Iran said on Wednesday it would pay $ 150,000 to the families of 176 victims of a Ukrainian airliner shot down by Iranian forces near Tehran in January.
The announcement by the official IRNA news agency comes just over a week before the anniversary of the January 8 crash. Diplomats from countries that have lost citizens have pushed Iran for more cooperation on investigative and compensation issues. Iran has not specified a timeline for the $ 150,000 compensation.
Iran initially denied shooting down the plane, but later admitted – after reports from Western intelligence and mounting international pressure – that its military mistakenly fired at the Ukrainian airliner. .
The plane crashed when tensions between Iran and the United States reached a fever pitch. Less than a week earlier, an American drone strike had killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, raising fears of further violence in the region.
Tehran blamed “human error” for the slaughter, saying in a report released over the summer that those holding a misaligned surface-to-air missile battery had mistakenly identified civilian flight as a threat and opened up the fire twice without obtaining the approval of senior officials. .
Canadian authorities allege Iran has failed to disclose all relevant evidence or provide satisfactory answers to a number of lingering questions, including the identity of those held responsible for the fall, the exact chain of events that led the Revolutionary Guards to open fire and the decision to leave Iranian airspace open to civilian traffic the same night Iran launched a ballistic missile barrage on US forces in Iraq.
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The plane, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukraine International Airlines to Kiev, carried 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians, 17 Swedes, 11 Ukrainians, four Afghans and four British citizens, according to officials. .
The governments of the five affected countries have been demanding for months that Tehran accept “full responsibility” for the accident and pay compensation to the families of the victims in accordance with international agreements.
Iran, for its part, sent mixed messages on the compensation issue, with the head of the country’s main insurance agency saying in October that Iran would refuse to pay compensation because the plane was “insured by European companies”. Other Iranian officials, meanwhile, have promised to negotiate compensation with the five countries.
“We made a mistake, but the basis for compensation has to be decided,” Mohsen Baharvand, deputy foreign minister, said in September. “We told our Ukrainian colleagues that international regulations are our basis. ”
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The association representing the families of the victims released a statement last week criticizing Iran’s compensation offer and demanding an independent and transparent investigation into the crash.
“Families are vigilant and will not sign any document,” the statement said. “The murderer cannot play the part of the mourner. ”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.