Monday, 06 July, 2020

Ukraine plane downed due to human error, sabotage ruled out: Military prosecutor

The military prosecutor for Tehran Province says the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in early January was the result of human error on the part of the air defense unit’s operator, ruling out the possibility of a cyberattack or any other type of sabotage.

Speaking in a meeting with the families of a number of the plane crash victims on Monday, Gholamabbas Torki said investigations carried out thus far into the incident indicate the occurrence of a number of human errors on the part of the operator who fired two missiles at the plane.

He added that a mobile air defense unit was responsible for the shooting down, because its operator had failed to determine the direction of north correctly and, as such, identified the aircraft as a target, which was approaching Tehran from northwest.

Another error, the judicial official said, was that the operator did not wait for his superiors’ command after sending a message to the command center and fired the missile on his own decision.

“In the Ukrainian plane crash, no order was given [by military commanders to the mobile unit] to fire [at the target] and when the incident happened, all air defense units were in the position of ‘restricted fire’ rather than ‘fire at will,’” Torki said.

“The blatant mistake made here was that the operator embarked on firing [missiles] without waiting for permission.”

Concerning the cause of the incident, the military prosecutor said the possibility of harmful interference, including laser beam and electromagnetic radiation, on the Ukrainian plane has been ruled out, and the initial expert explanation so far indicates that there was no explosion at the time of the crash.

Underlining that no evidence of cyber and any other form of electronic attack, external disturbances in defense and missile systems, and infiltration of systems or networks [by possible hackers] has so far been found, Torki said, “We have not found any evidence of a possible act of sabotage and espionage on the aircraft.”

“The traces of missile fragments are obvious on the fuselage. The plane exploded when it hit the ground and its parts were scattered within a large radius from the crash site, which caused us problems in terms of collecting the parts and preserving the scene.”

The judicial official said, “On the same night (January 8) a number of people who were manning the air defense system and their superiors were summoned as defendants, and an extensive investigation was carried out that night following which one of the defendants was arrested.”

“In the investigation process, five other people were indicted as defendants, who were arrested on the court’s order. Then three of the defendants were released on bail after conducting appropriate investigations. Currently, three people are in custody.”

With 167 passengers and nine crewmembers on board, Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 crashed outside Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 8, moments after takeoff.

Iranian authorities acknowledged that the plane had been downed due to human error at a time when Iran’s air defenses were on high alert due to increased hostile American aerial activity in the aftermath of Iran’s missile strike on an Iraqi military base, which houses US-led coalition forces in the Arab country.

The missile strike came after terrorist American forces assassinated Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), along with his companions, outside Baghdad International Airport on direct order from US President Donald Trump.

In a phone call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic welcomes any cooperation in the framework of international regulations to shed more light on the downed Ukrainian passenger plane, adding that the country will provide all necessary consular facilities in this regard.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last week that the country would send to France “within the next few days” the black box of the Ukrainian passenger plane.

Zarif said the Islamic Republic had already informed Ukraine that Tehran was ready to settle all legal issues pertaining to the tragic incident, establish a procedure for compensating the families of victims and reimbursing the Ukrainian airline for the incident.

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