After pleading guilty to the crash of the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) liner, Tehran offered to pay 80,000 USD to the Ukrainians families. But President Volodymyr Zelensky was not satisfied with the proposed amount. He considered that this money would not cover the damage to the families of the victims.
The widow of the commander of the downed crew, Kateryna Haponenko, for example, wants to receive about 9,000 USD a month - that was her husband’s salary. Haponenko expects to receive the payments within 12-15 years. This is the period until the daughter comes of age and her husband’s expected retirement. In total, Haponenko expects to receive at least 1,296 million USD.
Zelensky promises to put pressure on Iran to pay more, as well as file an international court. What are the usual compensations for crashes and what will happen if Ukraine and Iran do not come to an agreement?
How would the payments be conducted
Families of the victims will receive payments not only from Iran but also from UIA. The airline bears primary unconditional responsibility for the accident, even if it is not guilty of it. These payments will be the first stage of compensation. Subsequently, Iran will have to return the money to the airline.
The Montreal Convention, which Ukraine joined in 2009, provides that the airline must pay a minimum of 22,000 USD of insurance to the families of the dead passengers. But for families of crew members, smaller payments are envisaged - about 13,000 USD for the deceased. The insurance will be affected by factors such as the presence or absence of children. You can get a maximum of 154,000 USD, and on average insurance amounts to 30-40,000 USD per family.
The first wave of payments is followed by the second (additional compensation to victims directly from Iran). In addition, Iran will have to reimburse the owner of the vessel for losses for the liner and also part of the funds to the carrier for loss of profit. But this is the last stage of compensation, which has not even been discussed yet.
So far, the families of the victims have received only money from the state. The government reported on the payment to families of 8,100 USD of assistance. For comparison: the daily salary of the head of the board of Naftogaz Andriy Kobolev is about four times higher. The state’s bonus might be covered only by the funeral of the dead, however, the cost of a plot in a cemetery in Kyiv reaches 15,000 USD.
For comparison: four years ago, the Russian Airbus A321 crashed in Egypt, killing 224 people. Egypt refused compensation, and Russia decided to help its citizens. The country paid $ 3,500 each, almost 2.5 times less than what Ukraine did.
The main compensation for the families of the victims has been waiting for a month. UIA President Yevhen Dykhne has reported so far that the amount of support has been determined at the first stage, but did not name it. Under the terms of the Montreal Convention, the airline has two months for conducting the payment.
Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne has already asked UIA to accelerate. But the company is in no hurry to pay about 4 million. Flights are cut, and company employees are actively dismissing.
At UIA, the “hole” in the budget is explained by the fact that since 2012, ticket prices have fallen by 4 times. The company also lost 203 million USD due to the closure of the air connection with Russia. But the reason may be corruption: the company does not maintain international financial statements.
In addition to the bankruptcy that UIA, the company is also threatened by the fact that Iran might not return the money for compensation. Let us recall the downed Boeing 777 on the territory of the so-called “Donbas People’s Republic.” Malaysia Airlines announced the payment of 5,000 USD to each family, but neither Russia nor the “DPR” pleads guilty. So the airline did not wait for a refund.
It is not surprising that Dykhne said: there will be no payments until the legal fact of the disaster is established and the criminal case is closed. Although Iran pleaded guilty, legal recognition is a lengthy process. So payments can freeze for a long time.
Insurance can save the situation. The head of UIA says that the compensation lies with the British insurance company, with which the airline signed an agreement, but its name is not voiced.
Attorney Rostyslav Kravets confirms that despite the bankruptcy of UIA, the insurance can pay victims compensation, and then deal with Iran. As for the second part of payments, then, of course, everything depends on the assistance of Iran.
How much can the families of the dead receive?
After the tragedy, Zelensky did not openly blame Iran. This outraged many, but experts considered Zelensky’s behavior a good tactic. Perhaps the president was gentle precisely so that Tehran would not freeze the investigation, hand over black boxes to Ukraine and pay compensation to the families of the victims.
Now Zelensky is making a statement in which he shows dissatisfaction with the proposed 80,000 USD per family.
Lawyer Rostyslav Kravets endorses the actions of the president. He believes that Ukraine can achieve amounts about three times higher.
“The approximate amount of compensation starts from 200,000 USD,” he says.
But political scientist-internationalist Andriy Buzarov does not agree with him.
“It was necessary not to bring all this to the public plane. First they had to work out the amount, and then jointly declare it at the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Buzarov says.
Most likely, Zelensky’s public statements are related to his attempts to show the Ukrainian public that the case has been taken under personal control.
If we talk not about the form, but about the content, then it is extremely difficult to assess whether the proposed amount is sufficient. But if you recall how much historically families of victims received in other crashes, it becomes clear: 80,000 USD is really not enough.
More than 30 years ago, Americans shot down an Iranian passenger Airbus. 290 people were killed, including 66 children. Then the reason was also called a mistake: the Americans took the liner for the enemy fighter of Iran. Compensation amounted to 300,000 USD for an adult and 150,000 USD for a child (considering inflation, this is 790,000 and 400,000 USD today, respectively).
Russian Tu-154 was shot down 20 years ago. The Interstate Aviation Committee concluded that the reason was the launch of a Ukrainian rocket during the Russian-Ukrainian exercises in Crimea. Killed 78 people, mostly Israeli citizens. Ukraine paid the families of the victims 100,000 USD each, but never pleaded guilty (about 150,000 USD today).
When an Israeli airliner was shot down by the Bulgarian military in 1955, Bulgaria paid relatives 195,000 USD thousand (1,877 million USD) each.
The largest amount of payments came from France - 1.5 million USD (almost 5 million today). 40 years ago, a French fighter shot down an Italian DC-9-15 aircraft. The pilot hoped to kill the leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, but hit the ship, taking lives of 64 adults, 13 children, and 4 crew members.
As you can see, there is no universal compensation. It all depends on the details of the investigation.
15 years still waiting for the promised
Having proposed negotiations, Iran made a big step towards Ukraine. In all the cases described above, the families of the victims received their money only years later, and these compensations were only voluntary. Damage is usually compensated to avoid exacerbation of the scandal. International institutions in this matter are practically powerless.
Bulgaria and Washington paid compensation to the families of the victims eight years after the disaster. At the same time, the US did not bear legal responsibility, they did not introduce any sanctions against the country, and they even awarded the fighter commander for the service. If we talk about the biggest compensation, then Libya paid only 15 years later, and then in exchange for the complete lifting of the economic sanctions that “strangled” Tripoli. And these are far from isolated cases.
Strong winds, cloudiness, and a dust storm became fatal for the Libyan Boeing 727 crew. The plane lost its course on Egypt and ended up in the territory, which at that time was under the control of Israel. Israeli fighters tried unsuccessfully to contact the plane and concluded that the liner was hijacked. Compensation for the shelling was paid only when the United Nations and the United States condemned the actions of Israel in its resolution. And then Israel insisted until the very end that the crew was to blame.
Culprits of tragedies may even refuse compensation. This is what the authorities of the former Soviet Union did. In 1983, a Soviet fighter fired two missiles at a South Korean passenger Boeing 747 over Sakhalin. It was mistaken for an American reconnaissance aircraft and took the lives of 269 people. The Soviet Union not only did not apologize and did not pay compensation, but also billed South Korea for keeping passengers. Anti-Soviet actions did not help, and years later, the international commission came to the conclusion that all the blame lies with the incompetence of the Korean crew.
What if Iran refuses to pay compensation
Kusa does not consider the option of breaking off relations between countries, as there are no contradictions so far. The country allowed our groups to search and rescue, provided Ukrainian experts with all the necessary data and takes care of their image.
But if the countries do not agree or one of the victims does not agree with the amount of compensation, the case will be referred to the court.
Most likely, there will be several trials, because all the victims will not be able to act as one plaintiff. Also, if the families of the deceased decide to challenge the amount of payments, the processes promise to be extremely complex. In this situation, several questions arise.
- In which court will we defend the rights of the victims and the airline?
According to international law, the country, on the territory of which the disaster occurred, can conduct investigations. So, most likely, these will be the courts of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
But Rostyslav Kravets believes that everything will not be limited to Iranian courts alone. According to him, Ukrainian and even Canadian courts can consider the case, depending on the citizenship of the victims. You can also sue at the place of registration of the airline.
As for international courts, everything is more complicated. Some experts believe that the case is not related to the UN International Court of Justice, as it has no signs of an interstate dispute. The European Court of Human Rights cannot be appealed either, because Iran is located outside Europe.
- How to get funds?
Wherever the trial takes place, the decision will still need to be implemented in Iran. Due to US sanctions, Iran is not a member of international payment systems. It does not have free cash and assets.
If Iran refuses to comply with the court decision, it will be necessary to search for Iran’s property in other countries and arrest it. For example, Iran has a bank account in the United States.
Professor Mykyta Vasylenko recalls that the United States unleashed aggression by killing Iranian General Kassem Suleimani, and Iran was only defending itself. Compensation could be received from the States, but legally for Ukraine, there is no such mechanism for compensation.
But Iran itself has space for action. State representatives have already announced their intention to demand compensation from the United States for 130 billion USD. Iran has a chance to make a deal: 20 years ago, the White House paid money to China for hitting the embassy in Yugoslavia during the bombing of Belgrade.