In what appears to be a direct effect of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, a Malaysia Airlines commercial aircraft has been shot down in Ukrainian air space and has crashed in rebel-held territory in the Donetsk region. The plane has been identified as flight MH17.This attack follows two other reported attacks on aircraft over Ukrainian airspace in the past week. The nationalities of the passengers on MH17 have also been released by the airline.
The Ukrainian Government has accused Russia of shooting down a Ukrainian cargo plane via a rocket fired from Russian territory across the border. It has been reported that two crew members from the military cargo plane have died. There were a total of eight people on the plane.
The second incident involved the accusation that a Russian fighter jet shot down a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet on Wednesday night, a day before the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down in the same general area in Pro-Russian rebel-held territory in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
Andriy Lysenko, the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Spokesperson has stated on a press briefing that the Ukrainian aircraft was shot in the tail section and brought down by a Russian fighter jet. This incident involved what Ukraine says was an air-to-air attack while the assault on MH17 was initiated from the ground by what is believed to be a BUK missile system which is normally operated by Russian and Ukrainian military forces.
While the incident on Wednesday involved a military aircraft, Thursday night's crash involved a commercial aircraft carrying civilians.
CNN's Aviation expert Richard Quest states that a commercial airliner flying at cruising altitude, some 33,000 feet can easily be identified as a civilian aircraft and it is an extremely unusual occurrence for the Malaysia Airlines plane to be shot down under the premise that it was mistaken to be hostile.
Despite being a Malaysia Airlines flight, the aircraft carried a majority of Dutch passengers. 154 of the 298 people on board were Dutch citizens while all 15 crew members were Malaysians. There were a further 28 Malaysians who were on the flight as passengers. The breakdown of nationalities of the casualties has already been released by the airline. Apart from Dutch and Malaysian nationals, there were 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 9 UK citizens; four each from Germany and Belgium, three from the Philippines and one Canadian on board.