Boris Johnson confirms four Britons died in Ukrainian plane 'shot down by Iran'

10 January 2020, 06:15

176 died in the plane that crashed near Tehran
176 died in the plane that crashed near Tehran. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson has confirmed four British nationals died in the Ukranian Airline crash just outside of Tehran.

The Prime Minister said: "The loss of life on Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 is a tragedy and my thoughts are with all those who lost loved ones.

“Four British nationals were among those who were killed, and we are providing support to their families at this most terrible time.

“There is now a body of information that the flight was shot down by an Iranian Surface to Air Missile. This may well have been unintentional. 

“We are working closely with Canada and our international partners and there now needs to be a full, transparent investigation.

“It is vital that there should be an immediate and respectful repatriation of those who’ve lost their lives to allow their families to grieve properly.

“The UK continues to call on all sides urgently to deescalate to reduce tensions in the region.”

Just moments before Mr Johnson released his statement, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said there was evidence to suggest the airliner had been down by a missile.

He added there needed to be a "thorough" investigation into the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 63 Canadians.

He also said that Ukrainian officials will have access to the black boxes, which are currently being held by Iran.

Whilst speaking with members of the press, he said: "We have intelligence from multiple sources... the intelligence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” he said.

“This may well have been unintentional.”

The three known British victims included engineer Sam Zokaei, from Surrey, Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi, from west London, and Mohammad Reza Kadkhoda Zadeh, from near Brighton.

In total 176 people were killed when the plane crashed moments after it left Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran at 6.10am local time (2.40am GMT) on Wednesday, bound for the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

At least a third of the deceased held Canadian passports and Prime Minister Mr Trudeau added the news of a missile being responsible was likely to comes as a "shock" to the grieving families.

He made his comments after two US officials said it was "highly likely" an Iranian anti-aircraft missile brought down the passenger plane.

Boris Johnson had used a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday to call for a "full, credible and transparent investigation" into what happened.

Ukraine's Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, Oleksiy Danilov, posted on Facebook that a missile attack was one of the possible causes of the fire that caused Ukraine International Airlines' (UIA) PS752 aircraft to break-up as it gained height after taking off from Tehran airport on Wednesday.

The Iranian military had disputed suggestions the airliner was brought down by a missile, with officials in Iran blaming an engine fire.

But Mr Danilov said "information about the detection of the shards of a Russian missile" - understood to be a Russian Tor M1 missile - meant an attack on the plane could not be ruled out.

The Prime Minister pushed for the facts to be established during his conversation with Mr Zelenskyy on Thursday.

Mr Zelenskyy ordered a criminal investigation soon after the details of the tragedy emerged this week.

He has invited United Kingdom aviation experts to join the investigation into the crash.

A spokesman for the president said: "The President invited the United Kingdom to join the investigation.

"Boris Johnson supported this idea and stressed that the best British experts should be involved in clarifying all the circumstances of the tragedy."

The airline ruled out human error in the aftermath of the incident, and crew were not said to have made an emergency call.

The crash comes amid escalating tension in the Persian Gulf following the killing last week of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani by the US, prompting several airlines to reroute flights away from Tehran's airspace.

Iran fired missiles at army bases in Iraq were both US and UK troops were stationed, although both Number 10 and the White House said there had been no casualties incurred.