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Downed plane’s black boxes will go to Ukraine, Iranian media says

Iran will send to Ukraine the black boxes from the Boeing 737-800 that its military mistakenly shot down shortly after takeoff from an airport in Tehran this month, the official Tasnim News Agency reported Saturday.

A director in charge of accident investigations at the country’s Civil Aviation Organization, Hassan Rezaifar, said that the cockpit and flight data recorders from the plane, Ukraine International Flight 752, would be transferred to Ukraine at the request of the country’s authorities.

The devices had not been read in Iran, he said, and they would be examined “with the use of the expertise of the countries of France, Canada and America,” according to Tasnim. There were 57 Canadians among the 176 people killed on the plane, alongside 11 Ukrainians and 82 Iranians.

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It remained unclear when the black boxes would be transferred to Ukraine or when experts would start analyzing them. A spokeswoman for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that she could not confirm that the black boxes were, in fact, bound for the country.

Iran’s announcement came after the country had declared it would not turn over the black boxes to Boeing and appeared to stall on allowing the countries affected by the crash to be part of the investigation.

The Ukrainians had also accused Iran of violating universally accepted procedures for a post-crash investigation, accusing it of bulldozing heaped debris from the plane into piles on the ground.

“Everything was done absolutely inappropriately,” Oleksiy Danilov, the Ukrainian security official overseeing the crash inquiry, told The New York Times, referring to the handling of the site.

Canada and Ukraine had pressed Iran to turn over the devices, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying they should be given to France for analysis.

“Iran does not have the level of technical expertise and mostly the equipment necessary to be able to analyze these damaged black boxes quickly,” Trudeau said at a recent news conference in Ottawa.

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Two missiles struck the passenger plane Jan. 8 shortly after it left Tehran bound for the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. The downing came the same day that Iranian missiles had struck two US bases in Iraq in retaliation for the drone killing of a top Iranian general, General Qassem Soleimani, by the United States.

The events were the culmination of days of tensions in the region that brought Iran and the United States to the brink of war and spurred huge protests in Iran.

After denying for days that it was responsible for the plane crash, Iran admitted on Jan. 11 that its military had struck the passenger jet, but officials blamed human error.

Thousands of Iranians had gathered in Tehran, furious at the country’s leaders for what they saw as obfuscation, if not outright lying, about the events surrounding the tragedy. Many chanted, “Death to the liars!” and “Death to the dictator!” and called for Iran’s supreme leader to be ousted.

President Hassan Rouhani had said Iran “deeply” regretted “this disastrous mistake” and vowed that those responsible would be prosecuted.

But Iranian leaders have also struck a defiant tone, with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in his first Friday sermon in years, dismissing protesters as “stooges of the United States,” praising Soleimani, and lauding the Iranian missile attack on US forces in Iraq, which left at least 11 American service members with concussions.

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At the news conference in Ottawa on Friday, Trudeau said that if the badly damaged black boxes could not be analyzed in Ukraine, they could be sent to France, one of the few countries with the expertise to examine them.

He also announced that his government would offer 25,000 Canadian dollars, or about $19,000, each to the relatives of the victims to cover funerals and the cost of travel, adding that this did not absolve Iran of responsibility for compensation.

“I want to be clear,” Trudeau said. “We expect Iran to compensate these families.”