Ukraine accused pro-Russian separatists of shooting down a Malaysian jetliner with 295 people aboard Thursday, sharply escalating the crisis and threatening to draw both East and West deeper into the conflict. The rebels denied downing the aircraft.
American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile brought the plane down but were still working on who fired the missile and whether it came from the Russian or Ukrainian side of the border, a U.S. official said.
Bodies, debris and burning wreckage of the Boeing 777 were strewn over a field near the rebel-held village of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border, where fighting has raged for months.
The aircraft appeared to have broken up before impact, and there were large pieces of the plane that bore the red, white and blue markings of Malaysia Airlines — now familiar worldwide because of the still-missing jetliner from earlier this year.
The cockpit and one of the turbines lay at a distance of one 1 kilometer (more than a half-mile) from one another. Residents said the tail had landed around 10 kilometers (six miles) farther away. Rescue workers planted sticks with white flags in spots where they found human remains.
There was no indication there were any survivors from Flight 17, which took off shortly after noon Thursday from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 280 passengers and a crew of 15. Malaysia's prime minister said there was no distress call before the plane went down and that the flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
President Petro Poroshenko called it an "act of terrorism" and demanded an international investigation. He insisted that his forces did not shoot down the plane.
Ukraine's security services produced what they said were two intercepted telephone conversations that showed rebels were responsible. In the first call, the security services said, rebel commander Igor Bezler tells a Russian military intelligence officer that rebel forces shot down a plane. In the second, two rebel fighters — one of them at the crash scene — say the rocket attack was carried out by a unit of insurgents about 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of the site.
Neither recording could be independently verified.
Earlier in the week, the rebels had claimed responsibility for shooting down two Ukrainian military planes.
President Barack Obama called the crash a "terrible tragedy" and spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Britain asked for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Ukraine.
Later, Putin said Ukraine bore responsibility for the crash, but he didn't address the question of who might have shot it down and didn't accuse Ukraine of doing so.
"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," Putin said, according to a Kremlin statement issued early Friday. And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."
Officials said more than half of those aboard the plane were Dutch citizens, along with passengers from Australia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines and Canada. The home countries of nearly 50 were not confirmed.
The different nationalities of the dead would bring Ukraine's conflict to parts of the globe that were never touched by it before.