TEHRAN: Iran released its final report on the Ukrainian passenger jet it shot down last year killing 176 people, devoting two paragraphs to causes and absolving the armed forces.
Iran’s civil aviation body blamed a misaligned radar and an error by an air defence operator in a final report into the shooting-down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020. Ukraine, which lost 11 citizens in the disaster, immediately dismissed the report as “a cynical attempt to hide (the) true causes” of the tragedy.
On January 8, 2020, Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 crashed shortly after take off from Iran’s capital Tehran killing all 176 people aboard, including 55 Canadians. Iran admitted three days later that its forces mistakenly shot down the Kiev-bound Boeing 737-800 plane, after firing two missiles.
In a final report released in English of over 145 pages, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation (CAO) devoted two paragraphs to “accident causes and contributing factors”.
The first paragraph indicates what was already known, namely that Iranian forces fired “two surface-to-air missiles at the flight PS752… (that) led the aircraft to crash into the ground and explode instantly.” The second paragraph examines “other contributing factors”, in which it discussed the “alertness” of troops on the ground.
The Iranian report said: “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,” according to the agency’s website. “The flight’s operation did not have a role in creating the error by the air defence battery,” the report added.
Tensions between Iran and the US were soaring at the time of the downing of the Ukrainian jetliner. Iranian air defences were on high alert for a US counter-attack after Tehran fired missiles at a military base in Iraq that was used by US forces.
“The mitigating measures and defence layers in risk management proved to be ineffective due to the occurrence of an unanticipated error in threat identifications, and ultimately failed to protect the flight safety against the threats caused by the alertness of defence forces,” it read.
The missiles were fired in response to the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, who headed the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in a US drone strike near Baghdad’s international airport.
In July 2020, in a progress report, Iran’s CAO said it that poor tuning of an anti-aircraft unit’s radar was the main “human error” behind the tragedy. The tragedy sparked strong condemnation in Iran, especially after it took three days for the armed forces to admit to having shot down the plane “by mistake”.
Ukraine and an independent United Nations investigator have previously raised questions about whether the downing of the airliner was intentional rather than accidental. The UN last month also said the Iranian government’s explanations contained inconsistencies.
Separately Ukrainian prosecutors have launched their own investigation into possible killing in connection with the crash. Canada said it will soon disclose the results of its own investigations.
Iran has allocated $150,000 for damages to be paid to families of the crash victims and said several people have been put on trial over the disaster.
Ukraine has said the compensation should be set through talks, taking into account international practice, once the causes of the tragedy are established and those responsible are brought to justice.