Credit…Ukrainian Presidential Press Service

Ukraine’s main intelligence agency, the S.B.U., or Security Service of Ukraine, said on Friday that it had narrowed down the possible causes of the airplane crash in Iran to either a missile strike or a terrorist act.

There were some inconsistencies in the hypothesis that the SA-15 missile system, which Western officials say likely brought down the plane shortly after takeoff from Tehran, was actually responsible, the S.B.U. said in a statement.

The statement came shortly after Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, said at a news conference in Kyiv that Ukrainian officials “will come to our conclusions,” but “we don’t want to come to them right now.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday morning Washington time after he requested that the United States and other Western countries release the evidence that a Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed shortly after takeoff in Iran had been shot down.

Mr. Zelensky said in a post on Facebook early Friday that the possibility that a missile had downed the Ukraine International Airlines plane on Wednesday, killing all 176 aboard, “cannot be ruled out but is not currently confirmed.”

Hours later, Mr. Zelensky’s spokeswoman said that the president had met with U.S. Embassy officials in Kyiv and received “important data that will be studied by our specialists” and that later in the day he spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The jet crashed hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at American targets in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the leader of a powerful branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and was bracing for a possible American response.

Mr. Zelensky has pledged to get to the bottom of what happened, cutting short a trip to Oman immediately after the crash and dispatching a team of 45 Ukrainian experts to Tehran.

On Friday, Mr. Zelensky made it clear that Western governments, allies in his country’s conflict with Russia, had not initially shared the evidence that led them to believe that the Ukrainian jet had been shot down by Iran.

Mr. Prystaiko said the extent of Iran’s cooperation with Ukrainian officials on the ground was “adequate.”

Ukrainian officials analyzed the plane’s flight pattern on Friday and determined it had stayed completely within the normal corridor for flights out of the airport, he said. “The plane was within the corridor departing from within the international airport, so there was nothing to indicate the flight was in danger,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain both said Iran had probably shot down the plane by accident. President Trump said he suspected that the downing of the plane had been the result of “a mistake on the other side.”

An American official told The New York Times that the United States had a high level of confidence that a Russian-made Iranian air defense system had fired two surface-to-air missiles at the plane.

The crash of the Ukrainian jet has presented Mr. Zelensky, a 41-year-old comedian who swept to a stunning victory in the presidential election last spring, with the most urgent crisis of his short tenure.

“Our goal is to ascertain the undeniable truth,” Mr. Zelensky said in his statement on Friday. “We believe this is the responsibility of the whole international community before the families of the dead and the memory of the victims of the catastrophe.”

The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office issued a public request for help from Canada, seeking information from intelligence agencies about a possible missile strike.

Secretary Pompeo confirmed on Friday that the United States and its allies have intelligence that the Ukrainian passenger jet that crashed in Iran had been shot down.

“We do believe that it’s likely that the plane was shot down by an Iranian missile,” Mr. Pompeo said at a briefing at the White House announcing new sanctions against Iran. “We’re going to let the investigation play out before we make a final determination. It’s important that we get to the bottom of it.”

Mr. Pompeo was the first American official to publicly confirm the intelligence assessments. American and allied officials said on Thursday that they had intelligence that surface-to-air missiles fired by Iranian military forces shot down the Boeing 737 minutes after it took off from Tehran, headed for Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

Mr. Pompeo said that he had spoken with his Canadian counterpart and with Ukrainian President Zelensky by phone on Friday, but noted that an investigation was ongoing.

“When we get the results of that investigation, I am confident we and the rest of the world will take appropriate action,” he said.

The Trump administration also plans to issue sanctions waivers to American companies or others who can help the investigation, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said at the briefing.

Iran has maintained that there was no evidence that the plane was struck by a missile and doubled down on that assertion on Friday, despite western officials pointing to intelligence suggesting the passenger jet was accidentally hit by a missile.

Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization chief, Ali Abedzadeh, speaking during a Friday news conference, urged caution and said that nothing could be determined until the data from the black boxes was analyzed and said statements made by other nations were politically motivated.

But, he added, what could be said was that the plane had not been hit by a missile and was likely on fire before it crashed. He also urged nations with intelligence on the crash, namely the United States and Canada, to share that information with Iran.

“We cannot just give you speculation,” Mr. Abedzadeh said in footage televised and translated on Iranian state television. “So far what I can tell you is that the plane has not been hit by a missile, and we have to look for the cause of the fire.”

Hassan Rezaeifar, the head of the Iranian investigation team, said during the same news conference that it could take more than a month to process the data recovered from the flight recorders and that the investigation could take up to two years. He also noted that Ukraine, France, Canada, and Russia have all said they are willing to assist Iran with the data extraction, and Tehran will send the black box to one of these countries if it fails to retrieve the data.

Normally, Iran has the capacity to download black box data, but Mr. Rezaeifar said that since the devices had been damaged, it would be difficult to extract information.

“We need special software and hardware which are available in our country, but if we fail to extract the data due to the damages of the black box, we will get help from other countries,” he said.

The black box will begin to be evaluated on Friday, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported, “to assess and check whether it is possible to reconstruct and analyze the information inside the country.” State television aired footage that it said showed the two black boxes that were recovered from the crash site.


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The New York Times has obtained and verified video showing the moment a Ukrainian airliner was hit in Iran.CreditCredit…Screenshot from video

Footage verified by The New York Times appears to show a missile fired from Iranian territory hitting a plane near Tehran’s airport, the area where a Ukrainian jet crashed on Wednesday.

As investigators work to determine an official cause of the accident, the video offered new clues about the crash, which came hours after a violent confrontation between Iran and the United States.

A small explosion occurred when what appears to be a missile hit the plane above Parand, a city near the airport, but the plane did not explode, the video showed. The jet continued flying for several minutes and turned back toward the airport, The Times has determined.

The plane, which by then had stopped transmitting its signal, flew toward the airport ablaze before it exploded and crashed quickly, other videos verified by The Times showed.

Visual and audio clues in the footage also matched flight path information and satellite imagery of the area near where the plane crashed.

The Trump administration slapped another round of sanctions on Iran on Friday, seeking to further deter what it called Tehran’s support for terrorist activities. Given that Iran is already under heavy sanctions from the United States, the newest round is unlikely to have any major economic effect but could help deter investment from countries including China and Russia, analysts said.

Secretaries Mnuchin and Pompeo announced the new sanctions in a briefing at the White House. The sanctions apply to industries including steel, construction, mining and textiles, as well as to eight senior officials said by the United States to have had a role in the missile strikes by Iran this week.

“The president has been very clear we will continue to apply economic sanctions until Iran stops its terrorist activities and commit that it will never have nuclear weapons,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

The move was the first substantive response by the United States following the missile strikes on bases housing American forces in Iraq, and was seen by analysts as an additional signal of de-escalation by the administration.

Peter Harrell, a sanctions expert at the Center for New American Security, a research organization, said the sanctions would do negligible additional damage to Iran’s economy because the bulk of its revenue streams have been cut off already. The new sanctions, he said, largely, tighten enforcement of existing sanctions by targeting companies that are engaging in prohibited trade with Iran.

“When it comes to putting materially more economic pressure on Iran, the Trump administration is something of a victim of its own success — and I think we are reaching the end of the road for what ‘maximum pressure’ can achieve when it comes to Iran’s economy,” Mr. Harrell said. “Trump has already succeeded in cutting off the vast majority of Iran’s cash-earning exports, particularly oil, and has caused a sharp drop in Iranian GDP.”

The aftermath of the plane crash in Iran has the potential to open a fresh rift between Ukraine and its most important Western allies.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has already turned into an unwilling player in United States domestic politics as a result of the Trump administration’s pressure campaign seeking assistance in the 2020 presidential race. Now, he is stuck in the middle of an even more volatile American crisis: the conflict with Iran.

On the one hand, Mr. Zelensky needs Iranian cooperation to deliver the full-fledged investigation of the disaster that he has pledged to his public. On the other, Mr. Zelensky needs the data collected by Western intelligence — not to mention his continued reliance on Western support in Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.

“He could end up in a situation of being caught between two fires,” said Oleksandr Danylyuk, Mr. Zelensky’s former national security adviser, who resigned in September. “It’s a very complicated situation.”

Mr. Zelensky was caught flat-footed on Thursday when American officials went public with intelligence findings about the crash, and it was clear that the United States and its Western allies had not briefed Kyiv.

In an interview with The New York Times, Pavlo Klimkin, a former foreign minister of Ukraine, described the failure by Western officials to share their intelligence earlier as a moral setback in Kyiv’s relationship with its partners.

“We lost our plane, we lost our citizens,” Mr. Klimkin said. “Of course we want to expect of our friends to be with us in this important moment in the sense of sharing information, in the sense of solidarity, in the sense of simply working together.”

On Friday, American and Ukrainian officials raced to dispel any appearance of a rift. But Anatoliy Hrytsenko, a former Ukrainian defense minister, said that any recalcitrance from Western countries would create suspicions in Ukraine that they were using the tragedy as a cudgel in their conflict with Iran.

“Western leaders must give us these intelligence findings,” Mr. Hrytsenko said. “If we assume the worst and they don’t do this, then a big question mark arises: Is this really about determining the cause of a plane crash or is this now geopolitics?”

France’s aviation investigation authority said on Friday that it had been invited by Iran to take part in the investigation into the crash of an Ukrainian plane near Tehran this week.

A spokesman for the authority, known by its French acronym B.E.A., or Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses, said France was getting involved because the jetliner’s engine had been designed by CFM, a joint venture between GE Aviation, an American company, and Safran Aircraft Engines, a French one.

“No further assistance has been requested at this point in time,” the spokesman said, adding that Iranian aviation authorities were the lead investigator in the case.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, did not say on Friday whether the country had proof that the jetliner had been shot down by Iranian missiles, but said that France was “available” to help with the investigation.

“Before the speculation, we must establish the truth in conditions of utmost transparency,” Mr. Le Drian told RTL, a French radio station. France, one of the signatories of the Iranian nuclear deal, is now trying to salvage it by acting as a go-between for Iran and the United States.

While many of the passengers onboard the Ukrainian plane that crashed near Tehran on Wednesday were Iranians, there were citizens of at least seven other nations on the flight when it plunged to the ground killing everyone.

Among the dead were at least 63 Canadians, many of them university students. Dozens are believed to be from the city of Edmonton, members of the Iranian community told local news outlets. At least 10 were students or staff at the University of Alberta, according to a statement from David H. Turpin, the president of the university.

“These individuals were integral to the intellectual and social fabric of our university and the broader community,” Mr. Turpin said. “We are grieving for lost colleagues, classmates, teachers, and mentors, as well as loved ones, family, friends, and roommates.”

“We will feel their loss — and the aftermath of this tragedy — for many years to come,” he added.

Sweden’s prime minister said he spoke with the leaders of Canada and Britain following reports that the plane may have accidentally been shot down by an Iranian missile, and said that the country would do all it could to aid in the investigation after the “serious information” emerged.

A number of Swedish nationals were also onboard the Ukraine International Airlines flight when it crashed.

“We will do everything we can to find out what happened,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven of Sweden said in a statement. “My thoughts go to the victims, their families and close relatives at this difficult time. You are not alone. We share your sorrow.”

Although no German citizens were among the victims, the mayor of Werl, a town in western Germany, told the German news agency DPA on Friday that a 30-year-old Afghan woman who had been granted asylum in the country and had been living in the town since 2017 was killed. Her 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son had also died in the crash. The mayor, Michael Grossmann, said the woman’s brother, who also lives in the town, had confirmed the deaths, but gave no further details.

The Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany posted an online tribute to a Paniz Soltani, a young Iranian woman who had been completing her doctoral studies at the institute. Described as “a sparkling and gifted PhD student, a valued colleague and dear friend.”

Anton Troianovski, Megan Specia, Aurelien Breeden, Melissa Eddy, Christiaan Triebert, Malachy Browne, Sarah Kerr and Ainara Tiefenthäler contributed reporting.

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