Iran admitted its military shot down a Ukrainian airliner, blaming human error for the strike, as Kyiv demanded justice and compensation for the 176 people on board who died. The announcement of the military’s culpability triggered anger in Tehran, where security forces fired tear gas to disperse crowds who took to the streets in protest.
Iranian officials had initially denied claims by Western officials that the Boeing Co. 737-800 single-aisle jet was shot down Wednesday by a missile fired by Iran, possibly by mistake. The Ukraine International Airlines jet crashed four hours after Iran launched military strikes against the U.S. in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of a top general. The Middle Eastern state was on high alert for a potential U.S. response.
A junior officer made a mistake, Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Aerospace Force, told Iranian state television Saturday.
Gen. Hajizadeh, who oversees most of Iran’s missile arsenal, sought to insulate the country’s political leadership from criticism. He said missile-system operators were told to fire at U.S. or other enemy warplanes without seeking permission from senior commanders.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv insisted on an official apology by Iran and expected Tehran to punish those responsible.
“We expect from Iran assurances of a full and open investigation, bringing those responsible to justice, the return of the bodies of the dead, payment of compensation [and] official apologies through diplomatic channels,” Mr. Zelensky said.
Later Saturday, Mr. Zelensky told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a phone call that “acknowledging plane shot down is a step in the right direction,” adding that “the perpetrators must be held accountable.”
Mr. Rouhani told his Ukrainian counterpart that those at fault would face the Iranian justice system. “We are committed to all our legal obligations in this matter,” he said, according to state television.