Iran admits responsibility for downing of Ukrainian aircraft after days of denial
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Iran admits responsibility for downing of Ukrainian aircraft after days of denial

The plane that crashed was a Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Iranian authorities announced on Saturday morning that the crash on Wednesday of a Ukrainian passenger plane was caused by an Iranian missile which was fired because of a human error. The crash claimed the lives of all 176 people on board.

The plane took off from Tehran airport with destination Kiev about three hours after the Iran missile attacks against two Iraqi military bases hosting American troops. It crashed only a few minutes after it had left the airport. In the first days after the crash Iran claimed that it was caused by a technical error and dismissed all allegations of an Iranian missile as psychological warfare against the country.

But today, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani twitted that, “Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great & unforgivable tragedy.”

Foreign minister Yavad Zarif, who has not accepted an EU invitation to Brussels to discuss de-escalation of the situation, blamed the US for the disaster:

“A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigations 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.”

The Iranian commander of the air force of the Revolutionary Guards Corps explained that the crash was caused by an operator at the air defence system who mistakenly identified the plane as a cruise missile and fired a ground to air missile against it. He did not explain how such a mistake was possible considering that the plane had got clearance to take off from Tehran airport.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyj twitted, “This morning brings the truth. Ukraine insists on a full admission of guilt. We expect Iran to bring those responsible to justice, return the bodies, pay compensation and issue an official apology. The investigation must be full, open & continue without delays or obstacles.”

Only yesterday evening, at the press conference following the foreign affairs council in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell claimed that he had no knowledge of the possible causes of the air crash while NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said before the meeting that he had received indications that an Iranian missile might have caused the crash.

An EU spokesperson stated on Saturday afternoon that, “the EU expects that Iran will continue to cooperate fully and undertake a comprehensive and transparent investigation, which should abide by international standards, into how this tragedy occurred. Appropriate measures need to be taken to ensure that such a horrible accident can never occur again.”

Iran faced a dilemma after the crash as to whether to continue to deny its responsibility or to admit its role. It chose at the end to tell the truth, avoiding heavy pressures from EU and other countries to carry out a transparent and independent investigation, but its image and credibility have been damaged.

The Brussels Times