Civilian Airliner Crashes in Ukraine, Tensions Rapidly Escalate

A Malaysian Airlines passenger jet crashed in Ukraine Thursday killing 295 passengers, while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, spurring charges from both Moscow and Kiev that the aircraft was brought down by missile fire, reported the BBC. Reuters quoted Ukrainian Interior Ministry officials claiming the jet was brought down by pro-Russian militants, near the city of Donetsk, a center of activity for separatists. A Ukrainian official charged the jet was downed by a Buk surface-to-air missile, a Russian-produced medium-range SAM system (NATO designation SA-11 or SA-17). Rebel leaders, in turn, charged Ukraine with shooting down the jet, with ITAR-Tass, quoting a Russian official claiming Ukraine deployed S-300 SAMs in the region on Wednesday. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Detroit, said the aircraft was “shot down, not by accident, but blown out of the sky.” President Barack Obama told the Malaysian prime minister the US will provide “immediate assistance to support a prompt international investigation.” The crash came less than a day after Ukrainian authorities charged a Russian fighter jet shot down a Ukrainian Su-25 attack jet over Ukrainian airspace as well as a military transport aircraft, a charge Russia’s defense ministry immediately decried as “absurd.” To address rising tensions, NATO issued a new statement Wednesday rebutting what it called “misrepresentations” of Alliance actions and “baseless attacks” on the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government. “Much is unclear about the circumstances of the crash. However the instability in the region, caused by Russian-backed separatists, has created an increasingly dangerous situation,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. “It is important that a full international investigation should be launched immediately, without any hindrance, to establish the facts and that those who may be responsible are swiftly brought to justice.“