Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Many European airlines say they will avoid Ukraine airspace

MOSCOW (Reuters/AFP) - Russia's state-controlled Aeroflot will no longer fly over Ukraine, an official at the airline said, following the crash of a Malaysian passenger airliner in eastern Ukraine.

Itar-Tass news agency quoted Russia's Emergencies Ministry as saying there were no Russians on board the plane.

Turkish Airlines said on Thursday all of its flights would avoid Ukrainian airspace. "After the incident we have decided to avoid Ukrainian airspace," a Turkish Airlines spokesman said.

Russian airline Transaero also said on Thursday it would follow suit. "The airline Transaero decided to carry out all flights from this moment through third countries, avoiding the airspace of Ukraine," the company said in a statement, adding that flights had already been avoiding eastern Ukrainian territories.

Germany's largest airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG said on Thursday its planes would steer clear of east Ukrainian air space. "Lufthansa has decided to avoid the east Ukrainian air space by a wide margin with immediate effect," a company spokesman said.

France urged airline companies on Thursday to avoid Ukraine's airspace.

Mr Frederic Cuvillier, the junior minister of transport, said in a statement that he had given instructions for "French airlines to avoid Ukraine's air space as long as the reasons behind this catastrophe are not known."

Air France on Thursday it had decided to avoid east Ukrainian air space.

"Air France is monitoring the situation in real time and decided to no longer fly over eastern Ukraine after it was informed of this incident," a spokesman for Air France said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko believes a "terrorist act" was the cause of a Malaysian airlines passenger plane crashing on Thursday, his press secretary said. "Poroshenko thinks this of the plane that was brought down: it is not an incident, not a catastrophe, but a terrorist act," press secretary Svatoslav Tsegolko said.

An adviser to the Ukrainian interior ministry said all the 280 passengers and 15 crew members onboard died. The Boeing 777 jet was en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.