Iran acknowledges Russian-made missiles targetted Ukraine jet

DUBAI (AP) — Iran acknowledged yesterday that its armed forces fired two Russian anti-aircraft missiles at a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed after taking off from Tehran’s main airport earlier this month, killing all 176 people on board.

The new preliminary report by Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization however stopped short of blaming the TOR-M1 for the crash of the Boeing 737-800, flown by Ukraine International Airways.

For days after the January 8 shoot-down, Iran denied that it fired missiles at the plane, initially blaming a technical malfunction and engine fire for the crash.

However, after the United States (US) and Canada blamed missile fire for the crash, Iran’s armed forces said anti-aircraft fire from the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard had downed the flight.

The new report identified the missiles fired at the aircraft as coming from the TOR-M1. In 2017, Iran received the delivery of 29 TOR-M1 units from Russia under a contract worth an estimated USD700 million.

Ukrainian Honour Guards carry a coffin of one of the 11 Ukrainian victims of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane crash during a memorial ceremony at Borispil international airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

However, the report said, “The impact of these missiles on the accident and the analysis of this action are under investigation.”

Surveillance footage earlier obtained by The Associated Press showed two missiles fired at the plane.

The two minutes of black-and-white footage purportedly shows one missile streaking across the sky and exploding near the plane. Ten seconds later, another missile is fired. Some 20 seconds after the first explosion, another strikes near the plane. A ball of flames then falls from the sky out of frame.

The TOR short-range air defence system, code-named the SA-15 by NATO, was designed during Soviet times to shoot down aircraft and precision guided weapons. It is mounted on a tracked vehicle and carries radar as well as a pack of eight missiles.

Each vehicle can operate independently. TOR has a range of up to 12 kilometres and can hit aerial targets at altitudes of up to six kilometres. TOR missiles explode near their target, taking it down with shrapnel that devastates engines, fuel tanks and other vital components.

The missions began after mysterious explosions last summer targetted oil tankers near the strait, attacks the US blamed on Iran. Tehran denied being involved, though it did seize tankers amid wider tensions with the West over its unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.