UN chief Antonio Guterres has condoled the death of 176 passengers, including nine crew members, on board a Ukrainian airliner which crashed minutes after takeoff from Tehran.
The Ukraine International Airlines took off from Imam Khomeini International Airport at 6:10 am on Wednesday and disappeared from radars just a few minutes later, crashing in Tehran province, killing all nine crew members and 167 passengers from different nations.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on Wednesday, Guterres expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Governments of all the countries whose nationals lost their lives in this tragedy.
"The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the crash of the Ukrainian airliner near Tehran," the statement said.
The Boeing 737-800 single-aisle jet was heading to Kiev.
The incident took place several hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile strike from home soil on the US forces stationed in Iraq, in response to the US drone killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani last Friday.
No evidence has emerged of any link between the two events. Iranian officials have initially blamed the crash on engine issues. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned against "unchecked theories" or speculation over the crash, but has ordered a criminal investigation into what happened.
The black box containing the cockpit voice and flight data recorders has reportedly been recovered.
Meanwhile, all direct flights between Ukraine and Iran have been suspended and a number of commercial airlines are rerouting flights crossing the Middle East to avoid danger amidst the escalating tensions between the United States and Iran.
Airline officials said most of the passengers were en route to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, transiting through there to other destinations.
Ukraine Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said that on board were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians , which included two passengers and the nine crew.
There were also 10 Swedish, four Afghan, three German and three British nationals, he said.