MH17: Ukraine fighter jets shot down close to crash site

The military aircraft were reportedly downed just 20 miles from where the Malaysia Airlines flight crashed

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The Independent Online

Ukraine has accused rebels of shooting down two fighter jets on Wednesday close to where the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, killing all 298 passengers on board.

A spokesman for Ukraine's military operations told Reuters the planes were hit near Savur Mogila, a burial mound in the Shaktersky region where a memorial marks ambushes by the Soviet army on occupying Nazis during World War Two.

But a separate statement from Ukraine's Security Council on Wednesday said preliminary information suggested the missiles had been fired from Russia. Moscow has not responded to the claim.

"Two of our jets were hit at an altitude of 5,200 metres. According to preliminary information, the missiles were launched from the territory of the Russian Federation," the council said.

The military jets were downed just 35 km (20 miles) from the MH17 crash site in the village of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine.

The fate of the pilots and any crew remains unknown.

The separatist Donetsk People's Republic said in a statement on its website that one of the pilots was killed and another was being sought by rebel fighters.

Fighting has continued in the Donetsk region between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists after the air disaster.

Local health officials said hundreds had been killed and over one thousand wounded since hostilities started in eastern Ukraine earlier this year.

It comes as the first bodies recovered from the crash site began their long journey into the Netherlands to begin the process of identification.

The bodies are being transported to Eindhoven Airport where they will be met by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, the Prime Minister Mark Rutte and relatives at 4pm local time. Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking said the planes carried 40 coffins in all.

Video: MH17 bodies arrive in the Netherlands

The  Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) confirmed today the black boxes recovered from the crash site have arrived in Britain and handed to investigators.

The AAIB said the flight recorders have been delivered to their headquarters in Farnborough, Hampshire on Wednesday, where experts will attempt to retrieve crucial data from them.