Iran has admitted its military made an “unforgivable mistake” in unintentionally shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner and killing all 176 people on board, after days of rejecting western intelligence reports that pointed to Tehran being responsible.
A military statement on state TV early on Saturday blamed “human error” for the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 on Wednesday in the tense aftermath of strikes on US targets. It was followed by an apology from Iran’s president and condolences from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, responded on Saturday morning that Iran must make an official apology and agree to a full investigation and compensation, as well as cooperating with Ukraine’s own investigators. “Our 45 professionals should have full access and cooperation to establish justice,” a statement from the presidency said.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, also said his country’s focus remained on “closure, accountability, transparency, and justice” for the families of the 57 Canadian victims.
Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, wrote on Saturday: “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.”
According to the Iranian military’s statement, the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guard. Iran’s military forces were at their “highest level of readiness,” after the US killed the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said, apologizing for the disaster and saying that the country would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future.
The military statement said those responsible would be held accountable.
Iranian news agency Fars reported that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, was told about the cause of the crash on Friday and, following a meeting with security officials, ordered the information to be shared publicly.
Khamenei called on the military to “pursue probable shortcomings and guilt in the painful incident.”
Shortly after, a commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard said on state television that his aerospace unit takes full responsibility for the crash.