Iran says it accidentally shot down Flight 752.
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 its military had accidentally shot down the passenger jet.
The 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.”
In a statement cited by the semiofficial Fars News Agency, the president offered condolences to the victims’ families and said that “the terrible catastrophe should be thoroughly investigated.” He added that those responsible for “this unforgivable mistake” would be identified and “prosecuted.”
Ukraine’s president wants ‘a full admission of guilt.’
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 reacted with anger toward their government.
Iranians expressed fury in the first hours after the admission. Even conservatives and supporters of the government accused the authorities of having intentionally misled the public about what had brought down the plane, whose passengers included many young Iranians on their way to Canada for graduate study.
The semiofficial Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Iranian 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.”
Siamak Ghaesmi, a Tehran-based economist, addressed the country’s leaders in an Instagram post: “I don’t know what to do with my rage and grief. I’m thinking of all the ‘human errors’ in these years that were never revealed because there was no international pressure. I’m thinking of the little trust left that was shattered. I’m thinking of the innocent lives lost because of confronting and being stubborn with the world. What have you done with us?”
Mohamad Saeed Ahadian, a conservative analyst in Iran, said on Twitter, “There are two major problems with the Ukrainian Airlines issue. One is firing at an airplane and two is firing at the public’s trust. The first can be justified but the latter is a mistake with absolutely no justification.”
Some social media posts made use of the term “harsh revenge,” which Iran’s leaders had promised to inflict on the United States for the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a top Revolutionary Guards commander, in a drone strike last week.
Mojtaba Fathi, an Iranian journalist, wrote on Twitter, “They were supposed to take their harsh revenge against America, not the people.”
Western nations had already concluded that Tehran was to blame.
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 general’s killing 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 to the drone strike 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.