The Iranian missile operator who shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet opened fire independently because of communications “jamming”, a Revolutionary Guards commander said on Saturday.
The operator had mistaken the Boeing 737 for a “cruise missile” and only had ten seconds to decide whether or not to open fire, Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the Guards’ aerospace commander, said in televised remarks.
Hajizadeh also said that the missile that was fired at a Ukrainian passenger jet exploded next to the plane before it went down.
“It was a short-range missile that exploded next to the plane. That’s why the plane was able” to continue flying for a while, Hajizadeh said on state TV. The plane “exploded when it hit the ground.”
In a statement Saturday Iran said it had unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian airliner that crashed this week outside Tehran killing 176 people, calling it an “unforgivable mistake.”
The statement sparked some relief that at least the immediate cause of the disaster would not be concealed amid international calls for a full accounting and compensation for the victims.
Iran has invited the United States, Ukraine, Canada and others to join the crash investigation.
Herewith are some of the remarks made by top leaders in response to the Iranian statement on its responsibility for the crash.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Iran punish those responsible, pay compensation and apologize.
“We expect Iran … to bring the guilty to the courts,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on Facebook, calling for the “payment of compensation” and the return of remains.
“We hope the inquiry will be pursued without deliberate delay and without obstruction,” Zelensky added
He also urged “total access” to the full inquiry for 45 Ukrainian experts and in a tweet also sought an “official apology”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with the country mourning the loss of many of its nationals, said closure and accountability were needed after Iran’s announcement.
He demanded “transparency, and justice for the families and loved ones of the victims.
“This is a national tragedy, and all Canadians are mourning together,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement.
Iran must “learn lessons” from the disaster, the chairman of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee said.
“If decryption of the black boxes and the work of the investigation do not prove that the Iranian army did this intentionally, and there are no logical reasons for this, the incident must be closed.
“Hoping that lessons will be learned and action taken by all parties,” Konstantin Kosachev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said it was “important to seize this moment to give space to discussions and negotiations” on the Iran nuclear deal.
“The lessons that we should learn from the dramatic sequence of events that we have experienced … is that we must put an end to this escalation,” Parly told France Inter radio.
She reiterated the French position that everything must be done to salvage the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said “it was important that Iran brought clarity to this issue.
“Now Tehran needs to draw the right consequences in the continued appraisal of this dreadful catastrophe, and take measures to ensure that something like this cannot happen again,” Mass told Funke media.