Iran has begun paying compensation to families of those killed when it shot down a Ukrainian airliner two years ago, authorities said on Friday.

“The transport ministry has made transfers to a certain number of (victims’) families,” the foreign ministry said in a statement marking the anniversary of the tragedy.

Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 was shot down shortly after take-off from Tehran on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 people aboard, most of them Iranians and Canadians, including many dual nationals.

Three days later, the Iranian armed forces admitted to downing the Kyiv-bound plane “by mistake.”

Arash Khodaei, a vice president of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation, said that “the sum of $150,000 has been transferred” to some families, while “the process has begun” for others.

The payment “does not infringe upon (their) right to take legal action,” state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

In 2020, Iran offered to pay “$150,000 or the equivalent in euros” to each of the victims’ families.

People hold signs with images of the victims of the downed Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, as family and friends gather to take part in a march to mark the first anniversary, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on January 8, 2021 Photo: AFP / Cole Burston

Ukrainian and Canadian officials strongly criticised the announcement, saying compensation should not be settled through unilateral declarations.

A Canadian court awarded more than $80 million in compensation to the families of six of the victims in a decision made public Monday.

It was unclear how the money would be collected but Ontario Superior Court Judge Edward Belobaba said “some level” of enforcement may be possible.

Iran’s judiciary said in November that a trial had opened in Tehran for 10 military members in connection with the jet’s downing.

Tensions between Iran and the United States were soaring at the time of the incident.

Iranian air defences were on high alert for a US counterattack after Tehran fired missiles at a military base in Iraq that was used by US forces.

Those missiles came in response to the killing of General Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike near Baghdad’s international airport. Soleimani headed the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Over the past week Tehran and its Middle East allies have held commemorations marking the second anniversary of Soleimani’s assassination.

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