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Iran blames US ‘psychological warfare’ for decline in flights over airspace

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Iran blamed “psychological warfare” by its adversaries for a decline in commercial flights over its airspace, its Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami said on Monday.

He said that there has been a reduction in flights over the country’s airspace, according to state news agency IRNA, which has resulted in a considerable loss of revenue, but did not offer any figures.

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He added that the decline was due to the “enemies’ psychological warfare” and “extensive propaganda.”

“Our enemies, especially the US, tried to reduce the number of flights passing through Iran’s skies using psychological warfare,” he said, IRNA reported.

Iran is trying to compensate for the loss of revenue caused by the decline in overflights by offering airlines “incentive packages and discounts,” Eslami said.

The number of flights crossing Iran’s airspace fell from around 800 per day to 130, after the downing of the Ukrainian airliner and the outbreak of coronavirus, Siavash Amirmokri, managing director of the Iran Airports Company, said in January, according to state media.

In 2020, Iran lost over half (about $76 million) of its revenues from overflight services compared with 2019, the semi-official Fars news agency cited Amirmokri as saying earlier this month.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 people on board. The majority of passengers were Iranian. Citizens from Canada, Ukraine, Britain and Afghanistan were also among the passengers.

Iran admitted shooting down the plane after denying responsibility, insisting the plane crashed due to a “technical failure” for three days.

The families of the victims of the aircraft crash launched a petition last May urging European and international airlines to not fly over Iranian airspace until Tehran allows for a credible investigation into the incident and punishes the perpetrators.

Earlier this month, Iran published its final report into the incident. “The plane was identified as a hostile target due to a mistake by the air defence operator...near Tehran and two missiles were fired at it,” the report said, according to the website of Iran’s civil aviation body.

Commenting on the Iranian report, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described it as, “nothing more than a cynical attempt to hide the true reasons for the downing of our plane.”

“We will not allow Iran to hide the truth, we will not allow it to avoid responsibility for this crime,” Kuleba wrote on Facebook.

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