Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 flying from Tehran to Kyiv on January 8 crashed outside Tehran shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 lives on board. But the reasons for the crash are not yet entirely clear. However, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that a rocket attack on the doomed airplane is not being ruled out.
“The version [of events] of a rocket strike on the airplane has not been ruled out, but as of today it is still unconfirmed. Taking into account the latest statements of world leaders in the media, we’re calling on all international partners – primarily the USA, Canada, and the UK – to provide us with evidence and data that relates to this catastrophe, and make it available to the investigative commissions,” said the Ukrainian president.
His statement relates to announcements made first in the media by U.S. outlets Newsweek and CBS News, who, according to unnamed U.S. and Iraqi military and intelligence sources, say that satellite systems picked up traces of a rocket launch prior to the crash.
.@cbsnews: US officials are confident Ukrainian Flt 752 was shot down by Iran. US intelligence picked up signals of the radar being turned on & satellite detected infrared blips of 2 missile launches, probably SA-15s, followed shortly by another infrared blip of an explosion.— Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) January 9, 2020
The Canadian government has also stated that it believes that the plane was brought down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, during a press briefing by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides Canadians with an update about the fatal plane crash in Iran. pic.twitter.com/Rrcfdv3jSp— CanadianPM (@CanadianPM) January 10, 2020
Additionally, unconfirmed photographs purportedly taken near the scene of the crash show wreckage of what looks to be missile parts strewn around the area. However, open-source investigative outlet Bellingcat has warned that these photos have not been geolocated and verified.
Second image (right) of Tor anti-aircraft missile debris, supposedly from near the #PS752 crash site. Still unverified, and still going to be very hard to geolocate it based on what's visible in the image. h/t @Liberalist_30 pic.twitter.com/TQNRp6hopj— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) January 9, 2020
More damning, however, is a verified video, posted by the New York Times, which it claims is footage of the missile strike on the airplane itself – The New York Times investigative team includes their methodology for verifying the video, showcasing how they located and verified the information.
The video shows an object exploding in the air, near a location where #PS752's stopped transmitting its signal. The plane didn't explode, managed to turn back towards the airport, but crashed quickly, the @nytimes has determined. https://t.co/HxpaGV7urF pic.twitter.com/7v5S53NkDz— Christiaan Triebert (@trbrtc) January 9, 2020
However, despite the media evidence, Zelenskyy has stated that he has not, at the time of publication, received evidence from the U.S. or Canada confirming the Iranian missile version of events. According to the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko’s official twitter, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, visited the president and “passed along important data,” adding that a call between Zelenskyy and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mike Pompeo is scheduled later in the afternoon.
Разом з Президентом Володимиром Зеленським зустрілися з представниками США, зокрема із керівницею Посольства в Україні Крістіною Квін. Отримали важливі дані, які будуть опрацьовані нашими фахівцями. Очікуємо розмови @ZelenskyyUa з Держсекретарем США @SecPompeo о 15:00.— Vadym Prystaiko (@VPrystaiko) January 10, 2020
Iran, for its part, has denied any involvement with the crash, with the Iranian head of their civil aviation organization, Ali Abedzadeh, saying outright that they are sure that no missile strike hit the plane. They said that processing the black box (a piece of aviation equipment containing a flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder – ed.) may take up a month, and the investigation may stretch into the following year.
Despite this, a CBS News crew visiting the site of the crash have stated that all evidence of the crash has been removed from the site by Iranian authorities, providing credence to rumors and unverified photographs showing Iranian officials bulldozing the crash site.
CBS crew just visited the #Ukrainian airlines crash site west of Tehran. Nine am local time. Virtually all pieces of the plane were removed yesterday - say locals. Scavengers now picking site clean. No security. Not cordoned off. No sign of any investigators. pic.twitter.com/hhNJyokhjq— Elizabeth Palmer (@elizapalmer) January 10, 2020
Ukrainian sources have also confirmed this, saying that they have been barred from viewing certain evidence and that the site had been bulldozed, possibly causing evidence to be lost.
Source in the Ukrainian investigation commission in Iran confirms the #PS752 crash site is being cleared by bulldozers. Says experts have to look for plane fragments in the pile of various debris, and many important items might be damaged or lost https://t.co/izCmeNR8Wn— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) January 10, 2020
Other theories for the crash include mechanical failure and a drone collision, though Ukrainian pilots and Ukrainian International Airlines have spoken out against the first theory – they say that the plane was in full readiness and that newer Boeings of the model that crashed could complete a landing even if one engine became damaged.
“This was a new plane – 3 years old. It’s a new machine. And it couldn’t suffer from this sort of error – something this catastrophic especially. And if it had happened, even if one of the engines tore off, it can still land normally. I also completely discount crew error, and they would have been able to solve any technical issues. That’s why I believe that the reason [for the crash] was a factor that could not be influenced…” explained veteran pilot Anton Kyryk.
This story is still developing.
/By Romeo Kokriatski, Angelina Kariakina, Anastasia Korenovskaya, Boris Tkachuk, Olga Tokariuk