Bodies of Ukrainians killed in Iran plane crash return home
A ceremony attended by Ukraine’s president was held at Kiev’s airport to honour the dead
The bodies of 11 Ukrainians who were killed when Iran mistakenly shot down a passenger plane were brought back to Ukraine on Sunday.
All 176 people on board were killed when Iran fired missiles at a Ukraine International Airlines flight from Tehran to Kiev on January 8, hours after striking military bases in Iraq housing US troops. Iran admitted it shot down the plane three days later, saying it had been on high alert for a US attack.
Nine of the 11 Ukrainian citizens on the plane were crew members. Most of the passengers were Iranians or dual nationals, and 57 were Canadians.
In a memorial ceremony at Kiev’s Boryspil Airport attended by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, coffins draped in the Ukrainian flag were taken one by one to a waiting hearse.
Airline staff and relatives arrived with flowers for the farewell observance, which was expected to last until the evening.
"Today at Boryspil Airport the bereaved families and the whole nation have an opportunity to pay their respects to the Ukrainian crew and passengers of #PS752 who are now home," Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko wrote on Twitter.
"Deeply grateful for the messages of condolence & solidarity that we have received from around the world."
Iran denied an earlier report that it would be sending the black boxes of the aircraft to Ukraine, saying that it would seek to examine them itself.
On Saturday, the semi-official Iranian news agency Tasnim announced that the black boxes would be sent to Ukraine for analysis but did not say when.
However, Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation told the state news agency IRNA on Sunday that no decision had been made to send the recorders to another country.
"We are trying to read the black boxes here in Iran. Otherwise, our options are Ukraine and France, but no decision has been taken so far to send them to another country,” Hassan Rezaifar, a director in charge of accident investigations at the organisation, said.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had urged Iran to work with France, which has the capabilities to conduct a thorough investigation into the flight data and voice recorders.
The downing of the plane, which happened days after the assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, has sparked unrest in Iran.
Protests spread to cities throughout the country after Iranian authorities admitted the plane had not crashed through engine failure as officials previously said. The admission came after foreign intelligence revealed evidence that the plane had been shot down.
Updated: January 19, 2020 05:57 PM