The General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, in a statement, admitted that its air defence system has “unintentionally” hit the Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed near Tehran early Wednesday, killing all the 176 people on board.
According to the statement, the Ukrainian flight PS572 was approaching a site belonging to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and had taken the shape of a hostile aircraft at that night, when a few hours had just passed since Iran’s missile attacks on a US base in Iraq.
What follows is the full text of the statement released early Saturday:
“To the honourable and revolutionary nation of the Islamic Iran:
Following the tragic crash of a Boeing 737 passenger plane operated by a Ukrainian airline in the early hours of Wednesday, January 8, 2020, and in the middle of [IRGC’s] missile attack on the military base of the criminal US, and considering the possible impact of this military action on the incident, the General Staff of the Armed Forces immediately formed an inspection board composed of technical and operation experts, independent of the country’s Aviation Organization, in order to consider that possibility. The results of nonstop and accurate investigations of the board are as follows:
1- Following the threats made by the president and military commanders of the criminal United States to target many positions inside the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran in case of a reciprocal operation [by Iran], and considering the unprecedented increase in aerial moves in the region, the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran were at the highest level of standby in order to [be able to] respond to possible threats.
2- In early hours after the missile attack [on US’ Ain al-Assad base in Iraq], the military flights of the US’ terrorist forces had increased around the country. The Iranian defence units received news of witnessing flying targets moving towards Iran’s strategic centres, and then several targets were observed in some [Iranian] radars, which incited further sensitivity at the Air Defence units.
3- Under such sensitive and critical circumstances, the Ukrainian airline’s Flight PS752 took off from Imam Khomeini Airport, and when turning around, it approached a sensitive military site of the IRGC, taking the shape and altitude of a hostile target. In such conditions, due to human error and in an unintentional move, the airplane was hit [by the Air Defence], which caused the martyrdom of a number of our compatriots and the deaths of several foreign nationals.
4- The General Staff of the Armed Forces offers condolences and expresses sympathy with the bereaved families of the Iranian and foreign victims, and apologizes for the human error. It also gives full assurances that it will make major revision in the operational procedures of its armed forces in order to make impossible the recurrence of such errors. It will also immediately hand over the culprits to the Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces for prosecution.
5- The relevant authorities at the IRGC were also instructed to appear on state TV and give detailed explanation of the incident as soon as possible.