The United States government has shared intelligence about Wednesday’s plane crash with Ukraine after Pentagon officials said they were ‘confident’ it was accidently shot down by Iran.

The move followed a remarkable plea by the country’s president, which suggested he had not been properly briefed by the Americans.

“We have now received important data which will be processed by our specialists,” Ukraine’s foreign minister Vadym Pristayko confirmed on social media on Friday afternoon. 

Kiev’s prosecutor’s office had earlier announced it had sent a formal request to Canada to share information. On Thursday evening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the first western leader to refer to “multiple intelligence sources” and conclude a missile strike was a “likely” cause.

His statement followed anonymous media briefings by US intelligence officials stating that the Pentagon was “satisfied” an Iranian missile strike was responsible. 

Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752, a Boeing 737-800, came down shortly after take off and a few hours after Tehran attacked US military targets in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. At the time of the crash, Iran was on full alert and in anticipation of an aerial response. All 176 on board died in the crash. 

Mr Zelensky has so far been diplomatic in his assessment of the western reports. Writing on Facebook, he said that the possibility that the flight had been shot down, “cannot be ruled out but is not currently confirmed.” 

His calls for intelligence to be shared with the investigating commission were echoed on Friday morning by Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation (CAOI) chief Ali Abedzadeh. 

Speaking at a press-conference, the aviation official confirmed that the accident took place at 8000 ft, but he categorically ruled out a missile strike. That, he said, was incompatible with the pilot’s apparent attempts to turn the stricken liner back to the airport. 

From a very early stage, Tehran has insisted that the crash was caused by mechanical failure. This early and inflexible stance appeared to undermine the prospects of a transparent investigation.

They were damaged further with the revelation Iranian authorities had removed all debris from the crash site — and, according to one well-placed Ukrainian journalist, were withholding crucial evidence from Kiev’s 45-strong investigation team. 

Even before the intervention of western intelligence, much of the publicly available evidence contradicted the claims of an engine malfunction

According to flight data available online, the plane took off normally, but approximately 2 minutes into the flight stopped transmitting all data. This was consistent with a catastrophic event of which engine failure would not usually be considered. The plane was almost new, had undergone scheduled maintenance just two days earlier, and there were no distress signals.  

Within hours of the crash, images began circulating which purported to show the heads of Russian-made Tor surface to air missiles. These were not verified, but purported to be from near the area that the plane fell. 

There are conflicting reports that multiple anti-aircraft projectiles may have been fired at the plane. 

A resident of Parand, a town near the airport, who spoke to a soldier posted in a nearby garrison, also said they believed three missiles may have been fired.

“Based on the research that I have done, I understood that the base that is near us was on alert, they saw the aeroplane and fired at it,” the resident told The Independent.

“The soldier said the first rocket exploded before impact, the aircraft’s fuel tanks were pierced, and the other two rockets fired caused the plane to catch fire and then crash.”

BBC Persian correspondent Jiyar Gol told the BBC World Service on Friday that they were told by one eyewitness, also a soldier in a nearby barracks, that he saw three missiles fired at the plane but only one hit.

The Independent could not independently verify the claims.

Speaking about why the pilot did not communicate the distress on the aircraft, Mr Abedzadeh suggested that the pilot was concentrated on “saving the plane.”

“After take off, after a few minutes the pilot contacted the tower and had asked permission for 26,000ft so this has all happened within two minutes,” he said.  

Overnight, US media quoted intelligence sources offering a very different interpretation. According to CNN, the plane was hit by not one but two Iranian missiles — with US satellites tracking infrared signatures of missiles as they scuttled towards the Boeing. 

CNN claimed the US authorities did not immediately go public with the data as they decided to “verify” the data. 

Iran has said it will process the information from the black box within the country, but has invited Boeing and Ukrainian officials to participate in the investigation. Concerns have however been raised about whether Iran has the capacity to process the information.

American news outlet CBS cited US federal sources as saying it was likely a SA-15 air defence missile system that took down the plane. The medium altitude short-range surface-to-air missile has a maximum range of 20,000 feet.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s president said he would be holding a call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 3pm local time (1pm GMT) on Friday. ​


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