MOSCOW – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated there is unverified information that at least six American F-35 jets were in the Iranian border area at the time when Tehran accidentally downed Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 last week.
“This information has yet to be verified, but I’d like to underline the edginess that always accompanies such situations,” he said on Friday.
The Russian foreign minister stressed that it was important to understand the context of the incident, which occurred as Iran was on very high alert after retaliating against Washington’s assassination of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.
“There is information that the Iranians were expecting another attack from the United States after the strike but did not know what form it might take,” the foreign minister added.
The Russian foreign minister noted that he was not trying to excuse anyone for the incident.
A Boeing 737 plane carrying 180 passengers and crew, mostly Iranians, crashed shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran on January 8, leaving no survivors. Tehran has announced that the jet was mistakenly shot down amid fears of war with the United States.
Tensions in the Middle East have surged following the US assassination of General Soleimani in Iraq on January 3. Hours before the tragic incident, Iran had fired more than a dozen missiles at two American military bases in Iraq in retaliation for Washington’s assassination of Tehran’s elite commander.