Zelensky: Iran knew about Ukrainian plane downing
The Iranian side initially knew about the downing of a Ukrainian plane near Tehran on January 8, which is evidenced by a recording of intercepted radio communications of a Tehran Airport ATC tower, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said.
"The release of a new record of communications between the Tehran ATC dispatcher and the pilot of the Iranian airline, who saw the missile launch and hit the UIA flight, proves that the Iranian side knew from the very beginning that the plane had been hit by a missile, they'd already known this at the time it was downed," the head of state said in an interview with TSN.Tyzhden Sunday night.
The president added that "thanks to the intelligence services, we got a recording of communications between the Iranian dispatcher and the pilot of the Iranian plane."
Zelensky noted that Ukraine had rejected all along the version of the Iranian side that the incident was a result of a technical error was rejected by Ukraine.
"We knew this couldn't be the case. I talked about this, maybe not so openly. But, when we came to see parents and relatives of all victims, I said there had been no crew error, that we know this for sure. We knew then this was a new jet and one of our best crews. We understood that the Iranians – we don't know who exactly – sought to unlawfully defend themselves in such a way – to push in the media space the information that this had been a technical error. But we already had evidence that this couldn't be the case," the president added.
Zelensky said that on the night following the tragedy, a group of 45 Ukrainian experts was deployed in Iran.
"We were struck that on the first day they had no access anywhere. They couldn't find many parts of the plane wreckage – there was no cockpit, no seats. And in such cases, by the seats it's often possible to establish whether there was an explosion, since particles, parts of the device get stuck in soft tissue. It could have been a missile or something that could have penetrated the plane. The commission told us that there is a problem with the parts of the plane wreckage ... We immediately received all this information from our experts," the president said.
At the same time, Zelensky noted that Ukrainian experts had no access to the air traffic control room or any records.
As UNIAN reported earlier, Kyiv-bound UIA flight PS752 crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport in the early hours of January 8. It was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members on board. Two passengers and the crew members were Ukrainians.
There were also 82 citizens of Iran, 63 citizens of Canada, 10 citizens of Sweden, four citizens of Afghanistan, three citizens of Germany and the United Kingdom each. There were no survivors.
On January 11, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani officially admitted that the Ukrainian airliner had been shot down by accident as a result of a "human error" and that those responsible would be held accountable.