Iran's Minister of Roads and Transportation on Tuesday questioned the relevance of a leaked air traffic control audio, which proves Iranian authorities knew a Ukrainian plane which crashed near Tehran on January 8 had been targeted by Revolutionary Guard missiles.
Speaking to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) on Tuesday, Mohammad Eslami said the leaked audio of the air traffic control exchange with the captain of an Iranian flight who witnessed the shooting of the Ukrainian plane "could not be commented on before being investigated because the Iranian flight [Aseman 3768] took place after the crash".
The audio file released by Ukraine's Channel One on February 2 contains a recording of the communication between an air traffic dispatcher and the captain of Aseman 3768, a commercial Iranian flight.
In the recording, the Aseman captain says he can see missiles in the sky. Apparently concerned about an American missile attack in return for Iran's attack on two Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops only hours earlier, the captain wants to know if there is any military activity in the airspace.
The air traffic dispatcher who is unaware of such activity is then heard in the audio repeatedly trying to contact the Ukrainian flight. The Aseman captain says he has seen a huge explosion before the communication ends.
The audio file was handed over to the Ukrainian team investigating the crash by Iranian authorities while they were in Iran.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the authenticity of the recording aired by a TV channel and said it was proof the Iranian authorities knew from the start the plane had been hit by a missile.
Speaking to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) on Tuesday, Bahram Parsai, a member of Iran's parliament said the audio file "clearly indicates that the Civil Aviation Organization had been aware of the cause of the crash".
Parsai demanded that the authorities explain how the Head of the Civil aviation Organization could have known about the cause of the crash but not the Minister of Roads and Transportation and the President who said he only found out about the missile incident two days later.