Ukrainian President on Downed Flight 17: 'Act of Terror'

U.S. believes plane was shot down by a single surface-to-air missile.
5:25 | 07/17/14

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Transcript for Ukrainian President on Downed Flight 17: 'Act of Terror'
We begin with breaking news on two fronts tonight, Israel and that escalation in gaza. First the devastating images coming in from Ukraine, the debris from the plane stretching for miles, pieces of the broken jet and so many innocent lives lost, the passports intact found in the field. Here's what we know at this hour. Malaysia flight 17, 295 people on board flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur at 33,000 feet when it disappears over Ukraine, 30 miles from the Russian border. Look at the track of the plane on the flight map. You can see the jet simply vanishing from the air. That plane, a Boeing 777, one of the strongest in the world. Tonight U.S. Officials say they believe it was shot down. This evening we have team coverage across the globe and we begin with ABC's chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz. Reporter: There in the distance, that burst of flame, the flight with 150,000 pounds of fuel crashed down. Then the smoke plumes filling the horizon, those white streaks, debris from the plane littering the sky. As cameras reached the scene in the Ukrainian country side, utter devastation. Flames in one part of the wreckage, the massive Boeing 777 with its 295 souls on board shattered on the Earth. As far as the eye can see, an apocalyptic scene. But the debris was spread across ten miles, and in other spots, there is no fire. The Malaysian airline colors visible, clothing, passports, a vacationer's travel guide, a sign that these are the parts of the plane blown up in the sky. Flight 17 took after from Amsterdam just after noon local time. Just over four hours into the flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, cruising at 33,000 feet, it crosses Ukraine nearing Russia's border. That's when something goes terribly wrong. Tonight, the U.S. Says it believes the plane was shot down by a single surface to air surface-to-air missile. Shot down, not an accident. Blown out of the sky. Reporter: But it's unclear who fired or whether it was a mistake. The government of Ukraine has been locked in a battle with pro-russian separatists who want to break parts of the country off to join Russia. Today Ukraine accused those separatists of shooting the flight down over a rebel-controlled area. Ukraine releasing what they say is an intercepted phone call proving it, saying that in the recordings, militants say they shot down the plane, later saying it was a passenger aircraft. Ukraine's president saying it wasn't an accident or a disaster, but an act of terrorism. The pro-russian militants denied the charge, suggesting it may have been Ukrainian forces behind the strike. What we do know is that before the crash, Ukrainian forces claimed one of their fighter jets was shot down near the border with Russia, and on Monday, a Ukrainian cargo plane was shot down, too, likely by a surface to air surface-to-air missile. The air space above Ukraine today was quickly cleared of commercial flights. This flight tracker image shows flight rerouting around the war zone. The Russian separatists claim to have recovered the black box and will turn it over to Russia. While that is important that they found the box, there will be all kinds of evidence from satellites and surveillance aircraft that the U.S. And its allies will be looking at closely. The general theory at this point is that whoever was operating that surface to air surface-to-air missile was aiming at a military aircraft and shot down the 777 instead, and David, tonight we are also learning why we haven't heard whether or not there are any Americans on board. There were apparently several names, according to a senior official, that looked American but they are double-checking and triple checking. Being very careful. Martha Raddatz leading us off. Thank you for your reporting all day long. Moments ago here I spoke with a freelance reporter for ABC news who was right there at the crash site tonight. Here's what he told me he found. John, I know you were among the first reporters on the scene. It's the middle of the night, but tell us what you saw upon arriving. Right now the wind is blowing pretty hard and kicked up some of the fires that had been burning earlier. There's still a number of armed rebels kind of pulling the area, looking for wresage, looking for bodies and also controlling the area. You described searchers walking through the fields there. It is nighttime. They were using flashlights, and you would see flashes of the devastation? Yeah, they're walking through these field and it's kind of high grass and occasionally you'll catch part of the fuselage or one of the wheels. I was walking along and somebody's flashlight fell upon some childrens' playing cards that was kind of scattered. We found part of the tail fuselage here. There is a body next to it. It's a very grim scene that we're seeing here. Right now I don't think it's very clear what the next steps are. John Wendell with the description of the scene tonight. John, thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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