"It was flying at the altitude of 10,000 meters. 280 passengers and 15 crew members died," he said in a Facebook post. "The aircraft was shot down over Ukraine by terrorists operating a Buk surface-to-air missile system," he added. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew. International probe demanded after MH17 downed over Ukraine Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott appeared to go further than other Western leaders in apportioning blame, demanding on Friday that Moscow answer questions about the "Russian-backed rebels" that he said were behind the disaster. US President Barack Obama, who spoke to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as well as other leaders, said evidence from the crash must remain in Ukraine so international investigators have a chance to look at all of it, officials said. ]
Malaysia Airlines confirmed that it received notification from Ukrainian Air Traffic Control that it had lost contact with Flight MH17 at 1415 GMT (8:45 IST) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50 km from the Russia-Ukraine border.
Witnesses from the town of Torez in the rebellion-wracked Donetsk region of Ukraine told a news agency that the plane wreckage and dead bodies have been found in the area.
At least several dozen bodies were found scattered around the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in eastern Ukraine, witnesses said, adding the debris of the plane covered an area of about one square kilometer.
The reports said that 23 Americans, 9 Britons and 71 Dutch nationals were among passengers. Russia sent its Ukrainian colleagues a request to conduct joint rescue works at the crash site.
The plane disappeared from the radar and teams from the emergency services have reached the scene.
Burning aircraft wreckage and bodies strewn on the ground were seen at the village of Grabovo, some 40 kms from the Russian border in an area where pro-Russian rebels are active.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that the jetliner may have been shot down over his country's airspace.
"This incident is not a catastrophe. It is a terrorist act," he said.
Ukrainian officials have accused pro-Russian rebels of being responsible for shooting down the plane. But the press service of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic claimed the jet was downed by a missile fired from a Ukrainian air force Su-25 combat jet, a charge denied by Ukraine.
"We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine Armed Forces did not fire at any targets in the sky," Poroshenko said in a statement posted on the President's website.
The plane could have been brought down by a ground-to-air missile, sources said.
"I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on his Twitter feed.
"We are launching an immediate investigation," he said as he rushed to the Kuala Lumpur airport. Workers at the crash site were trying to find the black box.
Some media reports said that pro-Russian separatists claimed to have found the flight recorders.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also ordered a probe into accident.
A number of Ukrainian military planes have been shot down by missiles in recent weeks. Ukraine has accused Russia's military of supplying advanced missiles to the rebels, the BBC reported.
Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian officials blamed the Russian air force for shooting down one of its ground attack jets on Wednesday.
Tensions have been high between Ukraine and Russia since street protests forced former pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February.
Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's southeastern Crimea region and a pro-Russia separatist rebellion has been raging in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Ukrainian forces have been struggling to quell the separatist unrest. Ukraine's government has accused Russia of allowing weapons and military equipment, including tanks, to cross the border illegally into the hands of pro-Russia separatists.
US President Barack Obama described the incident as a ‘terrible tragedy’. He said that US officials were trying to establish if any Americans were on board.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘expressed deep condolences’ to Malaysia's Prime Minister over the crash, a post on Thursday on the Kremlin's website said.
Several airlines, including Air India, Jet Airways Lufthansa and Air France, say that they will now avoid eastern Ukrainian airspace.
World leaders demanded an international investigation into the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in which all 298 people on board were killed, a tragedy that could further heighten tensions between Russia and the West.
One US official said that Washington strongly suspected a surface-to-air missile that downed the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday was fired by Ukrainian separatists backed by Moscow.
There was no evidence Ukrainian government forces fired a missile, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. US Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Detroit, said that the passenger jet was apparently "blown out of the sky".
More than 20 Australians were among the many nationalities aboard Flight MH17. The Netherlands was the worst affected, with 154 Dutch citizens on the downed plane.
The plane crashed near the village of Hrabove about 40 km (25 miles) from the border with Russia near the regional capital of Donetsk, an area that is a stronghold of rebels who have been fighting Ukrainian government forces for several months.
Ukraine accused pro-Moscow militants, aided by Russian military intelligence officers, of firing a long-range, Soviet-era SA-11 ground-to-air missile. Leaders of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic denied any involvement and said a Ukrainian air force jet had brought down the intercontinental flight.
Russian President Vladimir Putin - at loggerheads with the West over his policies toward Ukraine - pinned the blame on Kiev for renewing its offensive against rebels two weeks ago after a ceasefire failed to hold. The Kremlin leader called it a "tragedy" but did not say who brought the Boeing 777 down.
Disbelief in Malaysia
The loss of MH17 is the second for Malaysia Airlines this year, following the mysterious disappearance of Flight MH370 in March, which vanished with 239 passengers and crew on board on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
In Malaysia, there was a sense of disbelief that another airline disaster could strike so soon.
"If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice. This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia" Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told a pre-dawn news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
"The president and prime minister (Rutte) agreed on the need to assure immediate access to the site of the incident to international investigators in order to facilitate the recovery of remains and to carry out a thorough investigation," the White House said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called for a transparent international investigation of the incident. The UN Security Council will discuss the issue on Friday.
Kiev complained that separatists prevented Ukrainian officials from reaching the site. Separatists were later quoted as saying they had found one of the black box flight recorders.
Financial markets were hit by worries of new geopolitical tensions, as Israel invaded the Gaza Strip on the same day.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who had stepped up an offensive in the east, spoke to Obama and sought to rally world opinion behind his cause. "The external aggression against Ukraine is not just our problem but a threat to European and global security," he said in a statement.
The scale of the disaster could prove a turning point for international pressure to resolve the crisis, which has killed hundreds since protests toppled the Moscow-backed president in Kiev in February and Russia annexed the Crimea a month later.
Russia, which Western powers accuse of trying to destabilize Ukraine to maintain influence over its old Soviet empire, has accused Kiev's leaders of mounting a fascist coup. It says it is holding troops in readiness to protect Russian-speakers in the east - the same rationale it used for taking over Crimea.
As word came in of what might be the worst ever attack on a civilian airliner, Obama was on the phone with Putin, discussing a new round of economic sanctions that Washington and its allies have imposed to try to force Putin to do more to curb the revolt against the new government in Kiev.
Obama warned of further sanctions if Moscow did not change course in Ukraine, the White House said.
National mourning in Netherlands
Reuters journalists saw burning and charred wreckage bearing the red and blue Malaysia Airlines insignia and dozens of bodies in fields near the village of Hrabove.
"I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang," one local man told Reuters at Hrabove, known in Russian as Grabovo. "Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke."
An emergency worker said that at least 100 bodies had been found so far and that debris was spread over 15 km (9 miles).
The airline said that it was carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew.
The Netherlands declared a day of national mourning for its 154 dead. Twenty-eight passengers were Malaysian, 27 Australian, 12 Indonesian, nine British, four German, four Belgian, three Filipino and one Canadian. All 15 crew were Malaysian. Nationalities of the others aboard were unclear.
Ukrainian officials accused rebels of using a Soviet-era SA-11 missile system acquired from Russia - offering evidence that they may have believed they were firing on a Ukrainian military aircraft.
The Ukrainian government released recordings it said were of Russian intelligence officers discussing the shooting down of an aircraft by rebels they were supporting. Supposedly timed within minutes of the last radar contact with MH-17 around 4:20 pm. (1320 GMT), they suggested militants thought they had hit a Ukrainian military plane before finding the airliner remains.
“Hell," says one of those being recorded. "It's almost 100 percent certain that it's a civilian plane. Bits were falling in the streets, “Bits of seat, bodies."
After the downing of several Ukrainian military aircraft in the area in recent months, including two this week, Kiev had accused Russian forces of playing a direct role.
Separatists were quoted in Russian media last month saying they had acquired a long-range SA-11 anti-aircraft system.
International air-lanes had been open in the area, although only above 32,000 ft (9,750 metres). The Malaysia plane was flying 1,000 ft higher, officials said. The area was closed to flights afterwards.
Some international airlines, including Australia's Qantas Airways and Korea's two major carriers, shifted the route taken by flights operating over Ukrainian air space months ago amid increasing tensions between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels.
US Federal Aviation Administration issued an order prohibiting American aircraft from flying over eastern Ukraine.
At the airport in Kuala Lumpur, relatives of those aboard gathered, hoping for word.
Akma Mohammad Noor said that her sister, Rahimah, was on the flight, coming home for the first time in years to mark the Muslim festival of the end of Ramadan.
"We were supposed to celebrate," Noor said, weeping.
"It was flying at the altitude of 10,000 meters. 280 passengers and 15 crew members died," he said in a Facebook post.
"The aircraft was shot down over Ukraine by terrorists operating a Buk surface-to-air missile system," he added.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew.
International probe demanded after MH17 downed over Ukraine
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott appeared to go further than other Western leaders in apportioning blame, demanding on Friday that Moscow answer questions about the "Russian-backed rebels" that he said were behind the disaster.
US President Barack Obama, who spoke to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as well as other leaders, said evidence from the crash must remain in Ukraine so international investigators have a chance to look at all of it, officials said.