Ukraine’s President has said the country expects a full investigation, a full admission of guilt and compensation after Iran announced its military “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 aboard.
- Iranian authorities have said those responsible for the crash will be held accountable
- The Boeing 737 went down during take-off from Tehran just hours after Iran attacked US forces
- Officials say 82 Iranians, at least 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians died in the crash
Earlier on Saturday (AEDT), Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that “human error” was to blame for the downing of the passenger jet, after initially denying Iran brought down the aircraft in the tense aftermath of missile strikes on US targets in Iraq.
“Iran has pleaded guilty to crashing the Ukrainian plane. But we insist on a full admission of guilt,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“We expect from Iran assurances of their readiness for a full and open investigation, bringing those responsible to justice, the return of the bodies of the dead, the payment of compensation, official apologies through diplomatic channels,” he added.
“Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations,” he said.
A statement read on state television said the airliner had flown close to a sensitive military site and parties responsible for shooting down the jet would be held accountable.
The statement said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military centre” of the Revolutionary Guard.
The military was at its “highest level of readiness,” it said, amid the heightened tensions with the US.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said.
It apologised for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future.
The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran during take-off, just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at US forces.
Iran had denied for several days that a missile downed the aircraft.
But then the US and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believed Iran shot down the aircraft.
The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials.
The Canadian Government earlier lowered the nation’s death toll from 63.
“This is the right step for the Iranian Government to admit responsibility, and it gives people a step toward closure with this admission,” said Payman Parseyan, a prominent Iranian-Canadian in western Canada who lost a number of friends in the crash.
“I think the investigation would have disclosed it whether they admitted it or not. This will give them an opportunity to save face.”
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne offered her condolences to the victims and their families and said Iran’s “acknowledgement and apology to all those affected was welcome”.
Moving forward, she said it would be important that “a full and transparent investigation is undertaken, involving all nations who lost citizens in the tragedy”.
“It is essential that all questions about how this tragedy happened are answered fully and that confidence is rebuilt in the safety of the international civilian air traffic network,” she added.
Television reports on Friday indicated that debris had been cleared from the crash site, leaving the area to scavengers to pick over.
If the wreckage was indeed moved, some clues might have been lost unless the Iranians took careful steps to preserve evidence.
“Normally you would very carefully to map out a debris field,” said Steve Wallace, former head of the accident-investigations office of the Federal Aviation Administration.
“If a missile struck the airplane, you would expect to find some pieces of it and residue of the explosive.”