Updated: January 10, 2020 9:54:45 pm
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday morning Washington time after he requested that the United States and other Western countries release the evidence that a Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed shortly after takeoff in Iran had been shot down.
Zelenskiy said in a post on Facebook early Friday that the possibility that a missile had downed the Ukraine International Airlines plane Wednesday, killing all 176 aboard, “cannot be ruled out but is not currently confirmed.”
Hours later, Zelenskiy’s spokeswoman said the president had met with U.S. Embassy officials in Kyiv and received “important data that will be studied by our specialists,” and later in the day he spoke with Pompeo.
US and allied officials said Thursday that they had intelligence that surface-to-air missiles fired by Iranian military forces shot down the Boeing 737 minutes after it took off from Tehran, headed for Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
The jet crashed hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at US targets in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of a powerful branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and was bracing for a possible U.S. response.
Zelenskiy has pledged to get to the bottom of what happened, cutting short a trip to Oman immediately after the crash and dispatching a team of 45 Ukrainian experts to Tehran.
On Friday, Zelenskiy made it clear that Western governments, allies in his country’s conflict with Russia, had not initially shared the evidence that led them to believe that the Ukrainian jet had been shot down by Iran.
Iran has maintained that there was no evidence that the plane was struck by a missile and doubled down on that assertion Friday.
Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization chief, Ali Abedzadeh, speaking during a Friday news conference, urged caution and said that nothing could be determined until the data from the black boxes was analyzed and said statements made by other nations were politically motivated.
But, he added, what could be said was that the plane had not been hit by a missile and was likely on fire before it crashed. He also urged nations with intelligence on the crash, namely the United States and Canada, to share that information with Iran.
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