The Iranian authorities knew that the UIA plane was shot down near Tehran, but deliberately concealed this information for several days. This became known from the recording of the conversation of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with a journalist, which was not supposed to be published, but was leaked to the media, The New York Times reports.
Among other things, Javad Zarif noted that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps knew from the start that the plane was shot down. But for several days, the country's authorities denied this.
Zarif said in one part of the recording that he attended a high-level meeting to discuss the incident at the building of the Supreme National Security Council the day before Iran admitted to downing the airliner, where he was told to deny on Twitter that the plane was shot down.
“I said [at the meeting], ‘the world is saying the plane was hit with missiles. If the plane was really hit with missiles, tell us so we can see how we can fix it’,” Zarif tells the interviewer in the recording.
“They said, ‘no, go, go tweet and deny’,” he said.
The disaster occurred on January 8, 2020. Boeing 737 of Ukraine's International Airlines was downed over Tehran. 176 people were aboard (55 Canadian citizens, Iranian students, as well as British, Afghan, Swedish and Ukrainian citizens); no one survived the tragedy. French experts confirmed that the aircraft was shot down by a missile fired from an anti-aircraft missile launcher.