Ukraine is investigating if the plane that crashed in Iran killing 176 people was brought down by a missile or terrorist attack

Rescue workers search the scene where the Ukrainian plane crashed on January 8 2020.

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Rescue workers search the scene where the Ukrainian plane crashed on January 8 2020.
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Mahmoud Hosseini/picture alliance via Getty Images
  • Ukraine said it is investigating whether a missile or a terrorist attack could have downed the Ukrainian plane that in Iran crashed on Wednesday, killing 176 people.
  • BREAKING: The Ukrainian flight that crashed in Iran was shot down by a missile, according to US satellite intelligence.
  • Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed minutes after takeoff, and Iran’s initial report said it experienced an unnamed technical problem, echoing reasons given by Iranian authorities in the hours after the crash.
  • The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said Ukraine is considering if the plane was destroyed by an anti-aircraft missile, brought down in a terror attack, or collided with an object in the sky.
  • Ukraine did not dismiss Iran’s explanation that a technical problem caused the crash.
  • Speculation has spread since Wednesday as the crash took place amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran, but Iran has dismissed the idea that a missile was involved.
  • Iran, which had the highest number of citizens on board, will conduct an investigation with contributions from Ukraine and other countries.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Ukrainian investigators are looking at whether the plane that crashed in Iran killing 176 people Wednesday was brought down by a missile or terrorist attack, even as Iran points to a technical failure as the cause of the disaster.

Oleksiy Danylov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, wrote on Facebook on Thursday, the day after the fatal crash, that his team are considering a number of possibilities for how the plane was downed.

These include:

  • The plane being destroyed by an anti-aircraft missile, particularly a Russian missile.
  • One of the plane’s engines exploding due to a technical fault.
  • A terrorist attack causing an explosion inside the plane.
  • A collision with an unmanned aerial vehicle, e.g. a drone, or other flying object.

Ukraine did not offer insight into how likely these scenarios are, nor did it dismiss Iran’s theory that the crash was caused by a technical fault.

Danylov said that Ukrainian investigators have been meeting with Iranian authorities, including with members of its international civil aviation organization.

He told Ukrainian news outlet Censor.net that Ukraine is working with Iran to try and get access to the crash site.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” after the crash on Wednesday.

“All possible versions of what occurred must be examined,” he said.

A man cries at the scene, where a Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed on January 8 shortly after takeoff from Tehran airport, killing all onboard.

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A man cries at the scene, where a Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed on January 8 shortly after takeoff from Tehran airport, killing all onboard.
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Foad Ashtari/picture alliance via Getty Images

The doomed plane belonged to Ukraine International Airlines, and 11 of those on board were Ukrainian.

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini just after 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday, and crashed several minutes later while en route to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.

Iranian officials initially blamed technical problems in the hour after the crash and dismissed the possibility of terrorism. Some agencies then walked back those statements, only for Iran’s initial report into the crash on Thursday to also note an unnamed technical problem.

Speculation has mounted as to other possible causes for the crash, particularly amid the increased tensions in Iran after the US assassinated its top general, and Iran retaliated by attacking bases housing US troops in Iraq.

Workers inspect the debris from the Ukraine International Airlines plane, that crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020

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Workers inspect the debris from the Ukraine International Airlines plane, that crashed after take-off from Iran’s Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020
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Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency)

Hours before the plane crash, Iran attacked two Iraqi military bases that housed US and coalition forces with missiles.

There is no evidence that Flight 752’s crash is linked to those missile attacks.

Danylov said that his team wants to look for possible debris from a Russian missile, the Tor air defense missile, after seeing online reports about the discovery of possible fragments of one near the crash site.

These reports were not confirmed, and there is no indication Ukraine is accusing Russia of downing the plane.

Russia and Ukraine have been at war for years, and Danylov said that the Ukrainian investigators looking into the crash include the experts who participated in the investigation into the 2014 shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

The plane was shot down over an area of Ukraine that is held by pro-Russia separatists, with investigators concluding that it was shot down with a Russian military missile.

Iran’s civil aviation authority’s initial report into the crash, released on Thursday, said that the plane suffered a technical fault soon after taking off and that it was on fire in the air and appeared to try return to Tehran airport before hitting the ground.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
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REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A spokesperson for Iran’s military dismissed the idea that the plane could have been shot down, calling it a “lie.”

General Abolfazl Shekarchi described the idea as “psychological warfare” from the US.

“Most of the passengers on this plane were invaluable Iranian youth; everything we do is aimed at defending our people’s and country’s security.”

Ukraine International Airlines has said the plane was basically new and the crew were experienced, and said it had been inspected with no issues found just two days before the crash.

Iran will investigate the crash under international law, and such investigations typically see the countries where victims are from – like Ukraine in this case – get involved in the investigation, as well as the plane’s manufacturer.

But questions loom over the nature of the investigation as Iran has hinted at keeping Boeing out of the proceedings.

The final report will likely take at least a year to complete, based on what is typical in the industry.