Medical staff at the site of the crash of a Ukraine passenger jet shot down by the Iranian military outside Tehran, Iran on January 8, 2020
UPDATE, 1520 GMT:
Iran’s civil aviation authority has now withdrawn the claim that the Ukraine passenger jet followed an irregular course.
After the executives of Ukraine International Airlines firmly rejected the allegation (see 1400 GMT), the authority acknowledged the flight was on course.
Iranian officials had said the jet was near a sensitive military site outside Tehran.
Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has ordered an immediate investigation, with a military court gathering evidence from the armed forces, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Civil Aviation Organization as well as taking testimony from officials “implicated and informed on the matter”.
Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has also ordered Tehran’s military court to conduct a swift investigation.
UPDATE, 1500 GMT:
Reports are circulating of protests in Tehran over the regime’s handling of its shootdown of the Ukrainian passenger jet, with chants of “Resignation is not enough. Prosecution is necessary” and “Down with the liar”.
The demands for resignations even included the Supreme Leader.
— Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari) January 11, 2020
— Bahare Hedayat (@HedayatBahare) January 11, 2020
‘شعار مرگ بر دروغگو’ در تجمع اعتراضی در مقابل دانشگاه امیرکبیر و زیر پل حافظ که در پی ساقط شدن هواپیمای اوکراینی توسط موشک برپا شده.
مخاطبی که ویدیو را فرستاده میگوید حضور نیروهای امنیتی سنگین است.#هواپیمای_اوکراینی pic.twitter.com/2ebLQKxRSi
— BBC NEWS فارسی (@bbcpersian) January 11, 2020
Reuters reports on discontent from officials as well as the pubic.
“It is a national tragedy. The way it was handled and it was announced by the authorities was even more tragic,” moderate cleric Ali Ansari said.
Mira Segaghati said from Tehran, “They were so careful not to kill any American in their revenge for [assassinated Gen. Qassem] Soleimani. But they did not close the airport? This shows how much this regime cares for Iranians,”
Reza Ghadyahi of Tabriz questioned the regime’s belated admission of an “unintentional” downing of the Ukraine jet: “Unintentionally? What does it mean? They concealed this huge tragic news for days just to mourn for Soleimani. Shame on you.”
UPDATE, 1400 GMT:
Ukraine International Airlines has responded to the Iranian statement admitting that its military downed Flight 752 to Kyiv on Wednesday.
Officials countered Tehran’s allegation that the crew had acted improperly by flying close to a sensitive military site.
The airline’s president and vice president said the crew had received no warning from Imam Khomeini Airport about a possible threat before the flight took off.
They denied the aircraft veered off its normal course, which several aircraft had taken earlier that morning.
Vice President Ihor Sosnovsky said:
If you play at war, you play as much as you want, but there are normal people around who you had to protect. If they are shooting from somewhere to somewhere, they were obliged to close the airport. Obliged. And then shoot as much as you want.
Meanwhile, the comamnder of the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace division said, in an emotional video posted by Iranian State TV, “I wish I could die and not witness such an accident.”
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh indicated that blame lay at highest levels of the regime, saying that the Guards had requested the establishment of a no-fly zone but that it was not approved because of “certain considerations”.
He said the Ukrainian jet was misidentified as a cruise missile. He explained that the air defense operator sent a message to commanders, but fired when he did not receive a reply after 10 seconds.
Hajizadeh continued, “We sacrificed our lives for our people for a lifetime, and now we’re trading our reputation with God and appearing in front of the camera to explain.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY: After four days, Iran admits its military shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, killing 176 passengers and crew.
The Iranian armed forces said in a statement on Saturday that the Boeing jet, downed soon after takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport by two Russian-made missiles, was attacked because of “human error”.
Iranian officials had said immediately after the crash that the cause was engine failure. Even on Friday, after the US, Canadian, and UK Governments said intelligence indicated missile strikes, the Iranian Government said the assessment was a lie of “psychological warfare”. The head of civil aviation insisted, “”From a scientific viewpoint, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane.”
Iranian authorities had initially refused to hand over the black box to international inspectors. They bulldozed the site soon after the recovery of bodies, with “hundreds” of people taking away evidence such as plane fragments.
But having finally agreed to allow in inspectors from Ukraine and other countries, the regime could not hold the line.
Foreign Mohammad Javad Zarif admitted, while blaming the US over its assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani on January 3:
A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces:
Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster
Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 11, 2020
The military statement also said the downing of the jet was “at a time of crisis caused by US adventurism”.
But President Hassan Rouhani avoided the finger-pointing at Washington. He said sorry for the deaths of the passengers, many of whom were Iranian citizens and 57 of whom were Canadian citizens or Iranian-Canadian dual nationals.
The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.
My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences. https://t.co/4dkePxupzm
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 11, 2020
Iran’s Ambassador to the UK went further in a tweet implicitly criticising his Government:
In my statement yesterday to the UK media, I conveyed the official findings of responsible authorities in my country that missile could not be fired and hit the Ukrainian plane at that period of time.
I appologise and regret for conveying such wrong findings.
— Hamid Baeidinejad (@baeidinejad) January 11, 2020
The military tried to assure, “By pursuing fundamental reforms in operational processes at the armed forces’ level, we will make it impossible to repeat such errors.”
It maintained that the passenger jet was flying near a sensitive military site “at an altitude and a condition of a flight that resembled (a) hostile target”. However, several flights that had taken off from Imam Khomeini Airport had used the same flight path just before the Ukrainian jet was downed about 6:30 am.
Iran’s position of innocence was complicated by the a tragic historical irony. In July 1998, during the Iran-Iraq “tanker war” in the Persian Gulf, Iran Air Flight 688 was shot down by the USS Vincennes, killing all 290 people on board. The event is commemorated each year in the Islamic Republic.
Ukraine’s Zelensky: “We Insist on Full Admission of GuilT”
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement following Iran’s admission that it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane.
We insist on a full admission of guilt. We expect Iran to conduct a full and open investigation, bring those responsible to justice, return the bodies of the deceased, pay compensation and issue official apologies through diplomatic channels.
We hope that the investigation will continue without artificial delays and obstacles. Our 45 professionals need full access and engagement to establish justice.
— Daniel Rád (@DanielKRad) January 11, 2020
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Our focus remains closure, accountability, transparency, and justice for the families and loved ones of the victims.”