A passenger plane of Ukraine International Airlines with 176 people on board crashed near the Tehran airport early on Jan. 8. No one survived. Agence-France Presse said the dead included 167 passengers and nine crew members.

Flight PS752 came down less than four minutes after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport. Iranian state television initially reported that the crash might have been caused by technical issues, but other news reports suggested Iranian forces mistakenly shot the plane down.

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In a statement on its website, the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran said that it did not believe the crash was caused by a terrorist or rocket attack, and placed the blame on technical issues with the engine. However, the embassy subsequently deleted this and released a new statement that did not offer any information about the cause of the crash.

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“A commission will clarify information about the causes of the catastrophe. Any statements about the reasons for the crash before the commission’s conclusion (is released) are not official,” the embassy stated.

Eleven of the 176 people on board were Ukrainian citizens, including two passengers and all nine crew members.

In the wake of the crash, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the Prosecutor General to open a criminal investigation and announced the creation of an investigative commission. In the meantime, Ukraine’s entire civilian fleet will undergo a maintenance check, he wrote on Facebook.

“We must investigate all possible versions (of the events),” Zelensky said.

Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, in turn, said it’s too early to name any possible reasons for the crash until the investigation is finished. He neither denied nor confirmed the possibility of a terror attack.

“Until the official investigation finished, naming any version would be manipulation,” Honcharuk said at the news briefing on Jan. 8. The main investigation should be conducted at the crash site, he said.

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He also said there had been no reasons to close the flights over Iran. Now, however, Ukraine has canceled all the flights over the country.

Flight

According to the flight tracking website FlightRadar, the 5:15 a.m flight had been delayed for an hour and departed at 6:12 a.m. (local time). It was supposed to land in Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport at 8 a.m. The flight was operated by a Boeing 737-800 jet airliner that was delivered new to the airline in 2016.

The map shows the route of the PS742 Ukraine International Airlines flight from Tehran to Kyiv that crashed on Jan. 8, 2020, shortly after taking off in Tehran. (Kyiv Post)

In a press conference at Boryspil Airport, Ukraine International Airlines said that the plane underwent an aircraft maintenance check on Jan. 6 and that no issues were discovered.

A video posted by the Iranian state-run news agency ISNA purportedly shows the moment of the crash. The plane appears to be burning in the sky as it loses altitude.

The map shows where the PS742 Ukraine International Airlines flight from Tehran to Kyiv crashed on Jan. 8, 2020. (Kyiv Post)

Al-Hadath, “The Event,” a Jordanian news site reported that Iranian air defense forces mistakenly shot down the plane, according to UNIAN news agency in Kyiv. This information has not been confirmed.

Iran is on high alert after its forces struck military bases used by the United States in Iraq on Jan. 8.

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Ukraine International Airlines is the country’s largest carrier controlled by the business group of oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. The airline has a strong safety record. This is the first crash in the company’s history.

Right after the crash, Zelensky wrote on Facebook that the Ukrainian Embassy in Iran was “clarifying information about the circumstances of the tragedy and the death toll.”

“My sincere condolences to the family and friends of all passengers and crew,” he wrote.

Victims

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko published a list of the citizenships of the passengers on the flight: Iran – 82, Canada – 63, Ukraine – 11, Sweden – 10, Afghanistan – 4, Germany – 3, Great Britain – 3. Of the Ukrainian victims, two were passengers, while the other nine were crew members.

Two people didn’t board, according to Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

However, the Iranian state IRNA news agency stated that 147 of the passengers were Iranians, while another 32 were foreigners, the Evropeiska Pravda news site reported.

In an official statement, Ukraine International Airlines said that the names of the passengers would be published on its website after their identities are confirmed. The airline also announced that it would indefinitely halt all flights to Tehran starting on Jan. 8. Later, Ukraine International Airlines published the names of the crew members.

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Later, however, Ukrainian news site theBabel published a full list of the passengers from the Amadeus travel technology company. Among the non-Iranian citizens, many appeared to be members of the large Iranian diaspora abroad.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that it is ready to send a team of Ukrainian specialists to the crash site to assist in the search and rescue operation. The ministry is still waiting for the green light from Ukraine and Iran.

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