Iran blamed an air defense operator’s error for the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet in the final report released by the country's civil aviation body on Wednesday, sparking criticism from a Ukrainian official.
In the report, Iran attributed the January 2020 shooting-down of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752, which resulted in the deaths of all 176 people aboard, to the operator’s “mistake,” Reuters reported.
“The plane was identified as a hostile target due to a mistake by the air defence operator ... near Tehran and two missiles were fired at it,” the report said, according to Reuters and Al Jazeera, which cited the agency’s website.
“The flight’s operation did not have a role in creating the error by the air defence battery,” it added.
“Without receiving a go-ahead or response from the command centre, he [the operator] came to identify the target as a hostile one and fired missile(s) at the aircraft against the procedure planned,” the report said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba blasted Iran’s account of the Jan. 8 crash, labeling it as a “cynical attempt” by the country’s officials to cover up the truth behind the crash.
“What we saw in the published report today is nothing more than a cynical attempt to hide the true reasons for the downing of our plane,” he said in a Facebook post. “We will not allow Iran to hide the truth, we will not allow it to avoid responsibility for this crime."
Iran had previously called the downing of the flight that had just taken off from Tehran Airport a “disastrous mistake” as the country was bracing for a potential attack from the U.S.
Days earlier, Islamic Republic authorities had ordered missiles to strike Iraqi bases with U.S. soldiers in retaliation for a U.S. attack that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Iran’s government in December pledged to give $150,000 each in damages to the families of victims of the crash, Al Jazeera reported.