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Iran knew from start that it had shot down civilian plane, claims Ukraine

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend a welcoming ceremony in Kiev yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend a welcoming ceremony in Kiev yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

REUTERS

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend a welcoming ceremony in Kiev yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

A leaked recording of an Iranian pilot shows Iran knew immediately it had shot down a Ukrainian airliner last month, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine says.

On the recording, the pilot of another plane can be heard telling a control tower he saw "the light of a missile" in the sky before Ukrainian International Airways flight 752 crashed in an explosion.

Tehran denied responsibility for three days after the attack, which happened in the wake of the US killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

Yesterday, the Iranian regime attacked Ukraine for leaking what it described as confidential evidence, and said it would no longer share material with Ukraine from the investigation into the crash.

All 176 people on board were killed when the plane, bound for Kiev from Tehran, crashed after takeoff on January 8.

The leaked audio "proves that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane had been hit by a missile," Mr Zelensky said in a television interview.

"He says that 'it seems to me that a missile is flying', he says it in both Persian and English, everything is fixed there," Mr Zelensky said.

Iran claims it shot the plane down by mistake while under high alert, hours after it had fired at US targets in retaliation for the Solemaini killing.

It has faced pressure from Ukraine and other countries whose citizens were on board to send evidence abroad for international investigations.

The Iranian official in charge of accident investigations at Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation called the release of the recording a "strange move" by Ukraine.

"This action by the Ukrainians led to us not sharing any more evidence with them," the official, Hassan Rezaifar said, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency.

In the recording, a pilot for Aseman, an Iranian airline, can be heard radioing the control tower that he has seen what he believes is a missile.

"Is this an active area? There's lights like a missile. Is there anything?" the pilot says.

"Nothing has been reported to us. What's the light like?" the controller replies. The pilot says: "It's the light of a missile."

The control tower can be heard trying and failing to raise the Ukrainian airliner.

The pilot of the Iranian plane then says he has seen "an explosion. In a very big way".

Ukraine International Airways said the recording provided "yet more proof that the UIA airplane was shot down with a missile, and there were no restrictions or warnings from dispatchers of any risk to flights of civilian aircraft in the vicinity of the airport".

Mr Rezaifar, the Iranian aviation official, said the Ukraine investigation team, as well as all the other foreigners involved in the investigation, have now left Iran.

Irish Independent