The Iranian authorities have admitted that the Iranian military inadvertently shot down a passenger airliner operated by Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) in Tehran on January 8 before completion of the official investigation into the causes of the crash of the passenger airliner.
"The Ukrainian plane that crashed near Tehran earlier this week was flying too close to a sensitive military site and was inadvertently shot down due to human error," the Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff as saying in a statement on Press TV.
A report by the Iranian Armed Forces said that a team of military experts working independently from the Civil Aviation Service found out that the Ukrainian plane was shot down in a situation in which Iranian air defense systems were on high alert due to the risk of attacks from the United States. Shortly before the disaster, the Iranian military noted increased activity by the United States Air Force near Iran. This followed Iranian missile attacks on bases housing American soldiers in Iraq.
The report described these conditions as "difficult and tense." According to the report, the Ukrainian passenger airliner changed course shortly after departing from Tehran. "The aircraft came close to a sensitive IRGC military center at an altitude and flight condition that resembled hostile targeting. Under these circumstances, the aircraft was unintentionally hit, which unfortunately resulted in death of the many Iranian and foreign nationals," the report states.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif admitted Tehran’s responsibility for the disaster and expressed condolences to the relatives of the victims.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote on Twitter, “An 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 tragedy & unforgivable mistake. 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.”
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi posted a statement on Facebook.
"This morning was not good, but it brought the truth. Iran has admitted responsibility for the downing of the Ukrainian plane before conclusion of the work of the international commission. However, we insist on full admission of guilt. We expect assurances from Iran that it is willing to conduct a full and open investigation, hold those responsible accountable, return the bodies of the dead, pay compensation, and issue official apologies through diplomatic channels," Zelenskyi wrote.
“We hope that the investigation will continue without artificial delays and obstacles. Our 45 specialists should be given full access and cooperation to establish justice,” the president of Ukraine added.
Ukraine International Airlines’ President Yevhen Dykhne stated that the airline did not doubt for a second that its plane and its Ukrainian crew could not have caused this plane crash.
Aviation lawyer Andrii Huk, a partner at the Ante law firm, shared his thoughts on the official statement by Tehran. “The Islamic Republic of Iran does not admit its responsibility as a state and repeats the word ‘unintentional’ and claims that it was only a ‘human error.’ I repeat that one can put up with ‘by mistake’ but not with the word ‘unintentional’... The military’s mistake is just the reason for the launch of missiles, but it is not the only cause of the crash. The investigation should continue, and it should be detailed and include an analysis of the causes of the crash, such as Iran’s failure to close its airspace, its decision to allow aircraft to fly, and the failure by the parties to the conflict to take measures to ensure the safety of civil aviation. These are the obligations of states and not just individuals, and they were not fulfilled,” Huk said. Earlier, he said that Ukraine should not accept the claim that the Ukrainian plane was shot down unintentionally by an Iranian missile.