Ukraine denies reports evacuation plane from Afghanistan hijacked to Iran

Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Yenin released a statement on Tuesday morning claiming that an airliner from his country was hijacked and flown to Iran.

Armed hijacking

“Last Sunday, our plane was hijacked by other people. On Tuesday, the plane was practically stolen from us, it flew into Iran with an unidentified group of passengers onboard instead of airlifting Ukrainians. Our next three evacuation attempts were also not successful because our people could not get into the airport,” Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister reportedly said, according to Russian News Agency TASS. Yenin claimed the hijackers were armed.

Iranian officials denied the claim. 

“Apparently it happened yesterday at 22:00 local/1730Z, the aircraft landed in Mashhad for “Refueling” and immediately embarked for Kyiv afterward… We deny the Ukrainian claims,” Iranian Civil Aviation Organization Spokesperson Mohammad Hassan Zibakhsh told ILNA agency.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko told the media on Tuesday that Yenin was referring generally to the difficulties in evacuating people from the airport in Kabul and that no Ukrainian plane had been hijacked.

 “There are no captured Ukrainian planes in Kabul or elsewhere,” Nikolenko said. “The information about the ‘captured plane’ that is being circulated by some media outlets is not true.”

Yenin also stated that his government had been stymied in their attempts to evacuate their people from Afghanistan. 

“Our next three evacuation attempts were also not successful because our people could not get into the airport,” he said.

Russian media reported that a military transport plane with 83 people on board including 31 Ukrainians arrived in Kiev from Afghanistan on Sunday. Ukraine’s presidency reported that 12 Ukrainian military personnel returned home, while reporters and others who requested evacuation were returned. Around 100 Ukrainians are still waiting to be evacuated.

The possibility that a Ukrainian airliner should enter Iranian airspace is the source of much tension. In January 2020,Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down shortly after takeoff from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). All 176 passengers and crew were killed.

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