Tensions grow in Iran as protesters take to streets over crash
Ukraine called for an investigation by five countries that lost citizens in last week’s downing of a passenger jet leaving Tehran — but said Iran isn’t likely to participate in the probe.
Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko will head to London to meet Thursday with his counterparts from the U.K., Canada, Sweden and Afghanistan after Iran belatedly admitted shooting down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 by mistake, killing all 176 people aboard.
“We’ll elaborate on what we’re going to do internationally and collectively against Iran,” Prystaiko said Tuesday in an interview in Singapore. “We want to go deep down to the very bottom of it and have the people responsible brought to justice.”
Top prosecutors from the nations will create a criminal-investigation team and will pursue compensation, according to the minister, who said “so far we don’t have Iran at the table.” German officials could join the process, though, as some victims had dual German-Afghan citizenship, he said.
The three-year-old Boeing Co. 737-800 abruptly stopped transmitting its position and plunged to the ground about two minutes after takeoff from Tehran on Jan. 8. The crash occurred hours after the Islamic Republic started launching rockets against Iraqi bases where U.S. forces are stationed, in retaliation for the killing of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani.
On the day of the tragedy, Prystaiko said his opposite number in Iran didn’t give away what really happened, with initial reports suggesting engine failure as the reason for the crash.
“In this conversation he never hinted to me that they actually shot down our plane,” Prystaiko said. “It was a very formal conversation that something had happened: ‘We send our condolences; we ask your team to help us with the investigation.”’
Iran said Tuesday that it’s arrested a number of people linked to the downing of the plane.
“I promise that the government, with all its ability and using everything at its disposal, will investigate this matter,” President Hassan Rouhani told officials in remarks broadcast live on state TV. “This is not an ordinary case. The entire world will be watching.”
Prystaiko welcomed the development but remains cautious, saying he wants to see “the real people, those responsible” brought to justice — echoing calls for accountability from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
There’s also tension over the fate of the flight’s black boxes, which the government in Tehran indicated have been taken to France with investigators from Iran and Ukraine.
Despite Iran accepting responsibility for the disaster, Ukraine wants a thorough investigation using data gleaned from the flight recorder that should be “in our possession on Ukrainian soil,” according to Prystaiko
Iran’s admission of culpability has prompted outrage and protests. Prystaiko said the demonstrations shouldn’t impinge on the investigation.
“I expect full cooperation with us regardless of the political pressure,” he said. “There are moments when the government has to explain to their own people that ‘we’re responsible for the deaths of these people and the crash of this plane shot down from our own skies.”’
--With assistance from Daryna Krasnolutska.