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Iran to Stop Coordinating With Ukraine After Air Traffic Recordings Leaked

FILE - Debris of a plane belonging to Ukraine International Airlines, that crashed after taking off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, is seen on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran, Jan. 8, 2020.

Tehran said Monday that it would stop sharing information with Kyiv about the downing of a Ukrainian jetliner last month, after a Ukrainian TV channel released leaked recordings from Iranian air traffic control.

The recordings, which aired on Ukraine's 1+1 Sunday evening, are of a conversation between the pilot of an inbound plane and two air traffic controllers speaking in Farsi about "the light of a missile" on the plane's route.

Iran denied for days after the plane crash that the jetliner was brought down by one of its missiles.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the recording "proves that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane was hit by a missile." Iranian authorities presumably would have had access to these records directly following the crash.

On Monday, the head of Iran's investigation team, Hassan Rezaeifar, said that Tehran would stop coordinating with Ukraine on the investigation.

"The technical investigation team of the Ukrainian airline crash, in a strange move, published the secret audio file of the communications of a pilot of a plane that was flying at the same time as the Ukrainian plane," Rezaifar said, according to semiofficial news agency Mehr.

"This action by the Ukrainians led to us not sharing any more evidence with them," he added.

Rezaeifar did not deny that the leaked recordings were authentic.

Iran admitted on January 11 to shooting down the Ukraine International Airlines jet shortly after it took off from Tehran three days earlier, saying its forces mistook the plane for an enemy threat hours after they fired missiles at an Iraqi base that houses U.S. troops. The crash of the Boeing 737 killed all 176 people on board, most of them Iranians and Iranian-Canadians who were flying to Kyiv en route to Canada, where many had been studying.

In the three days following the crash, Iranian state media reported that officials blamed it on mechanical problems with the plane. They also cited government denials of Western news reports that said Western intelligence agencies had evidence of Iranian forces downing the jet.