Live Updates: Iran Says Downing of Plane Was ‘Disastrous Mistake’


After maintaining for days that there was no evidence that one of its missiles had struck a Boeing 737-800 minutes after it took off from Tehran on Wednesday with 176 people on board, Iran admitted early on Saturday that it had accidentally shot down the passenger jet.

The Iranian military blamed human error. In a statement, it said the plane had taken a sharp, unexpected turn that brought it near a sensitive military base.

In post on Twitter, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohamad Javad Zarif, apologized but appeared to blame American “adventurism” for the tragedy, writing: “Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster.”

President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter that Iran “deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in his first reaction to Iran’s announcement, said Kyiv would “insist on a full admission of guilt” by Tehran.

“We expect Iran to assure its readiness for a full and open investigation, to bring those responsible to justice, to return the bodies of the victims, to pay compensation, and to make official apologies through diplomatic channels,” Mr. Zelensky said in a post on his Facebook page. “We hope that the investigation will continue without artificial delays and obstacles.”

Mr. Zelensky came under domestic criticism this week for refusing to publicly blame Iran for the disaster even as the United States, Canada and Britain did. Instead, Mr. Zelensky dispatched a team of specialists to Tehran who sought to work alongside Iranians in studying the crash site. He implored the public to avoid speculating about the cause of the disaster.

Iran’s announcement on Saturday vindicated Mr. Zelensky’s cautious approach, said Ivan Yakovina, a columnist for the Kyiv-based magazine Novoye Vremya. “If there had been threats from Ukraine, then I believe Iran wouldn’t have allowed the specialists to do their jobs and generally would have refused to admit guilt,” he said.

Iranians expressed fury in the first hours after the admission, with even conservatives and supporters of the government accusing the authorities of having intentionally misled the public.

The semiofficial Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps, posted a harsh commentary condemning Iran’s leaders, saying “their shortcomings have made this tragedy twice as bitter.”

“It is pivotal that those who were hiding the truth from the public for the past 72 hours be held accountable, we cannot let this go,” it read. “Individuals, media, political and military officials who commented in the past 72 hours must be investigated. If they knew of the truth and were deliberately speaking falsehood or for any reason were trying to hide it, they must be prosecuted, no matter what post they hold.”

International pressure had been building on Iran to take responsibility. American and allied officials had said that all intelligence assessments indicated that surface-to-air missiles fired by Iranian military forces had shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.

The crash occurred days after the United States launched a drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a top commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. and an Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as they left the airport in Baghdad.

The killings sent shock waves through the Middle East and led to calls for revenge in Iran, as well as a vote by Iraq’s Parliament to oust American troops from that country. Iran responded by firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two American bases in Iraq. But the missiles caused little damage and no American or Iraqi casualties, President Trump and Iraqi officials said.

Farnaz Fassihi, Anton Troianovski and Andrew Kramer contributed reporting.





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