• Several airlines have suspended flights to the region in response (Photo: Andy Mitchell)

EU calls for 'international investigation' into Ukraine air crash

17.07.14 @ 21:11

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - An airliner carrying 295 people has crashed in a conflict zone in east Ukraine, with all on board presumed dead.

The Malaysian Airlines flight, from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, disappeared from radar screens at approximately 16.20 Kiev time according to Ukrainian authorities.

Early reports indicate it was carrying Dutch, French, and US citizens among other nationals, with several airlines suspending flights to the region in response.

The Russian, Ukrainian, and US leaders, as well as the EU foreign service, quickly put out statements of condolences.

The EU service also called for an “international investigation”, adding: “We call on all parties in the region of the crash to provide full access to the crash site, so that it can be secured immediately, to co-operate fully and to share all relevant information.”

The crash occurred in an area where Ukrainian forces are fighting with pro-Russia rebels.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement it has “evidence” that the plane was “shot down by a Russian Buk missile system”.

But one rebel leader, Andrei Purgin, told the New York Times by phone “We don’t have the technical ability to hit a plane at that height”.

The Reuters news agency reports that European and US stock markets fell on fears the disaster will enflame geopolitical tensions.

The US and EU one day earlier imposed financial sanctions on Russia after accusing it of sending heavy weapons into east Ukraine.

The US also imposed a ban on trade with eight Russian arms firms, including Almaz-Antey, which makes Buk missile systems.

Speaking to European press in Brussels on Thursday before news of the air disaster, the US State Department’s top diplomat on the Ukraine crisis, Victoria Nuland, had said: “These companies make or sell the kind of weapons or materiel that we are seeing in east Ukraine”.

The EU foreign service added in its communique: “This is another stark illustration of why it is so urgent to bring this conflict to an end”.

“Without prejudging the facts behind the crash, we call on all parties to stop the senseless loss of life in eastern Ukraine, to refrain from any escalatory acts, and to agree to an immediate ceasefire."