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Audio Captured Iran Plane Downing: ‘That Surely Is the Light From a Missile’

At the time, Iran’s air defenses were on high alert amid tensions with the United States. An American drone had recently killed a top Iranian security commander, Maj. General Qassim Suleimani, and Iran had retaliated by firing missiles at American forces on bases in Iraq.

Iranian military officials said that an air defense crew — fearing an American counterattack — had fired on the civilian airliner in error, and that it took time to investigate the circumstances. The government said the generals had for days dragged their feet in sharing this information with elected officials.

Iranian officials have said the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, which is subordinate only to Iran’s theocratic leader, as well as the regular military knew the crew of a mobile antiaircraft system had fired missiles, but effectively sidelined the elected government by creating a secret investigative committee.

That committee examined data from the airport, radar networks and witnesses including the missile crew, Iranian officials said. It was not clear if this committee blocked access to the air traffic control recordings.

Mr. Zelensky, in the interview, said Iran’s air traffic controllers did not, in any case, provide the recording to Ukrainian investigators who traveled to Iran.

Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine had obtained the recording independently, a claim disputed by the director of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization. The aviation director, Hassan Rezaifar, told Mehr, a semiofficial news agency, that Iran had provided it to the Ukrainians.

The victims of the plane’s downing included 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians. Mr. Zelensky said the Iranian government had offered $80,000 to the families of each Ukrainian victim, but that he had rejected the offer as insufficient.

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine.

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