(WATCH) Ukrainian Plane Departing Tehran Crashes, Killing All 176 Aboard. Missile Strike Not Ruled Out
"I heard a massive explosion and all the houses started to shake. There was fire everywhere," Din Mohammad Qassemi, an Iranian who lives near the crash site, told the Associated Press. Qassemi said he had been watching news broadcasts about the Iranian missile attack in revenge for the killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani when he heard the plane hit the ground outside his home.
Ukraine has refused to rule out that the plane that crashed in Iran and killed all 176 on board was struck by a missile.
Asked at a briefing in Kyiv if the plane could have been downed by a missile, Ukraine's Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk refused to rule it out, but cautioned against speculation until the investigation concluded.
Initially, Ukraine's embassy in Iran said on Wednesday morning that engine failure caused the plane to crash and denied that it was terror-related or that a rocket had hit the aircraft.
But it later withdrew this statement, saying that anything was possible, and Mr Zelensky instructed Ukraine's prosecutors to open criminal proceedings over the crash.
It is not clear whether the incident is related to Iran's missile attacks on US bases in Iraq on Wednesday morning.
The head of Tehran’s civil aviation authority was previously quoted saying Iran would not give the plane’s black boxes back to Boeing.
The crash occurred as heightened tensions between Iran and the US raised fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East, but officials have cautioned that speculation about the cause of the fatal crash was premature.