Iran’s government is accused of knowing immediately that it shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet last month. Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was flying from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on January 8 when it was shot down shortly after takeoff. The incident killed all 176 people on board.
Ukraine is now saying that Iranian officials knew their military had shot down the passenger jet and lied about it for days. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cited a leaked audio recording as rationale for the accusations. Zelensky said in his statement that the recording “proves that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane had been hit by a missile.”
The incident happened just hours after Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq. The barrage was in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran initially claimed that the aircraft crashed as the result of a mechanical error, but changed its position on January 11, blaming human error for the accidental downing of the aircraft.
The recording cited by Zelensky appears to show an Iran Aseman Airlines pilot informing air-traffic control in Tehran that he saw “the light of a missile” and an “explosion”. The controller says nothing has been reported to them, but the pilot remains insistent. The control tower can also reportedly be heard trying to reach the Ukrainian passenger aircraft on the radio, but is unsuccessful. According to publicly available flight-tracking data, Aseman Flight 3768 was close enough to the airport in Tehran to see the blast.
The head of the Iranian investigation team, Hassan Rezaeifar, has acknowledged that the recording is legitimate and that it was handed over to Ukrainian officials. He has also said that the publication of the recording was “unprofessional,” saying it was part of a confidential report. “This action by the Ukrainians makes us not want to give them any more evidence,” he said.