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Ukraine denies rescue plane hijacked from Kabul to Iran

Iranian aviation organization says evacuation flight stopped in Mashhad for refueling, has since landed in Kyiv

Illustrative: A plane takes off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 4, 2021.  (AP/Rahmat Gul)
Illustrative: A plane takes off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 4, 2021. (AP/Rahmat Gul)

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister reportedly claimed on Tuesday that a Ukrainian plane that was taking part in evacuation efforts of its citizens from Afghanistan was hijacked and flown to Iran, but the claim was later denied by the country’s Foreign Ministry.

“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,” Yevgeny Yenin said, according to the Russian TASS news agency.

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

Yenin claimed the hijackers were armed, according to the Russian report.

But Iran’s aviation organization rejected the report, and said the plane had stopped in Mashhad overnight for refueling.

Shortly after, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement asserting that no plane had been hijacked.

“There are no hijacked Ukrainian planes in Kabul or elsewhere. The information about the ‘hijacked plane’ that is being circulated by some media outlets is not true,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Oleg Nikolenko, told the local RBC news agency.

The plane has since landed in Kyiv.

A military transport plane from Afghanistan with 83 people onboard, including journalists, activists, and Afghan women and children, arrived in Kyiv on Sunday,  Reuters reported.

The Ukrainian presidential office said around one hundred Ukrainians are still waiting to be evacuated from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover last week.

The hardline Islamists’ takeover of the country last weekend shocked Western nations, coming just two weeks before an August 31 deadline for all troops to fully withdraw from the country.

In January 2020, a Ukrainian jetliner was shot down over Iran with two surface-to-air missiles, killing 176 people. Iran’s armed forces said it mistook the passenger plane for a hostile target in the tense aftermath of its ballistic missile attack on two military bases in Iraq housing US troops.

Agencies contributed to this report

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