[IWAR] RUSSIA new air chief, KAL shootdown

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Date: Fri Jan 23 1998 - 10:00:17 PST

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    New Russian air chief ordered KAL shootdown
       MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's air force acknowledged today that its new chief
       was the commander who ordered a pilot to shoot down a South Korean
       jetliner off Sakhalin Island in 1983, killing all 269 people aboard.
       Gen. Anatoly Kornukov, who previously had served as Moscow air defense
       chief, was appointed by President Boris Yeltsin on Tuesday. Russian
       newspapers first reported his involvement in the Korean Air Lines
       shoot-down Thursday.
       Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev tried to play down Kornukov's
       responsibility for the attack.
       ``He was just executing orders,'' Sergeyev said at a news conference.
       ``He was given orders, (and) he carried them out.''
       It has long been known that the chain of command in the shooting started
       with the Soviet Communist Party's ruling Politburo.
       The destruction of KAL Flight 007 sent U.S.-Soviet relations to a new
       low. The Soviet government claimed the civilian jetliner was on a spy
       mission, ``used by American special services for their dirty aims.''
       Kornukov was commander of air defenses on Sakhalin Island, which lies
       just north of Japan and was the site of a top-secret Soviet defense
       On Sept. 1, 1983, Soviet pilots spotted a KAL Boeing 747 that had
       strayed off course on a route from Alaska to Seoul. The Soviets
       suspected the jet was spying on Sakhalin.
       After a pilot fired warning shots that failed to change the airliner's
       course, Kornukov ordered him to shoot down the plane, Alexander
       Drobyshevsky, a Russian air force spokesman, confirmed in a telephone
       interview today.
       The pilot, Gennady Osipovich, has previously acknowledged his
       involvement. As recently as 1996, he insisted that he still believed the
       plane was on a spy mission.
       In a TV interview this evening, Kornukov said he's still convinced the
       decision was the right one.
       ``In this particular situation, I am absolutely sure even now that (the
       airliner's intrusion) was planned and with very definite intentions,''
       he said.
       Russian officials have long defended the decision to shoot down the
       airliner. A 1993 Russian investigation concluded that the Korean
       airliner had been mistaken for an American RC-135 reconnaissance plane
       that had been in the region earlier. The findings were similar to a
       report published by the International Civil Aviation Organization in
       Canada the same year.
       The KAL shoot-down was not the only controversial incident in Kornukov's
       In 1976, a pilot serving under his command defected to Japan in his
       MiG-25 -- the most advanced Soviet fighter jet of the time -- in a
       windfall for the West, which was able to learn some of the Soviets' most
       coveted military secrets.
       The defection cost many military brass their jobs, but Kornukov retained
       his post.
       After his appointment as air force chief, Russian media hailed him as a
       fair and honest commander -- qualities deemed rare among Russia's top
       military brass these days.
       Kornukov, 55, succeeds Gen. Pyotr Deinekin, who had reached the
       retirement age of 60. [INLINE]
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