What We Know So Far about the Helicopter Crash That Killed Iran’s President and Others

A woman mourns the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash at Valiasr Square in Tehran on May 20, 2024. (AFP)
A woman mourns the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash at Valiasr Square in Tehran on May 20, 2024. (AFP)
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What We Know So Far about the Helicopter Crash That Killed Iran’s President and Others

A woman mourns the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash at Valiasr Square in Tehran on May 20, 2024. (AFP)
A woman mourns the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash at Valiasr Square in Tehran on May 20, 2024. (AFP)

The helicopter crash that killed Iran’s president and foreign minister has sent shock waves around the region.

Iranian state media on Monday said that President Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and others had been found dead after an hourslong search through a foggy, mountainous region of the country’s northwest. State TV gave no immediate cause for the crash.

Here’s what we know so far.

WHO WAS ON BOARD AND WHERE WERE THEY GOING? The helicopter on Sunday was carrying Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Raisi was returning after traveling to Iran’s border with Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev when the crash occurred in the Dizmar forest in East Azerbaijan province.

IRNA said the crash killed eight people including three crew members aboard the Bell helicopter, which Iran purchased in the early 2000s.

HOW DID THE SEARCH OPERATION GO? Iranian officials said the mountainous, forested terrain and heavy fog impeded search-and-rescue operations, which continued overnight.

The president of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir-Hossein Koulivand, said Sunday evening that 40 search teams were on the ground despite “challenging weather conditions.” Because of the bad weather, it was "impossible to conduct aerial searches” via drones, Koulivand said, according to IRNA.

It was not until early Monday that officials announced the helicopter had been found and all of its occupants were dead.

HOW WAS THE CRASH SITE FOUND? Early Monday, Turkish authorities released what they described as drone footage showing what appeared to be a fire in the wilderness that they “suspected to be wreckage of a helicopter.” The coordinates listed in the footage put the fire about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the Azerbaijan-Iranian border on the side of a steep mountain.

Footage released by IRNA showed what the agency described as the crash site, across a steep valley in a mountain range. Soldiers speaking in the local Azeri language said: “There it is, we found it.” Shortly after that, state TV in an on-screen scrolling text said: “There is no sign of life from people on board.”

HOW WILL RAISI'S DEATH IMPACT IRAN? Raisi was seen as a protege to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and a potential successor for his position within the country’s Shiite theocracy.

Under the Iranian constitution, if a president dies, the country’s first vice president — in this case, Mohammad Mokhber — would become president. Khamenei has publicly assured Iranians that there would be “no disruption to the operations of the country” as a result of the crash.

WHAT HAS INTERNATIONAL REACTION BEEN? After news broke of the search operation, countries including Russia, Iraq and Qatar made statements of concern about Raisi’s fate and offered to assist in the search.

Azerbaijani President Aliyev offered any support necessary. Relations between the two countries have been chilly due to Azerbaijan’s diplomatic relations with Israel, Iran's regional arch-enemy.

There was no immediate official reaction from Israel. Last month, following an Israeli strike on an Iranian consular building in Damascus that killed two Iranian generals, Tehran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. They were mostly shot down and tensions have apparently subsided.

The US, which has its own history of tensions with Tehran, also has yet to comment publicly on Raisi’s death.



US, Ukraine Ink 10-year Defense Agreement

US President Joe Biden attends a flags ceremony with paratroopers at Borgo Egnazia Golf Club San Domenico during the G7 Summit hosted by Italy in Apulia region, on June 13, 2024 in Savelletri. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden attends a flags ceremony with paratroopers at Borgo Egnazia Golf Club San Domenico during the G7 Summit hosted by Italy in Apulia region, on June 13, 2024 in Savelletri. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)
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US, Ukraine Ink 10-year Defense Agreement

US President Joe Biden attends a flags ceremony with paratroopers at Borgo Egnazia Golf Club San Domenico during the G7 Summit hosted by Italy in Apulia region, on June 13, 2024 in Savelletri. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden attends a flags ceremony with paratroopers at Borgo Egnazia Golf Club San Domenico during the G7 Summit hosted by Italy in Apulia region, on June 13, 2024 in Savelletri. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

US President Joe Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement on Thursday aimed at bolstering Ukraine's defense against Russian invaders.

The agreement, signed on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy, is meant to be a step towards Ukraine's eventual NATO membership, according to the text of the deal.

"The parties recognize this agreement as supporting a bridge to Ukraine’s eventual membership in the NATO alliance," the text says, according to Reuters.

Zelenskiy has long sought NATO membership but the allies have stopped short of taking that step. The Western alliance regards any attack launched on one of its 32 members as an attack on all under its Article Five clause.

In the event of an armed attack or threat of such against Ukraine, top US and Ukrainian officials will meet within 24 hours to consult on a response and determine what additional defense needs are required for Ukraine, the agreement says.

Under the agreement, the United States restates its support for Ukraine's defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, amid a renewed push by Russia on Ukraine's eastern front.

"To ensure Ukraine’s security, both sides recognize Ukraine needs a significant military force, robust capabilities, and sustained investments in its defense industrial base that are consistent with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)standards," the text says.

"The United States intends to provide long-term materiel, training and advising, sustainment, intelligence, security, defense industrial, institutional, and other support to develop Ukrainian security and defense forces that are capable of defending a sovereign, independent, democratic Ukraine and deterring future aggression," it says.