DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Ten officials have been indicted in Iran over the 2020 military shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane that killed 176 people, a prosecutor said Tuesday, an announcement coming just as Tehran begins indirect negotiations with the West over its collapsed nuclear deal with world powers.
The timing of the announcement comes after Iran faced withering international criticism last month for releasing a final report into the shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines flight No. PS752 that blamed human error but named no one responsible for the incident.
Tehran military prosecutor Gholamabbas Torki similarly avoided naming those responsible when he announced the indictments Tuesday while handing over his office to Nasser Seraj. The semiofficial ISNA news agency and the Iranian judiciary's Mizan news agency both reported his remarks.
“The indictment of the case of the Ukrainian plane was also issued and a serious and accurate investigation was carried out and indictments were issued for 10 people who were at fault,” Mizan quoted Torki as saying, without elaborating.
Following three days of denial in January 2020 in the face of mounting evidence, Iran finally acknowledged that its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly downed the Ukrainian jetliner with two surface-to-air missiles. In preliminary reports on the disaster last year, Iranian authorities blamed an air defense operator who they said mistook the Boeing 737-800 for an American cruise missile.
The shootdown happened the same day Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on U.S. troops in Iraq in retaliation for an American drone strike that killed a top Iranian general. While Guard officials publicly apologized for the incident, the hesitancy of Iran to elaborate on what happened in the incident shows the power the force wields.
Following the release of Iran’s final investigative report, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba lambasted the findings as a “cynical attempt to hide the true causes of the downing of our passenger aircraft.” He accused Iran of conducting a “biased” probe into the disaster that resulted in “deceptive” conclusions.
Many on the flight planned to connect in Kyiv to fly onto Canada, which is home to a large Iranian population. Canada’s foreign and transport ministers similarly criticized the report, saying that it “has no hard facts or evidence” and “makes no attempt to answer critical questions about what truly happened.”
The announcement came just hours before Iran and the five world powers remaining in its atomic accord meet in Vienna, where the U.S. is due to start indirect talks with Tehran.
Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, and Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.