A New Zealand woman is among the 298 people killed when flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, Foreign Minister Murray McCully has confirmed.
Speaking in Auckland, McCully said another person who is a British citizen but had been living in New Zealand was also killed.
He said the dead woman was a NZ citizen but was usually resident in Australia, and she had died with her Dutch husband on the flight.
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“Consular assistance is being provided to both families, and privacy has been requested,” McCully said.
He was unable to give further details and could not rule out that there may be more New Zealanders killed.
"There is a mounting body of evidence that this civilian aircraft was deliberately shot down using sophisticated ground-to-air missiles.
"If this is the case, then clearly a conflict that has largely been confined to the east of the Ukraine has dramatically escalated to claim casualties from around the globe," McCully said.
"It is hard to find words to describe people who would carry out such a despicable attack."
Prime Minister John Key, who is currently overseas, tweeted late on Friday evening that he had spoken to Malaysian leader Najib Razak, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
He said he had "offered our condolences on today's terrible tragedy. My thought are with all the families."
I have spoken with PMs Najib and Abbott and offered our condolences on today's terrible tragedy. My thoughts are with all of the families.
— John Key (@johnkeypm) July 18, 2014
McCully said the Russian ambassador in Wellington was to see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today to hear New Zealand objections to the shoot-down. However, no comment was made about the meeting on Friday night.
And a New Zealand diplomat in Moscow will go to Ukraine. McCully said it was possible that the diplomat would go into the rebel territory to see the crash site.
He said the diplomat would work with Australian diplomats. Twenty-seven Australians were killed in the crash.
“For the most part we will be looking at the work that needs to be done to establish an independent investigation.”
McCully said they were not sure what access to the site would be available and they would be taking this up with the Russian ambassador.
“We are also concerned to see reports that the site is not being held as securely as it should be. I see media reports that the black box may have been taken...
“New Zealand stands with other affected countries for a full and independent investigation,” he said.
That would include finding out who carried out the attack and who provided the missiles.
New Zealand was prepared to offer aviation accident investigators to any independent investigation.
In an updated list of the nationalities of passengers and crew onboard, issued shortly before noon, the airline confirmed the plane was carrying 173 people from Holland, 44 from Malaysia, 28 from Australia, 12 from Indonesia, nine from the UK, four from both Germany and Belgium, three from the Philippines, three from Canada, one from Hong Kong and one from NZ.
Malaysian Airlines officials said the nationalities of 20 passengers were still "unverified".
Two of the British victims on the flight were football fans travelling to New Zealand to see their team play.
The Newcastle United fan page said: ‘‘We're desperately sad to report that they were John Alder and Liam Sweeney. Both were well known to away followers, particularly John, whose usual matchday attire led to the affectionate nickname of The Undertaker.
‘‘Watching Newcastle will never be the same again."
The pair were named as John Alder and Liam Sweeney.
Newcastle United released a statement tonight NZT saying they were saddened to learn that two of the club’s most loyal supporters had died.
Managing director Lee Charnley said the team’s manager and players would wear black armbands for their games against Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix while in New Zealand.
‘‘The loss of John and Liam is truly devastating news,’’ he said. ‘‘Both men were dedicated supporters of our club and were known to thousands of fans and staff alike.’’
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said he and all the players were deeply shocked and saddened by the terrible news.
Anybody on the MH17 flight bound for New Zealand would have arrived in Malaysia at 6.10am local time and transferred to the Malaysia Airlines flight MH133 bound for Auckland departing at 8.45am local time.
The Auckland flight, a code-share with the Dutch airline KLM, was due into Auckland at 10.45pm today.
New Zealanders who believe they had a family member on MH17 and are unable to contact them should talk to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Consular Division on 04 439 8000.
Malaysian Airlines have established a help line in Kuala Lumpur which concerned family members are also encouraged to call: 00 603 7884 1234.
''Malaysia Airlines is in the process of notifying the next-of-kin of the passengers and crew,'' the airline said in a statement.
''Our focus now is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilise its full support to provide all possible care to the next-of-kin. Malaysia Airlines is deploying its 'Go Team' to Amsterdam with a group of caregivers and volunteers to assist the family members of the passengers.
''Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members.''
Malaysia Airlines said that ''with immediate effect'' all European flights it operated would take alternative routes to avoid the Ukrainian airspace.
The usual flight route was earlier declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The International Air Transportation Association said the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions.