Published On: Tue, Feb 4th, 2020

Iran stops sharing data on downed Ukrainian plane with Kiev after control tower audio leaked to local media

An investigation team in Tehran decided not to share any further data on the downing of Ukrainian airliner with Kiev, after local media published the recording of air traffic communications which took place during the tragedy.

“The technical investigation team of the Ukrainian airline crash, in a strange move, published the secret audio file of the communications of a pilot of a plane that was flying at the same time as the Ukrainian plane,” Hassan Rezaifar, who leads the investigation of the crash in Iran, told Mehr News Agency on Monday.

The audio was provided by Iran to Ukraine as part of the joint investigation efforts. Rezaifar labelled the leak an “unprofessional” move by the Ukrainian side. “This action by the Ukrainians led to us not sharing any more evidence with them,” he said.

Iranian military shot down Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on January 8, after mistaking it for an incoming US missile. All 176 people on board were killed, including 11 Ukrainians. After initial denial, Iranian officials admitted to making “un unforgivable mistake” three days later, and offered compensation to the victims’ families.

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On Sunday, the TSN news program, which is aired on Ukrainian TV channel 1+1, published the 5-minute excerpt from the believed communications between the air traffic control tower in Tehran and domestic Iran Aseman Airlines Flight 3768. The Iranian plane took off from the southern city of Shiraz, and was about the land in Tehran around the same time the doomed Ukrainian aircraft was taking off from the airport in Iran’s capital.

According to the transcript, the pilots of Flight 3768 said they suddenly saw “the light from a missile,” which they thought was coming from the city of Karaj, close to Tehran. A few moments later, the pilots saw “a big flare from the explosion.” The air traffic controllers then tried to make contact with the Ukrainian plane multiple times, but to no avail.

TSN’s report said the recording has not only revealed that Iranian aviation services “were hiding the true reason” of the plane crash, but “proved that Iranians saw the missile after its launch and before it had hit the Ukrainian aircraft.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed with TSN’s take on the audio. “It truly proves that the Iranian side has known right from the beginning that our plane was downed by a missile. They knew it right after the downing happened,” Zelensky told TSN.

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Iranian leadership, for its part, has maintained that the country had admitted to accidentally downing the Ukrainian airliner as soon as they found what exactly destroyed the plane.

Officials in Tehran pointed out that the tragic mistake had been made possible because Iran was actively bracing for potential US airstrikes that day.

Several hours before the jet was shot down, Iran fired a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops. The move was a response to a US drone strike in Iraq on January 3 that killed senior Iranian military chief Qassem Soleimani, who the US accused of plotting terrorist attacks.

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