Iran shot down a commercial plane, killing all 176 crew and passengers, because it was spooked by “six F-35 US fighter jets” near its borders, Russia’s top diplomat told The Independent on Friday. 

“This information needs verification, but I’d like to emphasise the nervousness that always accompanies such situations,” Russia’s acting foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said during his annual press conference, in response to a question from this news site.

“It was a human mistake. Everyone understands that.”

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

The long-serving minister agreed with Iran’s argument that the loss of life was the direct consequence of the US escalating hostilities between the nations when it assassinated Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. 

“This act went beyond the realm of international legal and simply human understandings,” he said. 

The US decision to take out Soleimani on 3 January was followed five days later by retaliatory missile attacks on American airbases in Iraq. 

At the time, when the plane was due to take to the skies early in the morning of 8 September, Tehran was on high-alert for a possible a secondary attack. Yet incredibly, local authorities made the fateful decision not to close civilian airspace. At 6.14 am, just two minutes after takeoff, the Ukrainian International Airlines plane stopped sending all data. 

It was clear even without the satellite intelligence that came later that a catastrophic incident had occurred. Iran insisted there had been a technical issue, but faulty engines — even those on fire — do not take out entire systems. Images of rocket debris and footage appearing to show a missile strike offered even clearer evidence of foul play. 

It took Iranian authorities almost four days to admit its anti-aircraft systems had mistook the plane, and shot it down in error.

And up until the U-turn on Friday morning, Moscow appeared to support the Iranian position. 

Speaking on 10 January, the morning after Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau confirmed US intelligence showed an Iranian missile strike, but before Tehran came clean, acting deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said he was “certain” there were “no grounds” to make “loud” statements. 

Mr Lavrov initially denied his foreign ministry had made any statement supporting the Iranian position. 

The Iranian admission seemed to then come as a surprise to Moscow, which has so far taken a very different approach in respect to its own missile problem. A significant body of evidence now links Russia to the BUK anti-aircraft system that brought down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over the Donbass in July 2014. That strike resulted in the loss of nearly 300 lives. 

Only the best news in your inbox

Register with your social account or click here to log in

The independent investigation team set up to look into the disaster concluded the missile system was delivered from a unit of the Russian army in Kursk. 

A whole range of Russian commentators have made obvious comparisons between the Iranian and Russian responses to their respective disasters. But the most interesting comments came from Margarita Simonyan, the uber-loyal editor of Kremlin-funded RT. She suggested the Iranian actions showed them to be “real men … unlike other countries … including [Russia].” 

Mr Lavrov fudged The Independent’s question as to whether he agreed with Ms Simonyan’s analysis, declining to accept Russian responsibility for MH17.

He also discounted the findings of the independent commission, as Russia “hadn’t been included in the investigation.”

Answers on Iran and MH17 were the highlights of the otherwise low-key press conference. Most of the set-piece event was used to deliver a pointed criticism of the west, and United States in particular, for “undermining international security.”  

Mr Lavrov said Moscow would act to mitigate future “escalation… wherever it came from.” He would not be drawn on the future about where Russia’s next focus might be. Quoting Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russia’s aphorism-loving former prime minister, Mr Lavrov said it was “difficult” to make predictions — “especially when they concern the future.”

Mr Lavrov also answered speculation about his own future ahead of an impending governmental shakeup. The 70-year old is long rumoured to want out, but Mr Putin is understood to be reluctant to part with the vastly-experienced minister. 

“Three days ago, I was asked to continue to carry out my duties,” he said. “And I carry them out.” 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Wary of ‘separatism’, Macron unveils curbs on foreign imams, teachers

Original source: PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he would curb the practice of foreign countries sending imams and teachers to France to crack down on what he called the risk of “separatism”. Macron has so…

German FM blasts US policy on Iran, says Europe wants to prevent ‘firestorm’ in Middle East without regime change

The US and Europe have a “different approach” to Iran and the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for its nuclear program, Maas told Bild am Sonntag newspaper, in an interview published on Saturday. “While the US unilaterally abandoned…

Being a caretaker in paradise can be fun – as long as you respect the culture

There is nothing on Earth more beautiful than the view from the top of Great Blasket island on a bright, clear day. The sky is vast, the sea fiercely blue as it stretches away towards the curving horizon, with the…

Sudan, Darfur rebels agree on prosecution of those wanted by ICC

Original source: Al Jazeera Sudan’s transitional authorities and rebel groups from the Darfur region have agreed on the appearance of those wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) before the tribunal, officials said.  The announcement was made on Tuesday by Mohamed…