Army Paper Says Moscow Air Defense Chief Dismissed; Blasts Laxity
Jun. 17, 1987
MOSCOW (AP) _ The chief of Moscow's air defenses has been dismissed, the army newspaper said Wednesday in a report that blasted his organization for laxity that apparently let a 19-year-old West German land a small plane in Red Square.
The Defense Ministry daily 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.'' But the article referred to the ''violation of Soviet airspace,'' an apparent reference to Rust's flight.
Rust crossed hundreds of miles of Soviet airspace on May 28, buzzed Red Square and landed his Cessna unchallenged beside the Kremlin, the seat of Soviet power. The area is 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.
Some Western military attaches said the biting, sometimes sardonic report was the toughest criticism of high-level Soviet commanders they had ever seen in the country's state-run media.
''They're accusing these people of nepotism, capriciousness and secretiveness,'' said one Moscow-based attache who spoke on condition of anonymity.
''Clearly retribution of some sort or another is due to take place, but this is also a signal to the entire military to fall in line behind the reforms,'' he said.
Since Mikhail S. Gorbachev became Soviet leader in March 1985, he has pressed for tighter discipline and increased efficiency and declared that all members of the vast Soviet bureaucracy will be held responsible for their actions.
The paper, reporting on a recent meeting of the top party members from the air defense district, said the district under Konstantinov proved unable to translate party directives into concrete actions. It also said Tsarkov had not taken ''urgent measures'' quick enough to rectify the situation.
''It's very difficult to tell from the article who was where at what time,'' said another defense attache. ''On one hand, Tsarkov comes in for criticism. On the other, it's unlikely he would have remained in place if he had been the one who let the plane through.''
The ruling Politburo met in extraordinary session after Rust's flight and removed Defense Minister Sergei L. Sokolov and the chief of the nation's air defenses, Chief Marshal Alexander I. Koldunov.
The Politburo said the Soviet military had spotted the plane on radar and Soviet fighters flew around it but nothing was done to make Rust break off his flight.
Red Star said Moscow district officers Lt. Gen. Y. Brazhnikov, Lt. Gen. N. Markov, Maj. Gen. V. Reznichenko and Col. V. Yakubenko had been expelled from the Communist Party.
It said several other unidentified party members would be called to account for their ''irresponsibility.''
Another Western military attache said that wording was broad enough to include punishments ranging from a court-martial to administrative disciplinary measures.
Red Star said Boris N. Yeltsin, Moscow party chief and a non-voting member of the Politburo, told the meeting that workers wanted Soviet army commanders to look them in the face and explain how such a thing could happen.
Yeltsin reportedly said some officers in the Moscow district dealt with their subordinates by ''diktat'' and that nepotism, capriciousness and secrecy were common.
Red Star said that some top soldiers in the Moscow district put too little emphasis on military training and alertness.
Under Konstantinov, ''the most important thing was not how to solve problems, but how to report them well,'' the newspaper said.
Rust has not been charged, but Soviet law allows detention of up to two months before an indictment is issued.
Rust's parents visited him at Lefortovo prison Wednesday for the second straight day, said Mario Dederichs, the Moscow correspondent for Hamburg-based Stern magazine, which has purchased the rights to their story.
Dederichs said a Soviet investigator and a West German Embassy interpreter attended the 2 1/2 -hour meeting. He declined to say what had been discussed.
The Stern correspondent said Karl-Heinz and Monika Rust of Hamburg then left for home Wednesday evening aboard a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.
Ulrich Brandenburg, a spokesman for the embassy, said he could not confirm that the meeting had taken place or that the elder Rusts had departed.