Spooked by the rumored presence of six F-35 stealth fighters in the vicinity amidst heightened tensions between US and Iran, Tehran is said to have downed the ill-fated Ukrainian passenger plane on January 8.
"There were at least six F-35 fighters in the air in the Iranian border area (at the time). This information has yet to be verified, but I'd like to underline the edginess that always accompanies such situations," Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said during an annual conference in Moscow on Friday.
To avenge US killing of top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, Iran launched a retaliatory missile attack on US airbases in Iraq on January 8 around 1.30am. Five hours later, the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) flight, PS752, crashed near Tehran minutes after take-off, killing all 176 people onboard.
The US and its allies soon pointed fingers at Iran, blaming the country for accidentally bringing down the jetliner. After fervently denying these allegations, Iran owned up to its "unforgivable mistake" three days later.
"There is information that the Iranians were expecting another attack from the US after the strike but did not know what form it might take," said Lavrov.