Iran denies shooting down Ukrainian airline, Ukraine is unsure, but evidence is mounting

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/AP)

Britain and Canada said publicly on Thursday that their intelligence strongly suggests Iran shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines passenger jet minutes after takeoff from Tehran's main airport Wednesday morning, probably by accident, and U.S. intelligence officials told the news media they had a high level of confidence that Iran had brought down the Boeing 737-800 with Russian-made surface-to-air missiles. Iranian officials strongly disputed the claim. Most of the 176 passengers were Iranian, and 63 were Canadian.

"The plane, which was initially headed west to leave the airport zone, turned right following a problem and was headed back to the airport at the moment of the crash," said Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization. The plane was "on fire" before it crashed, so "scientifically, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane, and such rumors are illogical," he added. The New York Times, which has verified video of the strike, explains that the plane wouldn't have blown up midair because Iran's air defense system "is designed to explode near aircraft, creating shrapnel that takes a plane out of the sky, rather than directly hit it."

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.