The tragedy came just hours after Tehran fired at least 15 ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq, sparking fears it could have been shot down by mistake by jittery Iranian air defences.
And chilling images show pieces of the aircraft’s fuselage peppered with shrapnel holes – which some experts say points to a “shootdown” event.
The plane’s black box flight recorders have since been found, with one Iranian official saying they were damaged but their data could still be retrieved.
However, Iran is refusing to hand them over to international authorities, Reuters reports.
Iranian media said the Boeing 737 came down after “technical problems” and quoted an aviation chief who said no emergency had been declared.
Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran’s Road and Transportation authority, claimed one of its engines caught fire, causing the pilot to lose control but the aircraft was new in 2016 and was last checked just two days ago, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.