Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made an ambiguous statement regarding Iran’s downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752.
Lavrov, speaking at his annual news conference in Moscow on Friday, said that Iran’s ‘accidental’ shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner last week occurred at a time when Iran was spooked by reports of advanced U.S. stealth fighters in the area.
“There were at least six (U.S.) F-35 fighters in the air in the Iranian border area (at the time). This information has yet to be verified, but I’d like to underline the edginess that always accompanies such situations,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov called the incident a human error and said he was not trying to excuse anyone for what happened.
But he said it was important to understand the context and that the incident had occurred hours after an Iranian missile attack on U.S. bases in Iraq, when Iranian forces were braced for some kind of U.S. military retaliation.
“There is information that the Iranians were expecting another attack from the United States after the strike but did not know what form it might take,” said Lavrov.
The Ukraine International Airlines flight crashed shortly after taking off from the Iranian capital Tehran on 8 January, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board. Iran initially denied it was involved, but later admitted the plane was brought down by a missile fired in error.
In a statement by military officials early Saturday, Iran admitted hitting Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 with a missile earlier this week.
It said that the plane flew close to a sensitive military site and was mistaken for a threat.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the Iranian statement said.
The shoot-down came hours after Iran launched a missile attack on US troops stationed in Iraq, while the military was on high alert.