friends -- and demanding answers.

Flags fly half-mast in the Netherlands as family and friends digest the loss of at least 173 Dutch passengers.

"I expect there to be a thorough investigation by the authorities into what has happened," Sander Essers, who lost several relatives in the crash, tells AFP in The Hague.

Essers lost his brother Peter, 66, Peter's wife Jolette Nuesink, 60, and their two children, Emma, 20, and Valentijn, 17, in the crash.

10:13 GMT - Merkel urges ceasefire - Angela Merkel calls for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine so that a probe can be carried out into the apparent downing of the Malaysia jet.

The German leader says Russia must help bring about a "political solution" to the conflict, adding that Moscow bears responsibility "for what is happening in Ukraine right now".

"What is important now is for an independent investigation to take place as soon as possible," she says, after expressing her sympathies to the families of crash victims.

09:54 GMT - WELCOME TO AFP's LIVE REPORT on the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash which killed nearly 300 people after the airliner was apparently shot down over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine.

As Malaysia reels from the shock of another tragedy in the skies, world leaders are seeking answers as to who was responsible, with Kiev accusing pro-Russian separatists of a "terrorist attack".

The disaster killed all 298 people on board the Boeing 777, including 154 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians, 28 Australians, 12 Indonesians, and nine Britons.