Iran admits to ‘unintentionally’ shooting down Ukrainian passenger jet

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Tehran:    Iran on Saturday morning announced its military’s role in the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet that killed all 176 people on board, saying the shootdown was “unintentional” and blamed “human error.”
“A Ukrainian aircraft which crashed earlier this week in Iran had flown close to a sensitive military site belonging to the elite Revolutionary Guards and was shot down unintentionally due to human error,” the Iranian military said in a statement read on state TV on Saturday.
The responsible parties would be referred to a judicial department within the military and held accountable, the statement said.
The Iranian military statement expressed condolences to the families of the victims.
Iran “deeply regrets” the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner earlier this week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a tweet.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” he wrote on Twitter. “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences.”
The investigation will continue, Rouhani wrote in a separate tweet.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, also tweeted today put the blame on “U.S. adventurism” and stated, “A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces: Human error at time of crisis caused by U.S. adventurism led to disaster.”
“Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”
Those responsible for shooting down the Ukrainian jet in Tehran this week would “immediately” be brought before military justice, the general staff of the Iranian armed forces stated.
“We assure you that by pursuing fundamental reforms in operational processes at the armed forces’ level we will make it impossible to repeat such errors,” the general staff added in a press release.
Iran had denied for several days that a missile downed the aircraft. But then the U.S. and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believe Iran shot down the aircraft.
The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 63 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials.
Tehran had on Friday said it wanted to download black box recordings itself from a Ukrainian airliner crash amid Western suspicions the plane was brought down by an Iranian missile, probably by mistake.
The crash has heightened international pressure on Iran after months of friction with the United States and tit-for-tat military strikes. Washington killed an Iranian general last week in Iraq, prompting Tehran to fire at U.S. targets.
Iran showed the voice and flight data recorders on state TV on Friday but said it could take a month or two to extract data.
Tehran said earlier that it may ask Russia, Canada, France or Ukraine for help in a probe that could take one or two years to complete.
“We prefer to download the black boxes in Iran. But if we see that we can’t do that because the boxes are damaged, then we will seek help,” Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation, told a news conference in Tehran.
The Ukraine International Airlines flight to Kiev from Tehran crashed on Wednesday, when Iran was on alert for a U.S. military response hours after it fired at U.S. targets in Iraq.
Most of the victims were Iranian or Iranian-Canadian.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed an Iranian surface-to-air missile for downing the plane, though he said it may have been unintentional.
“We do believe that it’s likely that that plane was shot down by an Iranian missile,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a briefing on additional U.S. sanctions against Iran.
“We’re going to let the investigation play out before we make a final determination,” he added as Washington also announced sanction waivers for crash investigators.
Iran had earlier called those accusations “psychological warfare”.
Ukraine and Canada have agreed to push for an objective investigation into the crash, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said after speaking with Trudeau.
“There should not be speculation about the tragedy; Ukraine and Canada will use all possible means to advocate for an objective and comprehensive investigation,” Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter.