Ukraine accused the separatists of carrying out what it called a terrorist attack. American intelligence and military officials said the plane had been destroyed by a Russian SA-series missile, based on surveillance satellite data that showed the final trajectory and impact of the missile but not its point of origin.
There were strong indications that those responsible may have errantly downed what they had thought was a military aircraft only to discover, to their shock, that they had struck a civilian airliner. Everyone aboard was killed, their corpses littered among wreckage that smoldered late into the summer night.
Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, blamed Ukraine’s government for creating what he called conditions for insurgency in eastern Ukraine, where separatists have bragged about shooting down at least three Ukrainian military aircraft. But Mr. Putin did not specifically deny that a Russian-made weapon had felled the Malaysian jetliner.
Whatever the cause, the news of the crashed plane, with a passenger manifest that spanned at least nine countries, elevated the insurgency into a new international crisis. The day before, the United States had slapped new sanctions on Russia for its support of the pro-Kremlin insurgency, which has brought East-West relations to their lowest point in many years.
Making the crash even more of a shock, it was the second time within months that Malaysia Airlines had suffered a mass-casualty flight disaster with international intrigue — and with the same model plane, a Boeing 777-200ER.
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