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West Germany Protests To Poland Over Ship Shooting

June 16, 1987

BONN, West Germany (AP) _ West Germany protested to Poland today over the apparently accidental shelling of a West German ship which was observing Soviet bloc maneuvers in the Baltic Sea.

Bonn also demanded an explanation from the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military alliance.

Officials say three West German sailors were injured Monday when the military supply ship Neckar was hit by five rounds of fire from a Polish vessel.

Government spokesman Friedhelm Ost told reporters an explanation ″is all the more necessary as German sailors were injured and a ship of the German navy was damaged on the high seas.″

He said West Germany reserved the right to ask Poland to pay damages.

Poland’s ambassador to West Germany, Tadeusz Nestorowicz, was called to the Foreign Ministry today and handed the protest by Juergen Sudhoff, ministry state secretary, the Foreign Ministry reported.

Defense Ministry spokesman Ulrich Hundt said all evidence indicated the shelling was an accident.

But he said the behavior of the Polish government, which has yet to contact Bonn about the matter, ″makes one wonder if it really was intentional.″

Hundt said Monday that the Neckar had permission from the Warsaw Pact to watch the routine exercises.

Ost said information received today from the Neckar’s captain, Diethard Gatz, confirmed that a Polish corvette fired the shots that hit his ship while it was in international waters in the eastern Baltic, off Soviet Lithuania.

Ost said the Poles violated internationally recognized norms by firing when a foreign ship was close by.

Hundt said the Neckar was in the line of fire between Warsaw Pact units on land that were shooting drones into the air and Polish ships that were shooting the drones down.

Defense Minister Manfred Woerner reported on the incident to the Cabinet Tuesday, Ost said.

Woerner said the Polish conduct was a ″clear deviation from international training of the naval forces of the two alliances, which normally observe each other nearby on the high seas,″ Ost told reporters.

Gatz told reporters in Kiel today the shooting was inexcusable.

He said his 2,370-ton ship was slightly more than a half-mile from the Polish ships when it was hit.

The Neckar ″was not unusually close to the other units,″ he said. ″The behavior of the Poles was inexcusable.″

The ship was hit in the side and rear gun turret, springing a leak and starting a fire. Both were brought under control and the crippled ship came back into port in Kiel this morning.

Three Neckar crew members were hit in the arms and legs by shell splinters. They were picked up by helicopter from the ship Monday and taken to a military hospital in Kronshagen, near Kiel, where their injuries were described as slight.

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