No10 looking into 'very concerning reports' that Ukrainian Airlines plane was shot down

9 January 2020, 16:33

Boris Johnson has spoken to the Ukrainian president
Boris Johnson has spoken to the Ukrainian president. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Downing Street has confirmed it is looking into "very concerning" reports that a plane that crashed in Tehran could have been shot down by a missile mistakenly fired by Iranian troops.

Boris Johnson has called for a "full, credible and transparent investigation" into what caused the Ukraine International Airlines plane to crash in Iran this week.

The Prime Minister pushed for the facts to be established in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister spoke to President Zelenskyy of Ukraine this afternoon.

"He offered his condolences to the president for the loss of the Ukraine International Airlines plane and for all those who were on board.

"President Zelenskyy updated the Prime Minister on Ukrainian efforts to establish the facts and the Prime Minister offered UK support.

He continued: "The Prime Minister said that there needed to be a full, credible and transparent investigation into what happened.

"The Prime Minister underlined the UK's continued commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty and the leaders agreed to continue working together to strengthen the bilateral relationship between our two countries."

Asked whether there were any concerns about the cause of the disaster, the spokesman said: "I'm not going to speculate on this but the reports we have seen are very concerning and we are urgently looking into them."

Rescue workers have been searching the wreckage
Rescue workers have been searching the wreckage. Picture: PA

The news comes after the President of Ukranian Airlines Yevgeny Dykhne said on Wednesday: "The aircraft was in good condition... We guarantee the serviceability of our aircraft and the high qualification of our crews".

The plane’s black box was recovered but according to reports Iranian officials were refusing to hand it over to Boeing and it was not clear which authority would be allowed to examine it.

In a statement on its website, the Ukrainian national carrier said its flight from Tehran to Kyiv disappeared from radar just a "few minutes" after taking off from Tehran International Airport.

The company said its staff were "clarifying the exact number" of passengers on board the flight, which took off 6.10am local time (2.40am UK) on Wednesday.

The statement said: "According to preliminary data, there were 167 passengers and nine crew members on board. UIA representatives are currently clarifying the exact number of passengers on board.

"Passenger lists will be posted on the airline's website after final confirmation of their presence on board of the aircraft.

"The airline expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the air crash and will do everything possible to support the relatives of the victims."

The UIA statement added all flights to Tehran were suspended with immediate effect until further notice and added it was investigating the cause of the crash.

It said: "As at 9.30am (local time), UIA in close cooperation with the aviation authorities, takes all measures to determine the causes of the air accident. In parallel, the airline will be contacting the relatives of the passengers, providing all possible assistance in the current situation.

"The flight was operated on a Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft (registration UR-PSR).

"The aircraft was built in 2016 and delivered directly to the airline from the manufacturer. The last scheduled maintenance of the aircraft took place on 06 January, 2020.

"Investigation will be conducted with the involvement of the aviation authorities of Ukraine, Iran, representatives of the Boeing manufacturer, the airline, and the National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation of Ukraine.

"The airline will inform about the progress of the investigation and the causes of the tragic event as soon as they are identified."

"According to preliminary reports, all 167 passengers and crew of nine members died. Sincere condolences to family and friends."

Mr Zelenskyy, in a statement on the president's website, said he had ordered the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to open criminal proceedings over the UIA plane crash in Tehran.

He said: "An investigation commission should be set up of representatives of the civil and aviation agencies responsible for civil aviation. We have to work out all the possible versions.

"Regardless of the conclusions regarding the causes of the Iranian catastrophe, the airworthiness of the entire civilian fleet will be tested.

"I keep all measures on personal control. I very much ask everyone to refrain from speculation and putting forward untested versions of the disaster before the official announcements."