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Ukraine Expects Iran To Hand Over Black Boxes Of Downed Airliner Despite Pandemic

Rescue teams are seen on January 8, 2020 at the scene of a Ukrainian airliner that was shot down shortly after take-off near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran.

After a month of silence, the Islamic Republic Minister of Roads and Transport, Mohammad Eslami, said on Sunday that the coronavirus outbreak in Iran had stopped the procedure of decoding the black boxes of the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) passenger plane downed on January 8 over Tehran.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' (IRGC) missiles shot down the Boeing plane killing all 176 onboard. Victims of the crash included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three Britons.

"We will resume reading the black boxes after the outbreak of the coronavirus and its related disease, Covid-19, is contained," Eslami told reporters.

However, earlier on March 11, the Islamic Republic representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Farhad Paravaresh, had promised to hand over the black boxes to Kyiv within less than two weeks.

Furthermore, Paravaresh also announced that, if more actions needed, Tehran would not oppose sending the black boxes to France.

Immediately after the deadline set by Parvaresh was over, and his promise remained unfulfilled, the Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne explicitly accused the Islamic Republic of violating international law by refusing to hand over the flight recorders.

Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Yehor Bozhok, met with Iranian Ambassador to Ukraine, Manouchehr Moradi, on March 23, to agree on further cooperation to establish the causes of the UIA aircraft crash and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Earlier, referring to the detention of several people related to the downing of UIA's Boeing, the Iranian authorities had insisted that further digging into the case was mired with "political motivation."

However, Ukraine has asserted that problems related to the novel coronavirus outbreak in Iran should not be used as an excuse for postponing further investigation into the tragic case.

Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Egor Bozhok
Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Egor Bozhok

Exclusively speaking to Radio Farda's Anna Rajskaya, Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister, Yegor Bozhok, insisted that Kyiv only expects Tehran to remain committed to its promises.

Sadly, there has been no positive development concerning the case, Bozhok told Radio Farda, reiterating that Tehran should immediately hand over the black boxes to Kyiv or any other country Ukraine chooses.

According to Bozhok, Iran has tabled several promises to Ukraine, the United Nations, and the whole world. Kyiv expects the Islamic Republic authorities to live up to its pledges to cooperate with the investigation.

"Our priority is to achieve the truth about the tragedy, ensure that whoever responsible for it will be punished, and the relatives of the victims receive an appropriate sum as compensation," Bozhok asserted.

In the meantime, Bozhok noted that Tehran's Ambassador to Kyiv maintained that he was unaware of the reasons behind Iran's reluctance in handing over the black boxes.

"Ambassador Moradi told me that Iran had focused all its attempts on containing the novel coronavirus," Bozhok noted, adding, "I responded that while Ukraine understood Tehran's problems, it still believed that the whole world was struggling with the deadly virus, and that should not block further investigations into the downing of the UIA's flight 757."

Moreover, Bozhik disclosed that the Islamic Republic has not yet decided about compensating the relatives of the victims of the crash.

In the meantime, Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister affirmed that Kyiv did not seek to pressure Tehran. Still, it expects the Islamic Republic to fulfill its international obligations, Bozhok said.

The Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) plane (Flight PS752) heading from Tehran to Kyiv took off from the Imam Khomeini International Airport at about 06:00 Tehran time, on January 8.

Minutes later, two IRGC missiles were fired at the plane bringing it down near Tehran.

It took Iranian authorities three days to finally admit that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps had fired two missiles at the passenger plane.

Since January 11, IRGC and other authorities in the clergy-dominated Iran have insisted that the missiles were "accidentally" and "mistakenly" fired at the UIA's plane.