Did Ukrainian Rebels Shoot Down a Passenger Jet?

Jul 17, 2014 at 1:14 PM ET

A Malaysian Airlines flight with nearly 300 people on board crashed today over eastern Ukraine near the Russian border.

The Ukraine Interior Ministry claimed the flight, a Boeing 777, was shot down by pro-Russian separatists, who have been clashing for months with Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine. U.S. officials confirmed late Thursday that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, but didn’t pin the action on any particular group.

The pro-Russian rebels have repeatedly brought down Ukrainian military aircraft, but after initial reports of today’s crash surfaced, rebel leaders denied that they have ground-to-air missiles capable of bringing down a passenger jet flying at high altitude.

Malaysian Airlines confirmed on Twitter that it lost contact with flight MH 17, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, over Ukrainian airspace.

Videos locals took and uploaded to YouTube show billowing smoke from the wreckage:

While President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine has called for an immediate investigation of the crashed flight, a Ukrainian official said investigators have been unable to access the crash site because separatists control the area.