ISLAMABAD – Acting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says there is unverified information that at least six American F-35 jets were “in the Iranian border area” at the time when Iran accidentally downed Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 last week.

“This information has yet to be verified, but I’d like to underline the edginess that always accompanies such situations,” he said on Friday.

Lavrov stressed that it was important to understand the context of the incident, which occurred as Iran was on very high alert after retaliating against Washington’s assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.

“There is information that the Iranians were expecting another attack from the United States after the strike but did not know what form it might take,” Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister added that he was not trying to excuse anyone for the incident.

On January 8, the Ukrainian plane crashed minutes after take-off near the capital, Tehran, while en route to Kiev. The incident led to the death of all of the 176 people on board, most of whom were Iranians.

Iran initially attributed the crash to technical failure but ultimately announced that the plane had been brought down by a missile fired due to “human error” after conducting further investigations.

‘Very serious red flag’

Speaking on Friday, the Russian foreign minister also said that the tragic downing of the Ukrainian plane served as a “very serious red flag” that signaled a need to “start working on de-escalation and not on constant threats.”

“An increase in tensions between Iran and the US will not help settle any single crisis in the region, if only because the tensions will be increasing,” he said.

Lavrov added that Washington’s “unprecedented” assassination of Soleimani “undermined and put into question all imaginable norms of international law.”

According to Iraqi officials, Soleimani had been invited link to Iraq as a formal guest of the Iraqi government when he was targeted by a US drone strike at Baghdad International Airport.

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