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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17/MAS17) was a scheduled international passenger flight from Amsterdam, the Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia that was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile and crashed near Hrabove in the Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine, approximately 40 km from the Ukraine-Russia border. The incident killed all 283 passengers and 15 crew members onboard.
The 15 crew members were all Malaysian, while the 283 passengers were comprised of various nationalities; more than half from the Netherlands, 44 from Malaysia, 28 from Australia and 12 from Indonesia. The crash occurred in the conflict zone between Russia and Ukraine, a day after the United States announced a new round of economic sanctions against Russia for its role in the 2014 Ukrainian Crisis. As a result of the incident, many airlines began to avoid eastern Ukrainian airspace or Ukraine entirely. The government of Russia is looking for the people responsible for the crime.
At 5:50pm Moscow time, shortly before the news of the MH17 crash broke, Igor Girkin, Russian commander of the separatists in Ukraine, posted an update claiming the insurgents had shot down an aircraft to the Russian social media site VKontakte. In the post, which has been since deleted, Girkin reportedly confirmed shooting down an Antonov An-26, a Russian military transport aircraft, which matched the description and location of the MH17 crash:
“In the vicinity of Torez, we just downed a plane, an AN-26. It is lying somewhere in the Progress Mine. We have issued warnings not to fly in our airspace. We have video confirming. The bird fell on a waste heap. Residential areas were not hit. Civilians were not injured.”
Later that same day, Ukrainian military officials declared that the aircraft was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile at an altitude of 10,000 m (33,000 ft) and the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called it an “act of terrorism.” The statement was partially backed by American intelligence officials, though they have yet to confirm the origin of the missile launch. In response, pro-Russian separtists in the region accused the Ukrainian government of shooting down the plane, while Russian military officials denied the involvement of any Russian anti-aircraft units in the crash and stated that a Ukrainian missile system radar was operational near the crash site.
AIDS Conference Attendees
Not long after news of the crash broke, it was revealed that among the passengers were about 100 AIDS researchers and activists who were en-route to the annual World AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. Among them were Joep Lange, former president of the International AIDS Society and a top-tier researcher, and Glenn Thomas, a former BBC journalist and a spokesperson for the World Health Organization. Numerous other researchers and healthcare workers expressed dismay at the news, saying that the course of AIDS research has likely been held back significantly.
How do we measure how much a person has done for humanity? People like Joep change the course of epidemics.
— Dr. Seema Yasmin (@DoctorYasmin) July 17, 2014
Not long after the attack, US president Barack Obama expressed condolences for the losses of the AIDS researchers (shown below).
- Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainuddin said the next day in Malaysia that the foreign ministry would be working closely with the Russian and Ukrainian governments with regard to the incident.
- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko vowed support for a Dutch probe into the crash, which he called an “act of terrorism”. He reportedly offered condolences for the air disaster in a telephone conversation with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte
- Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his deepest condolences to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, the Malaysian people and the relatives of the victims. He said responsibility for the crash rests with “the country in whose airspace the plane was in when it crashed”, and that "the disaster wouldn’t happen if the military action in south-east of Ukraine was not reenabled
Meanwhile on Twitter, a number of MH17-related hashtags quickly surfaced on the list of globally trending topics, most notably #MH17 and #PrayForMH17, which were tweeted more than 3 million times and 529,000 times in the following week, respectively. In addition, the sudden influx of Malaysia Airlines-related discussions on Twitter also rekindled people’s interest in the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which is presumed to have crashed after trailing off path from its itinerary in March, giving rise to more than 143,000 mentions of the hashtag #MH370 within that same time period.
Jason Bigg’s Tweet
American actor Jason Bigg came under fire when he posted a message making light of the fact that Malaysia Airlines had two major aviation accidents, the previous one being the crash of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March 2014.
The news of the tragedy struck especially hard for people in the Netherlands, as the majority of the passengers onboard were Dutch nationals. In the following week, as the official investigation and recovery efforts were reportedly stymied by the border-security politics and bureaucratic red tapes, the Dutch began calling on the Ukrainian government and others involved in the ground operation to expedite the retrieval and return of the bodies by using the Twitter hashtag #BringThemHome and updating their Facebook profile cover photo with a solid black wallpaper in mourning. By July 22nd, six days after the plane crashed, #BringThemHome had been mentioned over 14,500 times.
Radio Free Europe – Ukraine Separatist Social Media Site Claims Plane Downing