Iran Confirms Russian-Made Missiles Struck Ukrainian Passenger Plane

January 21, 2020 Updated: January 21, 2020

Iran confirmed that it fired two Russian anti-aircraft missiles at a Ukrainian International Airlines plane that crashed near Tehran earlier this month, leaving 176 people dead, including 57 Canadians.

Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, which is investigating the incident, said Jan. 21 that a preliminary report found that two Russian Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missiles struck the jetliner. But “how the projectiles contributed to the crash [was] still under investigation,” according to state-run media, which cited the agency’s report.

State media added that the “Iranian operator” who apparently authorized firing the two missiles had “mistaken the Boeing jetliner for a cruise missile.”

The Tor-M1 is a short-range surface-to-air missile system that was first developed by the Soviet Union designed to target cruise missiles or aircraft.

Last week, The New York Times and other news outlets published video footage that purported to show two projectiles hitting the plane over Tehran. In that video, a projectile traveling in the air before a bright flash is seen in the distance. Moments later, another projectile is seen, followed by another flash.

On Jan. 20, Ukrainian officials pressed Tehran to return the black boxes of the Ukrainian Airlines plane, as the Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Mohammad Eslami, visited Kyiv.

Epoch Times Photo
People gather in front of Amir Kabir University for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the Ukrainian airplane shot down by the Iranian military, in Tehran, Iran, on Jan. 11, 2020. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

“His main task is to apologize and acknowledge what happened. We hope that we can go a little further than just political discussions and discuss practical problems. Among them in particular is the return of the black boxes,” Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told reporters.

But Iran said Jan. 19 that it was analyzing the black boxes, which contain the flight recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said Iranian officials were expected to use Kyiv’s technical workers to decode the black boxes.

“I promised the families and relatives of the victims, I promised the people of Ukraine that the truth will be established. We must know what happened,” Zelensky’s office said, according to a Reuters translation that cited the president.

Among those who died in the crash were 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, 4 Afghans, 3 Germans, and 3 Britons.

Iran shot down the plane after it launched a barrage of missiles at U.S. forces at two Iraqi bases in retaliation for a White House-approved drone strike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. For several days, Iranian officials denied Tehran was responsible but later admitted the plane was shot down in error.

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ airspace division, said in a televised statement earlier this month: “I wish I was dead. I accept all responsibility for this incident.”

Following the admission, protesters gathered in Tehran to call for the end of the Iranian regime.