Ukraine singles out Iran for downing a plane in 2020

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Ukraine is raising the tone of its accusation that Iran played a sinister role in the downing of a passenger plane Ukrainian over Tehran in 2020, as the world commemorates the second anniversary of the tragedy.

“What happened on January 8, 2020 was a terrorist act committed against a civilian aircraft,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Defense and Security Council of Ukraine, said on Wednesday in an exclusive interview with the Persian service of the Voice of america.

Danilov also expressed frustration at what he said was Iran’s refusal to cooperate in the investigation and provide compensation for the downing of Ukrainian international airline flight PS752.

Iran acknowledged having fired missiles They struck the plane and killed all 176 people on board, but called the incident an accident and blamed a misaligned air defense system and human error by missile operators.

The plane had taken off from Tehran minutes earlier, carrying mostly Iranians and Iranian Canadians who were flying to Kiev en route to Canada.

We have the impression that they had been specifically waiting for our plane. ”

The Iranian forces that shot down the Ukrainian plane were on alert for a US response to a missile attack that Iran launched against US troops in Iraq several hours earlier. Iran had attacked American troops, wounding dozens, in retaliation for an American airstrike that killed Iranian senior commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, five days before.

Danilov noted that before and after Iran’s missile attacks – before dawn on flight PS752 – Iranian authorities had allowed other civilian planes to take off from Tehran airport. “We have the impression that they had been specifically waiting for our plane. We can assume this,” he said.

Ukraine’s Secretary of National Defense and Security Advisor Oleksiy Danilov in an interview with the Persian VOA service on January 5, 2022.

Danilov added that those who were supposedly waiting to attack the UIA plane were senior Iranian officials. “It must have been an order from senior management. No operator [de defensa aérea] you can make such a decision on your own. “

The accusations by the Ukrainian security official about Iran’s role in the incident were harsher and more detailed than those made previously.

An “intentional” attack

In an April 2021 interview with the Canadian newspaper Globe and MailDanilov said he believed the Iranian downing of flight PS752 was “intentional” and a “conscious attack.”

The Ukrainian news site Ukrinform He later quoted Danilov as saying, in May 2021, that Kiev was “increasingly inclined” to call Iranian missile strikes a “terrorist act.” Danilov was responding to a Canadian judge’s ruling that month that the “missile strikes were intentional” and “the downing of the civilian aircraft constituted terrorist activity under applicable federal law.”

The Ontario court ruling came as part of a civil lawsuit brought by relatives of six victims of flight PS752 against Iranian officials, whom they blamed for the tragedy. In another decision announced Monday, the court awarded the plaintiffs $ 84 million in damages “for the loss of life caused by terrorism.”

Iran’s mission to the UN in New York did not respond to a request from the VOA to comment on Danilov’s latest statements that the downing of Flight PS752 was a premeditated terrorist act. VOA News He made his request in a voicemail message on the Iranian UN mission’s hotline and in messages sent to the mission by email and on Twitter.

In a separate email exchange with the VOA On Friday, Ukraine’s former deputy attorney general Gyunduz Mamedov used even sharper language to describe Iran’s role in the takedown.

The downing of a plane is likely to be classified as a war crime ”

Mamedov, who was involved in Ukraine’s ongoing criminal investigation into the incident while serving as deputy attorney general from 2019 to 2021, said the investigation remains in a pre-trial stage in which the classification of the alleged crime is determined.

“The pre-trial investigation is considering various categories of crimes, including an act of terrorism,” Mamedov wrote. “The downing of a plane is also likely to be classified as a war crime.”

Ukraine has disclosed no evidence that Iran’s downing of flight PS752 was part of a premeditated willful act.

‘Complete repairs’

Canada, which lost 55 citizens and 30 permanent residents in the shootdown, which offered financial compensation, has not publicly shared Ukraine’s assessments of the sinister Iranian role in the incident.

But Canada joined Ukraine and two other nations whose citizens were among the victims, Britain and Sweden, issuing a statement on Thursday in which they promised to “hold Iran accountable for the actions and omissions of its civilian and military officials that led to the illegal downing of flight PS752.”

The four nations, which came together as an International Coordination and Response Group for the victims of flight PS752, also said that after a first round of talks in July 2020, Iran rejected its Jan.5 deadline to resume negotiations. about your class action lawsuit for reparations. They said they would “now focus on further action … to resolve this matter in accordance with international law.”

Danilov told the VOA that Iran not only did not pay compensation to the families of the Ukrainian victims, but that its cooperation with Ukraine’s criminal investigation was non-existent, even though it reached invite the Boeing company to participate in the investigations.

In a statement released on Friday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Tehran sent letters to the embassies of relevant governments declaring its willingness to pay the families of 30 foreign victims.

The Iranian statement said Tehran was ready for “bilateral” talks with the countries whose citizens were killed in the shooting down. But he accused some of those nations, without naming them, of committing “illegal actions” and “trying to exploit this painful incident and the plight of the survivors for their own political ends.”

Britain, Canada, Sweden and Ukraine have insisted on multilateral negotiations.

Judgment questioned

Iran’s Foreign Ministry also noted that the Iranian judiciary has held several court sessions since opening a trial in November of 10 military men accused in connection with the shoot-down.

In his interview with the VOA, Danilov questioned the credibility of that judgment. “We do not know if these people are really responsible, because the processes that took place in Iran were carried out behind closed doors and foreign representatives were not allowed to enter to confirm that it was a transparent and democratic procedure,” he said.

Explaining his belief that the downing of the Ukrainian plane was intentional, Danilov told the Globe and Mail, in his April 2021 interview, that Iran could have used it as a pre-dawn distraction to defuse a growing confrontation with the most powerful American military.

He also cited Iran’s use of a Russian-made missile system to attack the plane. Ukrainian military experts have said that such a system is unlikely to mistakenly shoot down an airliner.

* This story was a collaboration between the Persian and Ukrainian services of the VOA and the Central News service in English. Kateryna Lisunova of VOA Ukraine and Arash Sigarchi of VOA Persian contributed.

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