Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 US citizens and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash:
# 17 July 2014 21:13 (UTC +04:00)

Pictures and video emerging from the scene show bodies strewn around the site of the crash amid charred and burning wreckage of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 near the town of Grabovo, about 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.

The Malaysian national carrier said that the British passport holders were travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on board the Boeing 777. The aircraft is believed to have had 295 people on board – 280 passengers and 15 crew.

A spokesman from The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was working to identify any British victims of the tragedy. “We are aware of the reports and are urgently working to establish what has happened," he said.

The Ukrainian Interior Minister is reported to have said that 23 US citizens and 80 children were also on board, according to various agencies reporting from the scene.

Ukrainian rebels, who are backed by Russia, and the Ukraine government have accused the other of carrying out the ground-to-air strike, with both issuing firm denials of any involvement in the disaster.

The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko rejected claims by Ukraine rebels that Kiev was responsible and said his country's armed forces didn't shoot at any airborne targets.

“We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets,” he said. “We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible.”

According to the Telegraph, an official statement from the Ukraine government blamed Russian air defence systems it claimed are protecting "terrorists" in the area.

It said: "A large passenger aircraft Boeing 777, performing a flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur, was shot down in the eastern part of Ukraine. According to the General Staff of Ukrainian Armed Forces, the airplane was shot down by the Russian Buk missile system as the liner was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters.

"Ukraine has no long-range air defence missile systems in this area.

"The plane was shot down, because the Russian air defence systems was affording protection to Russian mercenaries and terrorists in this area.

"Ukraine will present the evidence of Russian military involvement into the Boeing crash.

"The leader of the terrorists Igor Girkin (Strelkov) immediately commented on the airplane catastrophe, believing that it was the Ukrainian jet that crashed down: 'In Torez An-26 was shot down, its crashes are lying somewhere near the coal mine “Progress”. We have warned everyone: do not fly in our skies.'"

Anton Gerashenko, an aide to the Ukrainian Interior Minister, wrote on his Facebook page that the Boeing airliner, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was at an altitude of 33,000ft when it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher and crashed near the city of Donetsk - a stronghold of pro-Russian rebels.