Ukrainian airline cancels flights over Iranian airspace after plane crash leaves 176 dead
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    Ukrainian airline cancels flights over Iranian airspace after plane crash leaves 176 dead

    The plane that crashed was a Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

    Ukrainian International Airlines have cancelled all flights over Iranian airspace from 9 January after a plane crash in Iran in the early hours of Wednesday morning left 176 people dead.

    There were 167 passengers and 9 cabin crew members aboard the Kyiv-bound plane, all of whom were killed in the crash which took place shortly after the plane took off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in the Iranian capital of Tehran at around 6:12 AM local time (3:42 AM Brussels time).

    Victims aboard the plane were from Iran, Ukraine, Canada, Sweeden, Afghanistan, Germany and Britain.

    At around 8:26 AM on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister of Ukraine Oleksiy Honcharuk explained in a tweet that a business trip is being prepared in order to assist the search operation and investigation into the causes of the disaster.

    The cause of the disaster has not yet been confirmed. Although initially the Ukrainian embassy in Tehran blamed the crash on engine failure, that statement has since been withdrawn, with Ukrainian authorities citing that any comment made in relation to the cause of the crash before the conclusion of an official inquiry is not official.

    The disaster came shortly after Iran fired missiles at military bases in Iraq hosting American troops, amidst escalating tensions in the region following the killing of the U.S. of a top Iranian general.

    The tense backdrop has prompted some speculation that a missile attack caused the Ukrainian International Airlines plane to crash, although there was no immediate evidence to confirm that this is the case.

    Until the reasons for the disaster are discovered, “flights in Iran’s airspace will be cancelled for Ukrainian airlines from January 9, 12:00 PM” Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk confirmed at a briefing, adding that “the state will provide the necessary support to the families of the victims.”

    In terms of the plane’s black box, the head of the Iranian civil aviation organisation has been quoted as saying that it will not be handed over to the Americans or Boeing for the investigation, indicating possible tensions over how the investigation into the disaster will proceed.

    In related news, following Iran’s decision to fire missiles at locations in Iraq, a number of commercial airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Qantas, China Airlines, Lufthansa and Malaysia Airlines are among those who have said that are avoiding Iranian airspace or cancelling flights to Iran altogether, in the wake of heightened tensions in the region.

    Evie McCullough
    The Brussels Times