IRGC’s air commander accepts ‘personal responsibility’ for downing Ukrainian plane

Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s Aerospace Force, speaks on Iranian television on January 11, 2020. Photo: AFP video

The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s Aerospace Force said he accepts responsibility for accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger flight. Providing some detail of the events the morning the plane was shot down, he said a request had been made to ground civilian flights during the military operation, but that did not happen. 

“I personally accept full responsibility for unintentional downing of the Ukrainian plane,” said Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh in comments broadcast on television on Saturday afternoon. 

Because of threats from the United States that they could target 52 locations in Iran, the IRGC was on high alert. The operator of the IRGC’s missile defence system had requested to “clear the skies of civilian flights” because of heightened threats of cruise missiles. 

The operator of the air defence system identified the Ukrainian plane as a cruise missile, but because of problems with communication lines, the operator did not contact the headquarters to get permission and had just “10 seconds” to make a decision, according to Hajizadeh. 

“I wish I had died and not witnessed such an accident,” Hajizadeh said, adding that he had been in the west of the country during the events.

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