KIEV : A Malaysian airliner that crashed on Thursday in rebel-held eastern Ukraine may have been shot down, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said.

“We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine Armed Forces did not fire at any targets in the sky,” Poroshenko said in a statement posted on his website.

Russian news agency Itar-Tass cited an unnamed source at Ukraine’s aviation authority as saying that all 280 passengers and 15 crew members on board the plane had died.

Poroshenko expressed his “deepest and sincerest sympathies for the families and loved ones of those killed” and vowed that “those behind this tragedy will be brought to justice.”

Rebel leaders told Russian news agencies that they were not responsible for shooting down the plane and pledged to allow “international experts” access to the crash site.

The Boeing passenger liner flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur came down close to town of Shaktarsk in the rebellion-wracked region of Donetsk, local authorities told AFP.

Malaysian Airlines confirmed that it had “lost contact” with one its planes in Ukrainian airspace. -AFP