Editor’s Note: The following is a translated transcript of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s video address to the Ukrainian nation, released on the evening of Jan. 11. Earlier that day, Iran admitted that it shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane on Jan. 8, saying that the plane was mistaken for a cruise missile. All 176 people on board were killed, including 11 Ukrainians.
I just had a phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He formally apologized to all of Ukraine and the relatives of the dead and acknowledged the fact that Iran had shot down a Ukrainian Boeing 737.
Now I want to finally be able to tell you in detail about all the actions of the Ukrainian authorities, starting from the tragic morning of Jan. 8.
Immediately after the plane crash, the operational staff at the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) started its work. The ambassador and consul of Ukraine in Iran arrived at the scene at Imam Khomeini Airport.
An emergency government meeting was held to decide on the deployment of a search and rescue group to Iran. It included 45 experts from the State Aviation Service, the National Bureau for Investigations of Civilian Aviation Incidents, representatives from the NSDC, the Security Service of Ukraine, State Emergency Service, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ukraine International Airlines. We have sent to Tehran the best specialists with extensive expertise.
The Prosecutor General’s Office addressed Iran, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom to establish an international investigative team.
On Jan. 9, at 3:30 a.m., our search and rescue team arrived in Tehran and within two hours began working on the site of the disaster.
I had a conversation with the president of Iran regarding (Iran’s) transparent and full cooperation with our experts. They gained access to fragments of the aircraft, black boxes, records from radars and from the flight control center.
On the morning of Jan. 9, the NSDC secretary voiced four main versions, including the possibility that the plane was hit by a missile.
The DNA of the victims’ relatives was collected very quickly to identify the bodies of the dead. It included the relatives of one of the killed flight attendants, who at the moment were in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine.
I have consulted with our international partners — the prime ministers of Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the presidents of Iran and Afghanistan, and have stressed the need for joint action to investigate the circumstances of this tragedy. In the evening (of Jan. 9), leaders of the U.S., Canada and U.K. said that the Ukrainian plane was hit by a missile. We urged all international partners to provide us with data that would confirm this version.
We worked systematically, calmly, for the sake of one thing — to achieve the result, namely to establish the truth about the circumstances of the plane crash.
On Jan. 10, I had a conversation with the Secretary of State of the United States of America Michael Pompeo and a meeting with U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien who provided me with important and useful information for the investigation. The U.K. Ambassador Melinda Simmons also provided important information.
I want to commend the work of Ukrainian experts in Iran.
They have worked and continue to work selflessly, diligently and around the clock. Their high professionalism and promptness, their convincing preliminary findings and evidence they found in Tehran made it impossible to hide the truth. And today the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran has acknowledged that they downed the Ukrainian plane.
This has also been undoubtedly aided by the support of international partners and the persistent position of the international community. For this, I express my sincere gratitude to the leaders of the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, other countries, international organizations — on behalf of the Ukrainian people.
Now a group of Ukrainian experts is continuing its work. The investigation isn’t over. They are currently trying to reconstruct the plane.
Now, back to my conversation with the president of Iran.
We agreed that right now he will order to finish the identification of the bodies as soon as possible, in cooperation with Ukrainian experts, and prepare them for their return to Ukraine. This should happen soon.
We also agreed to start working on deciphering two on-board recorders, the “black boxes.” We have agreed on full legal and technical cooperation, including in the issue of compensation. We agreed that no one would escape justice. The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine opened an investigation into the murder of Ukrainian citizens.
The (Ukrainian) government will provide financial assistance to the families of the victims. The state will also make every effort to help them obtain compensation from the airline, insurance companies and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
I call on all international partners of Ukraine, the entire global community, to be one and persevere in the full and final investigation into all the circumstances of this disaster. All of us need it.
Because a human should feel safe in this turbulent world — on the ground, in the water, or in the air. Because a person and their life must be of the highest value to any government, any state, any politician.
In these difficult days for each of us, I want to say the following. I will return the dead to their loved ones, and they will be able to say goodbye to them properly. We will honor their memory. All the guilty will be punished.
We will return to Ukrainians not only a sense of security and justice but also the confidence that Ukraine will always protect you in any corner of the planet.
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