The Canadian government and security agencies are reviewing an audio recording in which a man – identified by sources as Iran's foreign affairs minister – discusses the possibility that the destruction of Flight PS752 was an intentional act.
CBC News has listened to the recording of the private conversation, which took place in the months immediately following the destruction of Flight PS752. CBC had three people translate the recording from Farsi to English to capture nuances in the language.
The individual, identified by sources as Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif, is heard saying on the recording that there are a "thousand possibilities" to explain the downing of the jet, including a deliberate attack involving two or three "infiltrators" – a scenario he said was "not at all unlikely."
Read alsoPS752 downing: Canada releases report on crash of Ukraine plane in IranHe is also heard saying the truth will never be revealed by the highest levels of Iran's government and military.
"There are reasons that they will never be revealed," he says in Farsi. "They won't tell us, nor anyone else, because if they do it will open some doors into the defense systems of the country that will not be in the interest of the nation to publicly say."
Ralph Goodale, the prime minister's special adviser on the Flight PS752 file, said the government is aware of the recording. Canada's forensic examination and assessment team obtained a copy in November, he said.
He said the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment are evaluating the recording's authenticity.
Goodale said the audio file contains sensitive information and commenting publicly on its details could put lives at risk.
Ukraine's Ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko told CBC News that this is the first time Ukraine has heard about this recording, although the RCMP has been helping Ukraine with its own criminal investigation. He said he wants Ukraine to study this information carefully.
"I think it's another reason for us not to accept anything smaller than the truth," Shevchenko said. "We do not want to see any scapegoats instead of real wrongdoers. We do not want to see the truth being hidden behind state secrecy. We want to get to the bottom of this."
When asked if he thinks the downing of the plane was intentional, Shevchenko wouldn't rule it out.
"At this stage, we cannot exclude any possibilities," he said.
"I think we are still so far away from having a clear picture on what happened ... We obviously lack trust in our conversation with Iran. I think we have a feeling that Iran shares as little information as possible."
PS752 downing in Iran: Background
On January 8, 2020, Kyiv-bound Boeing 737 passenger jet flight PS752, operated by Ukraine International Airlines, crashed in Iran shortly after takeoff from Tehran Airport.
All 176 people on board, including 11 Ukrainian nationals – nine crew and two passengers – were killed. Among victims are also citizens of Iran, Canada, Sweden, Afghanistan, Germany, and the UK.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted that the Ukrainian liner had been shot down as a result of an unintentional "human error," and promised to bring those responsible to justice.
On June 9, media reports said Iran had accused six persons in the PS752 downing case.
On July 20, the flight recorders were delivered to Paris and decrypted on July 21.
On July 24, it was reported that data from the black boxes had confirmed external interference with the aircraft's operation.
On October 23, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevhen Yenin said Iran would pay compensation to the relatives of victims of the UIA flight PS752 crash, but the process might last up to two years.
On December 9, however, Yenin said that Iran had withdrawn the offer to handle the payments to the families of those killed in the UIA plane crash.
In the middle of December, Canada expressed its position on the Iranian investigation into the downing of the Ukrainian plane, saying it is not credible.
On December 22, the Iranian news agency Tasnim reported that Iranian investigators, during a video conference, had provided representatives of other countries whose citizens were victims of the crash with a technical report on the UIA downing.
On December 23, Yenin said Ukraine had not received the report.
On December 24, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed concern that Iran was delaying the negotiation process on the case of the downed Ukraine International Airlines plane. He noted that Ukraine had not received a technical report from Iran on the plane downed almost a year ago.
On December 30, Iranian cabinet members reportedly agreed at a session to allocate US$150,000 or its equivalent in euros to each family of the victims of the Ukrainian plane crash in January 2020.
On January 7, 2021, Rouhani said all those responsible for the downing of the plane would be brought to justice.