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U.S. confirms passenger plane shot down over Ukraine

A Malaysia Airlines jet that crashed near the Russian border in Ukraine Thursday, killing all 295 people on board, was brought down by a surface-to-air missile, U.S. intelligence agencies said, reported the Wall Street Journal.

An adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister previously had said the plane was shot down over a rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine. Both the government and rebels denied responsibility.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a televised statement that his government was unable to verify the cause of the crash, but if an investigation reveals it was intentionally brought down, the perpetrators “must swiftly be brought to justice.” He said there was no distress call from the flight.

The Malaysian government is sending a disaster assistance and rescue team and a medical team to the site, Razak said.

President Obama, speaking at a pre-planned event in Wilmington, Del., made brief remarks about the flight and said authorities were checking to see if Americans were among the passengers aboard. He extended his sympathies to the families of those lost:

In April, the FAA warned U.S. air carriers to avoid flying over a region between Russia and Ukraine.

International flights are now steering away from Ukraine for safety concerns. Flight Radar 24 captured the patterns of movement:

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, posted on his Facebook page that the plane was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher, according to the Associated Press.

The plane was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it came down near the eastern city of Donetsk, a stronghold of Russian rebels. Malaysia Airlines said it lost contact with the Boeing 777 at 5:15 p.m. local time Thursday (10:15 a.m. EDT.)

Reuters quoted Gerashchenko as saying that 280 passengers and 15 crew have been killed.

Fighting has flared this week in eastern Ukraine as government forces pressed the offensive against pro-Russian rebels. Kiev blamed the Russians Monday for shooting down a Ukrainian military transport plane. No one aboard that plane was injured.

The Associated Press reported that Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said that government forces did not take any action on airborne targets.

Poroshenko called the airplane’s downing “an act of terrorism.”

But Russian separatist leader Alexander Borodai said that Kiev is responsible, Reuters reported.

Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, tweeted that his government will launch an investigation into the crash.

This is not the first tragedy for the airline this year. In March, a Malaysia Airline Boeing 777-200 jet traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing at sea. That plane was carrying 239 people.

Watch Thursday’s broadcast for analysis of the ramifications of the crash.