AP NEWS
Related topics

URGENT Paper Says Chief of Moscow’s Air Defenses Is Out

June 17, 1987

MOSCOW (AP) _ Soviet officials removed the chief of Moscow’s air defenses, the army newspaper said today in a report that strongly criticized his district for practices that may have allowed a West German teen-ager to land a private plane in Red Square.

The Defense Ministry daily Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) did not say whether Marshal Anatoly U. Konstantinov had been replaced before or after Mathias Rust’s unauthorized flight from Finland to Moscow.

It said only that Col. Gen. V. Tsarkov had assumed the post ″recently.″ However, the article referred to the ″violation of Soviet airspace,″ an apparent reference to Rust’s flight.

The 19-year-old pilot crossed hundreds of miles of Soviet airspace on May 28 and landed a private plane in the heart of Moscow - an area closed to all air traffic.

The army newspaper also said several other top-ranking officers in the Moscow district - including two lieutenant generals, a major general and a colonel - were expelled from the Communist Party.

A Western defense attache said the article was the first announcement of Konstantinov’s removal.

″I think it’s intimately connected with the intrusion into Soviet airspace, but there’s no way to tell from the paper when the change was made,″ said the attache, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The defense attache said the Krasnaya Zvezda report was the harshest criticism he had ever seen of the military in the state-run Soviet press. He linked it to Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s campaign to hold all members of the government bureaucracy responsible for their actions.

He noted the article also criticized Tsarkov for not having speedily taken ″urgent measures″ upon assuming his new post.

After Rust’s flight, the ruling Politburo retired the defense minister, Sergei L. Sokolov, and fired the head of Soviet air defense forces, Chief Marshal Alexander I. Koldunov.

The Politburo said the military spotted Rust’s plane by radar and that Soviet fighter planes twice flew around it, but nothing was done to make the teen-ager break off his flight.

Soviet police took Rust into custody after he buzzed Red Square several times, then landed his Cessna between St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin wall. The West German has not been charged, but Soviet law allows detention of up to two months before the issuing of an indictment.

Rust’s parents visited him at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison Tuesday. In a statement, Karl-Heinz and Monika Rust said their son ″is feeling well, and according to his words he also is being treated well.″

The report in Krasnaya Zvezda was based on a recent meeting of top Communist Party members of the Moscow air defense district and of other officials including Moscow party chief Boris N. Yeltsin.

It said Yeltsin, a non-voting member of the Politburo, blasted the district for failing to implement the reform policies decreed by the Communist Party at its February 1986 congress.

Yeltsin and other speakers at the meeting criticized top-ranking officers in the district for laxity in discipline, favoritism, secrecy and dealing harshly with subordinates, the report said.

Krasnya Zvezda said some of those responsible for the capital’s air defenses put too little emphasis on military training.

The paper said Lt. Gen. Y. Brazhnikov, Lt. Gen. N. Markov, Maj. Gen. V. Reznichenko, Col. V. Yakubenko and others had been expelled from the party.

It was not clear whether the expulsions were linked solely to Rust’s flight or were caused by the officers’ unsatisfactory performance in carrying out Gorbachev’s policies.

Krasnaya Zvezda said authorities were investigating other party members and that they would have to answer for their ″irresponsibility.″

Konstantinov had been commander of the Moscow district since May 1980. Krasnaya Zvezda did not indicate what had happened to him since his replacement.

Tsarkov last served as chief of staff of the political directorate for aviation in the air defense forces.

AP RADIO
Update hourly