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A part of the wreckage of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014.
A part of the wreckage of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen after it crashed near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014.  Maxim Zmeyev—Reuters

Blame Game Unfolds After Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash

Jul 17, 2014

Updated 7:55 p.m. EST

Ukrainian officials blamed a “terrorist action” for the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Thursday, while pro-Russian separatists, who said they do not have weaponry advanced enough to shoot down an airliner, accused Ukrainian forces of causing the crash.

The Boeing 777 was flying at around 33,000 feet over eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed, killing all 298 people on board. That updated number, revised from 295, came from a Malaysia Airlines statement posted late Thursday, and reflects that there were three infants aboard the flight. The nationalities of those aboard, per the airline, break down as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 8.25.54 PM

An adviser in Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said on his Facebook page that the plane was shot down by a Russian-made radar-guided missile system known as the BUK. Ukrainian officials have denied that Ukrainian military forces were involved.

“MH-17 is not an incident or catastrophe, it is a terrorist attack,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted.

On Thursday, Oleg Tsarev, one of the leaders of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, told TIME that the separatists don’t have the weapons to reach the altitude at which the plane was flying.

But as TIME’s Simon Shuster reports, Russian state media congratulated rebels last month for seizing BUK missile launchers from a Ukrainian air force base. This week, separatists shot down a military transport plane and reportedly brought down two other military aircraft--Ukraine said at least one was downed by an air-to-air missile, suggesting a Russian jet was to blame. And on Thursday afternoon, Russian media claimed the rebels had brought down yet another Ukrainian military plane over the town of Torez, just prior to reports that MH17 was shot down in the same area.

According to Eurocontrol, the agency that manages European air traffic, Ukrainian authorities had previously barred airliners in the area from flying below 32,000 feet. Authorities have now closed routes of all altitudes in the area, Eurocontrol said Thursday.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday afternoon that the plane has "apparently been shot down. Shot down not an accident. Blown out of the sky." Biden, who spoke with Poroshenko after the crash, said earlier in the day that the U.S. was sending a team to help investigate.

Also on Thursday, President Barack Obama said he was still working to determine whether there were Americans on board. Obama was on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding newly imposed U.S. sanctions on Russia as news of crash emerged, and the White House said the crash came up in the conversation.

The Federal Aviation Administration was in contact with US carriers following the crash of Malaysian Air Flight 17, the agency said Thursday. The FAA confirmed that carriers have voluntarily agreed not operate in the airspace near the Russian-Ukraine border, and is monitoring the situation to determine whether further guidance is necessary.

French President President François Hollande called for an investigation into the cause of the crash of Flight 17, which was carrying at least four French nationals, according to that country's foreign ministry. France has advised airlines to avoid any routes through Ukraine.

—With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

Scenes from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

A woman cries during a religious service held by villagers in memory of the victims at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 22, 2014.
VIEW GALLERY | 23 PHOTOS
A woman cries during a religious service held by villagers in memory of the victims at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 22, 2014.Vadim Ghirda—AP
A woman cries during a religious service held by villagers in memory of the victims at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 22, 2014.
Members of a Dutch forensics team prepare to inspect rail cars where the bodies of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash victims were being held in Torez, Ukraine, July 21, 2014.
The bodies of victims of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrive at the Torez train station in the back of a truck to be loaded into a refrigerated train car on July 21, 2014 in Torez, Ukraine.
Local residents gather to watch as the bodies of victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 are removed from the scene of the crash on July 21, 2014 in Grabovo, Ukraine.
Personnel from the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry load the bodies of victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 into a truck at the crash site on July 21, 2014 in Grabovo, Ukraine.
An armed pro-Russian separatists gestures as he blocks the way to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Grabove, in the region of Donetsk on July 20, 2014.
People search a wheat field for remains in the area of the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, July 20, 2014.
Emergency Workers carry a body at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region July 19, 2014.
A rose lies on a plastic sheet covering a victim of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 plane which was downed on Thursday near the village of Rozsypne, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014.
Miners inspect a piece of debris found in a field from an Air Malaysia plane on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine.
A group of miners prepare to search a field for debris and human remains from an Air Malaysia plane on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine.
A man looks at debris from an Air Malaysia plane crash on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine.
Self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the pro-Russian separatist "Donetsk People's Republic" Alexander Borodai stands as he arrives on the site of the crash of a malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine, on July 17, 2014.
People walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine, July 17, 2014.
People walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine, July 17, 2014.
The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014.
An Emergencies Ministry member works at putting out a fire at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014.
Ukraine Plane
The wreckage of the Malaysian airliner carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed on July 17, 2014 near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine.
Luggages are pictured on July 17, 2014 on the site of the crash of the malaysian airliner carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine.
A woman and child walk past the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine on Thursday, July 17, 2014.
The wreckage of the Malaysian airliner carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine, July 17, 2014.
A woman cries during a religious service held by villagers in memory of the victims at the crash site of Malaysia Airlin
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Vadim Ghirda—AP
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