Ukrainian airplane’s destruction in Iran may have been intentional act, new recording reveals
Canada’s government and security agencies are investigating an audio recording with new details about the Iranian missile attack that destroyed Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 near Tehran on Jan. 8, 2020, killing all 176 people on board.
Canadian media outlet CBC gained access to the recording, in which a person — identified by its sources as Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif — suggests that the downing was accidental but later adds it’s possible that infiltrators may have shot down the plane intentionally.
“There would have been two-three people who did this. And it’s not at all unlikely,” a man, identified as Zarif, says on the recording. “They could have been infiltrators. There are a thousand possibilities. Maybe it was really because of the war and it was the radar.”
The same person also said that Iran’s government and military “will never” tell the truth about the catastrophe because it would reveal the details of Iran’s defense system.
The speaker mentions multiple times that Iran wants to pay compensation to the victims’ families to settle the issue and prevent it from being turned into an international crime.
The recording reportedly contains a private conversation in Farsi, held in the months after the crash. The CBC did not release the possible identities of other speakers and the source of the recording to protect their safety.
Ralph Goodale, the Canadian prime minister’s special adviser on the federal response to the UIA flight’s destruction, said that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment are checking whether the recording is authentic.
Payam Akhavan, a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague said it is a “highly significant” piece of new evidence. However, he added that the recording is not indisputable evidence.
“The fact that he sees that as a real possibility, I think, should make us pause and really consider whether there’s not something far more diabolical at play,” Akhavan said.
Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, said that Ukraine hasn’t heard about this recording before but wants Ukraine to study the new information.
UIA Flight 752 crashed roughly 20 kilometers from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board, including 11 Ukrainians, nine of whom were crew members.
Initially, Iran blamed engine issues. After the release of video recordings that captured the plane’s final seconds, Tehran admitted that the plane was struck by two Iranian missiles. Black box data confirmed that missile strikes brought down the plane.
Iranian officials said that an air defense operator mistook the Ukrainian plane for an American cruise missile and fired on it.
Iran’s air defense forces were on high alert at the time of the attack. Hours earlier, Iran had fired ballistic missiles at U.S. military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
On Feb. 2, President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainian TV channel 1+1 that Iran knew that flight PS752 was hit by a missile since the start, according to a recently leaked audio recording of an Iranian pilot in a different plane talking to a control tower in Tehran.
The pilot had said that he “saw the light of a missile.”