By Emil Filtenborg and Stefan Weichert
July 4, 2020
Ukraine has signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Kingdom, Canada, Afghanistan, and Sweden that appoints it as lead negotiator with Iran regarding compensation for those who lost their lives after Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in January 2020.
Iran and the other countries with citizens who died in the crash still continue to dispute two issues. One is about the two black boxes, which Iran has failed to hand over for analysis. The UK, Canada, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Sweden are growing increasingly impatient to uncover what happened on PS752 before it was shot down by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and landed on a playground outside the Iranian capital in Tehran, killing all 176 passengers and crew members.
In addition, the five countries are fighting to secure compensation for the grieving families. Initially, after admitting that the plane was indeed shot down by the Iranian military, Iran offered US$80,000 in compensation to the families. But soon after, Ukrainian president Volodimir Zelensky expressed dissatisfaction with that offer.
As IranWire previously reported, one option open to Ukraine was to join a coalition of nations with citizens onboard flight 752 to negotiate a joint deal with Iran. According to the Ukrainian news agency Unian, that has now happened.
“Justice will Prevail”
The new coalition with Ukraine as a lead negotiator will demand higher compensations for the families of the victims. According to Unian, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was encouraged by the establishment of the formalized coalition.
“I’m glad the group members supported our initiative. This is important because now we have formalized a common approach in interstate negotiations to hold Iran accountable for the plane downing,” Kuleba said, adding that “justice will prevail no matter how long it takes.”
IranWire contacted the press service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ukraine to ask when negotiations would start, what settlement it is hoping to achieve, and what next steps it will take if the talks are not fruitful.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred IranWire to statements the ministry had released, in which Kuleba states: “These interstate negotiations with Iran regarding reparations are an important and necessary step toward achieving the goal of the coordination group: [confirming] Iran’s responsibility and helping families in finding solace in this time of sorrow. They are important for bringing Iran to account and paying full compensation to the affected states and the families of the victims.”
Dispute Over Black Boxes
While the formalized coalition of countries demanding justice from Iran is a step toward resolving the matter, the problem with the black boxes continues. Using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse, the Iranian government agreed with its Ukrainian counterpart to send the black boxes to France or Ukraine when the pandemic is over.
In June, the Iranian authorities agreed to send the black boxes to France. This has yet to be done, and both the Canadians and the Ukrainians have expressed impatience with the process, and say they would like to see it completed as fast as possible.
To what extent the Iranian and Ukrainian governments agreed is hard to tell due to the conflicting statements from Ukrainian authorities. The chair of the sociology department at Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Pavlo Kutuev, explained what the different messages coming from the Ukrainian authorities might mean.
“There are two options,” said Kutuev, “A good cop-bad cop strategy, where Zelensky is the voice of peace, and his advisors are promoting a tougher stand on Iran. The other explanation, and it is just as likely, is that there is chaos and a lack of coordination within the presidential administration.”
The black boxes would also confirm whether or not panic spread onboard the flight in the nearly four minutes that passed from when the plane was struck by a missile until it hit the ground.
If both the Iranian and Ukrainian governments wait until the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, it could be a very long time for the grieving families demanding answers. In recent weeks, Ukraine has seen a spike in new cases, with between 800 and 900 new cases a day. In Iran, the picture is much the same, with a steady increase in new cases every day.
Onboard Flight 752 were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three Britons. One hundred sixty-seven passengers and nine crew members died in the crash.