Ukraine’s leader says Rouhani has vowed to punish those behind plane’s downing
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Ukraine’s leader says Rouhani has vowed to punish those behind plane’s downing

Volodymyr Zelensky’s office says president of the Islamic Republic fully recognizes tragedy that occurred ‘due to the mistakes of soldiers of this country’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in Tehran, Iran, January 10, 2019 (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in Tehran, Iran, January 10, 2019 (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has told his Ukrainian counterpart that those behind the downing of the Ukrainian airliner will be brought to justice, the Ukranian presidency said.

Rouhani told Volodymyr Zelensky that “all the persons involved in this air disaster will be brought to justice,” it said.

The Iranian head of state “fully recognizes the tragedy that has occurred due to the mistakes of soldiers of this country” and apologized, it added.

Zelensky asked Tehran to allow the bodies of the 11 Ukrainian victims to be repatriated “by January 19” and said Ukrainian diplomats had produced a list of steps to be taken to “resolve the compensation issue.”

“The Iranian side agrees with Ukraine on this issue,” the statement added.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky smiles after meeting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the General Assembly in New York, September 26, 2019. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images/via JTA)

After three days of denials, Tehran admitted early Saturday that it had “unintentionally” shot down the jet after a missile operator mistook the plane for a cruise missile.

In a message posted on Facebook shortly after the admission, Zelensky demanded that Tehran ensure that justice was done and compensation paid.

The Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Boeing 737, which had been bound for Kyiv, slammed into a field shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport before dawn on Wednesday.

The downing of the plane came hours after Tehran had launched a barrage of missiles at bases housing American troops in Iraq, retaliating for the killing of commander Qassem Soleimani in a US strike.

Rouhani said a military probe into the tragedy had found “missiles fired due to human error” brought down the Boeing 737, calling it an “unforgivable mistake.”

In this Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 file photo, debris at the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanded Saturday that Iran provide “full clarity” on the downing of the plane, which Ottawa says had 57 Canadian citizens aboard.

“A full and complete investigation must be conducted,” Trudeau said. “Iran must take full responsibility.”

Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered his condolences and ordered the armed forces to address “shortcomings” so that such a disaster does not happen again.

Iran had been under mounting international pressure to allow a “credible” investigation after video footage emerged appearing to show the moment the airliner was hit.

In footage that the New York Times said it had verified, a fast-moving object is seen rising into the sky before a bright flash appears. Several seconds later, an explosion is heard.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnston said Iran’s acknowledgement was an “important first step,” a line echoed by the German chancellor.

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