Russian fighter crash in Lithuania: investigation concludes

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

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Russian fighter Su-27 crashed near the city of Kaunas, Lithuania, thus violating Lithuanian-NATO airspace. After an enquiry, the pilot was eventually released. Lithuania may have obtained the secret "friend-or-foe" enemy recognition system. The last time in happened, it cost Russia billions of dollars to reprogram its airforce recognition systems.

The fighter was one of five that were given permission to fly from Russia to its heavily militarized province of Kaliningrad/Karaliaucius/Koenigsberg, separated from the mainland by the territories of Lithuania and Poland. The last plane, piloted by Valery Troyanov, separated and promptly crashed near the city of Kaunas. The pilot ejected and wasn't hurt. German NATO planes that were securing the Baltic airspace were too late to take off because of the Lithuanian radar failures.

Immediately, Russia started a propaganda campaign. It denied the presence of weapons on the plane, however, four rockets and a chaingun have been found, as well as some radioactive materials. Also, Russia pushed for the formation of a joint investigation commission with Lithuania.

Lithuania, meanwhile, stayed true to its traditions of freedom and sovereignty, offering Mr. Tryanov a health test, inviting Russian observers, holding the pilot under house arest at a hotel, inviting the wife to join her husband, cooperating with NATO and Ukrainian specialists, and firing the chief of its airforce for (unwittingly?) giving away classified information to the Russians.

Russian media, which is entirely state-controlled, focused on the rhetoric of Russian military and the foreign ministry, ignoring a declaration of Mr. Troyanov and his wife where they expressed being satisfied with the handling of the case by the Lithuanian government, and proclaiming that Lithuania haven't tested Mr. Troyanov's health. Russia also gave wrong technical data on the airplane involved.

The commission concluded that the accident was not a provocation, and the pilot was released. However, judging from the elaborately planned propaganda campaign, the commission might have preferred to make a decission favourable to good interstate relations. The pilot (who was flying an important international mission) has been proven to be incompetent. Currently, in the cash-strapped Russian army, pilots, such as major Mr. Troyanov, fly only several hours a year - about 15 times less than NATO pilots.

Russia plans to award Mr. Troyanov a medal and send him on a tour of schools to teach the subject of patriotism. Lithuania has demanded a compensation of 3000 euros for the farmer in whose field the plane crashed.

NATO, the European Union and international mainstream media stayed almost completely silent about this accident. IndyMedia.org, meanwhile, refused to publish this article on unknown grounds. Russia violates the airspaces of its Baltic neighbours at an average rate of 6 times a year. Russia has never admitted any violations. Lithuania (occupied by Russia 1795-1918 and 1940-1990), along with other Baltic countries, have no modern fighter planes of their own, hence their airspace ir protected by their NATO alies. Since 2004, they are NATO and EU members, along with Poland.


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