KYIV, Jan 11 - Ukraine is seeking “justice” after Iran has admitted accidentally shooting down a commercial airliner headed for Kyiv last week, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Saturday.
Iran, after denying its involvement for two days, admitted Friday that it “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian Boeing 737 outside Tehran Airport early Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.
“We expect from Iran assurances of their readiness for a full and open investigation, bringing those responsible to justice, the return of the bodies of the dead, the payment of compensation, official apologies through diplomatic channels,” Zelenskiy said in a statement.
Zelenskiy said “Iran has pleaded guilty to crashing the Ukrainian plane. But we insist on a full admission of guilt.”
Tehran’s admission of guilt raised further questions, such as why it did not shut down its international airport or airspace while conducting strikes against U.S. targets.
Iranian demonstrators defied a heavy police presence Sunday night to protest after the government reversed course and admitting it shot down the passenger plane, NBC News reported.
Videos posted online showed protesters shouting anti-government slogans and moving through subway stations and sidewalks, many near Azadi, or Freedom, Square after an earlier call for people to demonstrate there. Other videos suggested similar protests were taking place in other Iranian cities.
Riot police had massed outside Tehran University and at squares and landmarks across the capital as calls circulated for demonstrations.
Protesters first gathered Saturday, angrily demanding the country’s supreme leader step down after the government admitted it had unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane on Wednesday.
The incident came just hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases hosting American troops in retaliation for the U.S. killing Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Prior to acknowledging its mistake, Iran denied shooting down the plane and accused the U.S. of “a big lie.”
U.S. intelligence officials had said earlier that evidence suggested the plane was shot down by an Iranian missile by mistake, multiple officials said.
In the weeks before Soleimani was killed, Iran was rocked by anti-government protests that prompted swift and deadly government crackdowns.
Sparked in November by hikes in gasoline prices, the Iranian demonstrations quickly expanded to cover calls for more political freedom and other issues.
Widespread economic discontent has gripped the country since May, when Trump imposed crushing sanctions after having unilaterally withdrawn from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. (tl/nbc/ez)