Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that he expects a full investigation, a full admission of guilt and compensation from Iran after the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane.
His comments on Saturday came shortly after Tehran said it had mistakenly shot down the plane killing all 176 people on board on January 8, on the same day it struck military bases hosting US troops in retaliation for Washington’s assassination of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani last week.
“Iran has pleaded guilty to crashing the Ukrainian plane. But we insist on a full admission of guilt,” Zelenskyy wrote on Facebook.
“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 said.
“Our 45 experts must get full access and cooperation to establish justice,” he added.
Iran said that its military “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian jetliner, blaming “human error” for the incident in which the military mistook Flight 752 for a “hostile target”.
National broadcaster Press TV also quoted Iran’s armed forces as saying that the plane had flown close to a “sensitive military site”.
The military said it was at its “highest level of readiness” amid the heightened tensions with the United States. It apologised and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent future tragedies.
In a statement posted on social media, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote that the country “deeply regrets this disastrous mistake”.
“My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences,” he said, adding that “investigations continue to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake”.
In a social media post, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also said that “human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to the disaster”.
“Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims and to other affected nations.”
Iran had denied for several days that a missile downed the aircraft, calling such suggestions “psychological warfare”. But then the US and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believed Iran had shot down the aircraft.
The jetliner, a Boeing 737-800 operated by Ukraine International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran during takeoff just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at US forces in Iraq.
Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said questions were now being raised as to why Iranian authorities kept the country’s airspace open during a military operation.
“There’s a lot of explaining to do by Iranian authorities. People want to know why and how it happened.”
The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, when it was shot down. Many of the victims were Iranian with dual nationality.