Officials from Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) believe Tehran airport should have been closed at the time that Iran shot down one of its passenger jets, killing 176 people, including 11 Ukrainians.
Iranian officials say the Boeing 737 was shot down just after taking off from Tehran airport in ‘human error’ after being mistaken for a US cruise missile, amid heightened tensions between Iran and America.
A statement from Iran’s military claimed that the flight veered off its normal course, flying close to a sensitive military site, but airline officials ruled out crew error and released infographics of the plane’s course.
UIA’s vice president, Ihor Sosnovsky, told reporters at a media briefing that flight PS752 had flown in accordance with instructions from the airport dispatcher, turning 15 degrees after reaching 6,000 feet.
He added that Iranian authorities were “obliged” to close Tehran airport.
“If you play at war, you play as much as you want, but there are normal people around who you had to protect,” he said.
“If they are shooting from somewhere to somewhere, they were obliged to close the airport. Obliged. And then shoot as much as you want.”
All nine crew members, who were all Ukrainian, were killed.
The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.
My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences. https://t.co/4dkePxupzm— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 11, 2020
Media reports quoted Yevhenii Dykhne, the president and chief executive of UIA, telling journalists that the airline had followed security procedures correctly.
“At the time of departure from (Kiev’s) Boryspil airport, the airline had no information about possible threats,” he said. “At the time of departure from Tehran airport, it was exactly the same.”
In a briefing read out on Iranian state TV, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, from the Revolutionary Guards, said that a request for a no-fly zone had been made before the incident but had been rejected for reasons that are unclear.
He said that the missile operator who fired at the jet “took the wrong decision” and acted independently.
UIA has requested a “full and open” investigation into the incident and wants Iran to “bring the guilty to the courts”.
Investigators from Canada, Ukraine and Boeing have been invited to the accident site just outside Tehran.
Iran said those responsible will be held accountable.