Was a Ukrainian evacuation aircraft hijacked in Afghanistan and taken to Iran this week? According to the country’s deputy foreign minister, Yevgeny Yenin, that’s exactly what happened. However, both Iran and Ukraine have denied any such events, saying that the one plane that did land in Iran from Kabul was just making a refueling stop.
Reports began to surface earlier this week that a Ukrainian aircraft was hijacked in Afghanistan on Sunday and taken to Iran. Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister Yevgeny Yenin told Russian news agency Tass that a plane was sieged by ‘armed people.’ He claimed that the plane flew to Iran with a group of passengers onboard.
The aircraft, unidentified by the minister, was undertaking an evacuation effort from the Afghan capital Kabul. He told Tass,
“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. Our next three evacuation attempts were also not successful because our people could not get into the airport.”
It was unclear whether the minister had pinpointed the incident as occurring on Sunday or Tuesday, or for what reason there was a two-day gap between the events. No details were given on what eventually became of the plane or its passengers.
Just a matter of hours after the accusations by Yenin, Iran publicly denied any such event having taken place. A Ukrainian aircraft did indeed fly to Iran in that timeframe, but had stopped in Mashhad for refueling before continuing on to Kyiv.
As well as Iran denying such claims, Yenin’s own government has come out in denial of the situation. Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, issued a statement that said,
“There are no captured Ukrainian planes in Kabul or elsewhere. The information about the ‘captured plane’ that is being circulated by some media outlets is not true.”
According to Nikolenko, Yenin was attempting to highlight the difficulties being experienced by Ukraine in evacuating people from Kabul. It seems that his meaning was either lost in translation or somehow misinterpreted, and that all Ukraine’s evacuation aircraft are secure and accounted for.
In support of this, there has been no confirmation of any such incident by the United States or by NATO officials, who are currently in control of the airport in Kabul.
Like many other nations around the world, Ukraine has been striving to evacuate as many of its citizens from Kabul as possible. On August 16th, Ukrainian aircraft stationed in Afghanistan began to move citizens and other foreign nationals out of the country, with almost 80 people reportedly evacuated on the first flight.
On Sunday, August 22nd, an Il-76 military aircraft arrived in Ukraine carrying 83 passengers onboard, 31 of whom were Ukrainian citizens. In total, the nation has evacuated some 256 citizens across three rescue flights. However, more than 100 Ukrainians are thought to still be in Kabul awaiting airlift.