Ukraine declares day of mourning for victims of Iran jet crash

UNTV News   •   January 9, 2020   •   406

Relatives, colleagues, and friends of crew members of the Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 which crashed near Tehran lay flowers and light candles at Boryspil International Airport in Kiev, Ukraine, 08 January 2020. EPA-EFE/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

Kiev – Ukraine on Thursday declared a day of national mourning to honor the victims of a plane crash near Tehran, the biggest catastrophe of its kind in the country’s recent history.

“To commemorate the victims, the President orders that the state flags of Ukraine be flown at half-mast on the headquarters and offices of state authorities, local governments, state-owned enterprises, institutions and organizations,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement.

On Wednesday 8 January a Ukrainian jetliner carrying 176 people, mainly Ukrainian and Canadian passengers, crashed near the Iranian capital after takeoff.

“Of course, the priority for Ukraine is to establish the causes of the crash,” he added.

“We will certainly find out the truth. To this end, a detailed and independent investigation will be carried out in accordance with international law.”

The president hopes that the Ukrainian specialists who arrived in Iran early on Thursday will join the team looking into the accident by analyzing the black boxes of the plane.

Experts will also carry out the work of identification and repatriation of the mortal remains of Ukrainian passengers.

The president called on Ukrainian citizens to avoid trips to the region and not to speculate on the reasons for the accident until the official results of the investigation were announced.

“This is not a topic for hype, likes in social networks, sensationalism and conspiracy theories. We need patience, endurance, and wisdom.”

“And also this terrible story should teach us all, every citizen of Ukraine, and every world leader, to value human lives. It should be done before they are taken so quickly and painfully,” Zelensky said.

The Boeing 737 to Kiev of Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), in which 167 passengers and nine crew members were traveling, left at dawn on Wednesday from the Iranian international airport Imam Khomeini.

Minutes after takeoff it crashed when attempting to return to the airport.

The reasons for the sudden crash remain unknown.

All the passengers, including 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons died.

The UIA denied that the accident could have been caused by a human error and announced the suspension of flights to Iran until the details of the accident were clarified.

Shortly after, the authorities issued the same ban for all Ukrainian airlines.

The plane was manufactured in 2016 and passed its last technical review two days before the fateful flight, the company added.

According to UIA, many passengers on flight PS752 intended to continue traveling from Kiev to European countries and North America. EFE

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U.N. expert deems U.S. drone strike on Iran’s Soleimani an ‘unlawful’ killing

UNTV News   •   July 10, 2020

The January U.S. drone strike in Iraq that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and nine other people represented a violation of international law, a U.N. human rights investigator said on Thursday (July 9).

The United States has failed to provide sufficient evidence of an ongoing or imminent attack against its interests to justify the strike on Soleimani’s convoy as it left Baghdad airport, said Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The attack violated the U.N. Charter, Callamard wrote in a report calling for accountability for targeted killings by armed drones and for greater regulation of the weapons.

Callamard presented her findings to the Human Rights Council, giving member states a chance to debate what action to pursue. The United States is not a member of the forum, having quit two years ago.

Soleimani, leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, was a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran’s campaign to drive U.S. forces out of Iraq, and built up Iran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East. Washington had accused Soleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on U.S. forces in the region.

The Jan. 3 drone strike was the first known incident in which a nation invoked self-defence as a justification for an attack against a state actor in the territory of a third country, Callamard added.

Iran retaliated with a rocket attack on an Iraqi air base where U.S. forces were stationed. Hours later, Iranian forces on high alert mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner taking off from Tehran.

Iran has issued an arrest warrant for U.S. President Donald Trump and 35 others over Soleimani’s killing and has asked Interpol for help, Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said on June 29, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. (Reuters)

(Production: Cecile Mantovani)

Iran’s arrest warrant for Trump is a ‘propaganda stunt’ —U.S. official

UNTV News   •   June 30, 2020

U.S. Iran envoy Brian Hook said on Monday (June 29) that an Iranian arrest warrant for President Donald Trump and 35 others over the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani was a “propaganda stunt”.

Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr announced the warrants, asking Interpol for help, according to the Fars news agency.

Hook speaking in Saudi Arabia alongside Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir, said: “This is a political nature. This has nothing to do with national security, international peace, or promoting stability. It is a propaganda stunt that no-one takes seriously.”

The United States and Interpol both dismissed the idea of acting on such a warrant.

The United States killed Soleimani, leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, with a drone strike in Iraq on Jan. 3. Washington accused Soleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on U.S. forces in the region.

Alqasimehr said the warrants had been issued on charges of murder and terrorist action. He said Iran had asked Interpol to issue a “red notice” seeking the arrest of Trump and the other individuals the Islamic Republic accuses of taking part in the killing of Soleimani. (Reuters)

(Production: Mohammed Benmansour, Matthew Stock, Aiden Nulty)

Fire raging near Ukraine’s Chernobyl poses radiation risk, say activists

UNTV News   •   April 14, 2020

A huge forest fire in Ukraine that has been raging for more than a week is now just one kilometer from the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant and poses a radiation risk, Greenpeace Russia warned on Monday (April 13), citing satellite images.

Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Service said it was still fighting the fires, but that the situation was under control.

Aerial images of the 30 km (19 mile) exclusion zone around the plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, showed scorched, blackened earth and the charred stumps of still smouldering trees.

The Emergency Situations Service said radiation levels in the exclusion zone had not changed and those in nearby Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, “did not exceed natural background levels.”

Greenpeace Russia said the situation is much worse than Ukrainian authorities believe, and that the fires cover an area one thousand times bigger than they claim.

On April 4 Ukrainian authorities said the blaze covered an area of 20 hectares, but Greenpeace cited satellite images showing it was around 12,000 hectares in size at that time.

“According to satellite images taken on Monday, the area of the largest fire has reached 34,400 hectares,” it said, adding that a second fire, stretching across 12,600 hectares, was just one kilometre away from the defunct plant.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on those claims.

Rashid Alimov, head of energy projects at Greenpeace Russia, said the fires, fanned by the wind, could disperse radionuclides, atoms that emit radiation.

“A fire approaching a nuclear or hazardous radiation facility is always a risk,” Alimov said. “In this case we’re hoping for rain tomorrow.”

Chernobyl tour operator Yaroslav Yemelianenko, writing on Facebook, described the situation as critical.

He said the fire was rapidly expanding and had reached the abandoned city of Pripyat, two kilometres from where “the most highly active radiation waste of the whole Chernobyl zone is located.” He called on officials to warn people of the danger.

Satellite images taken by NASA Worldview and seen by Reuters showed the two fires had extended far into the exclusion zone.

The fires, which follow unusually dry weather, began on April 3 in the western part of the exclusion zone and spread to nearby forests.

Police say they have identified a 27-year old local resident who they accuse of deliberately starting the blaze.

It remains unclear if the person, who has reportedly confessed to starting a number of fires “for fun,” is partly or fully responsible. (Reuters)

(Production: Sergiy Karazy, Dmitriy Turlyun, Margaryta Chornokondratenko)

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