Ukraine defence minister says downing of plane was Iranian ‘terrorist attack’

Tehran’s air defences shot down a civilian airliner two years ago today

Relatives, colleagues and friends of crew members of the Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, shot down near Tehran in 2020, attend a commemorative ceremony in Kyiv on Saturday. EPA

Two years after the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 over Tehran, the rift between Kyiv and Iran shows no sign of easing.

On Saturday, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council, said the incident on January 8, 2020, which killed all 176 people on the plane, was an Iranian “terrorist attack”.

“It must have been an order from senior management. No [air defence] operators can make such a decision on their own,” he told Voice of America’s Persian news service.

Three days after the disaster, the Iranian armed forces admitted to firing on the Kyiv-bound plane “by mistake”.

Iran has started paying compensation to families of those killed.

“The transport ministry has made transfers to a certain number of [victims’] families,” the foreign ministry said in a statement marking the anniversary of the tragedy.

Arash Khodaei, a vice president of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation, said “the sum of $150,000 has been transferred” to some families, while “the process has begun” for others.

The payment “does not infringe upon [their] right to take legal action,” state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

In 2020, Iran offered to pay “$150,000 or the equivalent in euros” to each of the victims’ families.

Ukrainian and Canadian officials strongly criticised the announcement, saying compensation should not be settled through unilateral declarations.

A Canadian court awarded more than $80 million in compensation to the families of six of the victims, a decision made public on January 3.

It was not known how the money would be collected, but Ontario Superior Court Judge Edward Belobaba said “some level” of enforcement may be possible.

Iran’s judiciary said in November that a trial had opened in Tehran for 10 military members in connection with the jet’s downing.

Tension between Iran and the US was high at the time of the incident.

Iranian air defences were on high alert for a US counterattack after Tehran fired missiles at a military base in Iraq that was used by US forces.

Those missiles were fired in response to the killing of Qassem Suleimani in a US drone strike near Baghdad International Airport.

Suleimani headed the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In the past week, Tehran and its Middle East allies have held commemorations marking the second anniversary of Suleimani’s assassination.

Updated: January 9th 2022, 7:12 AM