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Iran Acknowledges Iranian Missile Caused Ukrainian Plane Crash

A memorial in Ukraine's Boryspil International Airport to the nine crew members of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed in Iran on January 8, 2020.

Iran has stated that its military forces accidentally shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on January 8.

In a statement released by the official IRNA news agency, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attributed the action to “human error.” Iranian forces at the time had been on “full alert” in expectation of an attack by U.S. armed forces, he said.

Offering his “sincerest condolences” to the families of the 176 passengers and crew killed in the crash, he stated that “the perpetrators of this unforgivable mistake” would be prosecuted and compensation paid to the victims' families.

Following further investigation, he said, Tehran will also adjust its “defense systems” to prevent a repeat of this mistake.

The catastrophe followed an Iranian air strike against two U.S. military bases in neighboring Iraq; the response to the January 3 U.S. killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qasem Soleimani. U.S. President Donald Trump had warned that the United States had a list of 52 Iranian sites that could come under attack if Iran took revenge for the killing.

The Iranian Students’ News Agency reported that the Boeing 738-800 had flown close to a “sensitive KSIR [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] base,” and had been taken for “an enemy military target.”

Iran had not closed its airspace to civilian traffic in the wake of its attacks on the U.S. bases.

The Bellingcat investigative journalism website on January 10 announced that an online video from the time in question appeared to indicate that the missile that destroyed the UIA flight had come from an anti-missile facility near the Tehran suburb of Parand.

Aviation and military experts interviewed by Current Time also considered an accidental missile strike among the most likely explanations for the crash.

Nonetheless, while acknowledging its own role in the catastrophe, Tehran has implied that the U.S. also shares the blame.

In a January 11 tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote that a “human error” amidst a “crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster.”

Iranian officials initially blamed engine failure for the crash. Over the last few days, Tehran has rejected statements by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that intelligence indicated an Iranian missile had downed the plane.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose country lost 11 citizens in the crash, had refrained from publicly supporting any one explanation for the crash, focusing instead on the Iran-led investigation in which Ukraine is participating.

In a January 11 tweet, President Zelenskiy remarked that “This morning brings the truth.”