Soviet Officers of KAL 007 Shootdown
In the years gone by since the shootdown, the vicissitudes of Soviet and Russian Federation political systems have left their mark on the lives of the Soviet participants—some as expected, and some with startling surprise!
Major Gennadie Osipovich, the pilot of the Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor which shot down KAL 007, retired and still a confirmed Communist, lives on a small farm in the Caucasus and raises strawberries. He receives a small pension equivalent to $150 a month, and occasionally speaks in front of local groups about the shootdown. He says of himself, “I am a lucky man!”
Air Force Marshall Petr Semenovich Kirsanov was demoted for his responsibility in the Soviet defense flap over Kamchatka (KAL 007 was allowed to pass over Kamchatka and over the Sea of Okhotsk before it was shot down over Sakhalin).
General Romanenko, KGB Coast Guard Commander of Sakhalin and the Kuriles, who also had headed the Soviet delegation at Nevelsk, Sakhalin which handed over to US and Japanese officials some of the personal effects of the KAL 007 passengers, (see ) was demoted, exiled, and/or executed—most probably for his oversights related to passenger and black box disposition. The following facts support this hypothesis:
1. Informants of the Israeli Research Centre for Prisons, Psych-Prisons, and Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the USSR report that Romanenko’s name no longer appears in KGB computers. Once in a name is never deleted. Transfers, promotions, demotions, and deaths are entered but names are never deleted.
2. The Republican Staff Study reports that Intelligence sources suggest that General Romanenko himself was sent to the Gulag.
3. Hans Ephraimson, the head of the American Association for Families of KAL 007 Victims reports that when he was at the Soviet embassy in East Berlin, he had been informed by embassy officials that the man he had been enquiring about (although he hadn’t been), General Romanenko, had committed suicide. “Suicides” were often a euphemism for state executions.
Marshall Valentin I. Varennikov, who had arrived at Sakhalin Island within 24 hours of the shootdown in order to head the Secret State Commission and its cover-up, rose to become Deputy Defense Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces before his imprisonment (and subsequent release) for the part he played in the August 1991 coup attempt against Gorbachev. In 1994, the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation declared him not guilty. On December 17, 1995, he was elected deputy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Convocation. In January 1996, he became Chairman of the Committee of the State Duma Veteran’s Affairs.
General Ivan Moiseevich Tretyak (Commander of the Far East Military District) and General Vladimir L. Govrov (Commander of the Far East Theater of Operations) were both promoted to the Ministry of Defense in Moscow—the former as Deputy Minister of Defense and Commander in Chief of Soviet Air Defense Forces (1991) and the latter as Deputy Minister of Defense for Civil Defense. These are the two most senior military commanders known to have made the decision to destroy KAL 007.
Valery Vladimirovich Ryzhkov, on-duty commander of Radio-Technical Battalion 1845, which had tracked KAL 007’s flight to what he believed to be a safe water landing, and who was so bitter about being passed over for promotion while others in his unit had received promotions (see ), was finally granted that promotion and made commander of the command post of Radio-Technical Battalion 2213 in Mariinskoe Settlement on the Amur river of the Soviet Primorsky (Maritime) opposite Sakhalin.
Lieutenant General Valeri Kamensky, Commander of Soviet Far East Military District Air Defense Forces and “strategic” commander of the shoot down, made a lateral positional move at the breakup of the Soviet Union. He became Chief of Staff and Commander of the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces. It was on his watch that another civilian passenger plane was shot down—the Siber Air Tupolev 154, Flight 1812, carrying 78 new immigrants to Israel on a flight from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk. It was shot down over the Black Sea. In an interview prior to this latest shoot down, General Kamensky, commenting on the shoot down of KAL 007 opined that it could not happen again nowadays. But it did!
Marshal Nicolai V. Ogarkov (See )
But the big winner in the long run (that is, the one who made the biggest jump) was General Anatoly Kornukov, commander of Sokol Air Force Base—the base from which Colonel Gennadie Osipovich’s Sukhoi 15 took off in its fateful mission. As told in the words of the International Herald Tribune:
“Russian Who Doomed 007. New Air Chief Ordered ‘83 Downing of KAL Flight. MOSCOW — The Russian Air Force acknowledged Friday that its new chief was the commander who ordered a pilot to shoot down a South Korean jet liner off Sakhalin Island in 1983, killing all 269 people aboard…”8
General Kornukov, who had retained his position even when, in 1976, a pilot under his command had defected to Japan with his MiG-25—the most advanced Soviet fighter of the time—also survived the KAL 007 incident, eventually attaining the highest appointment possible in his field of service—commander of the entire Russian Air Force. (In January of 2002, General Korukov resigned as Commander of the Russian Air Force and now advises the Russian Federation in matters of missile defense and defense against aerial hijacker terrorist attacks against Russian cities. Against the terrorist threat from the air, he believes Russia unprepared considering the Russian air defense commanders often absentee, "passing the buck", and lacking coordination. His "hardliner" stance concerning aerial intrusion generally over Russian soil continues his attitude of over 25 years ago in the downing of KAL 007. A current example of this hardliner stance, as reported in Pravda of March 31, 2004:"Former commander of Russian Air Force, General Anatoly Kornukov calls Russian authorities to be tough in dealing with NATO aircraft which would appear near Russian borders after Baltic countries" joining the alliance, the Russia Journal said. NATO gained seven new allies [on] new Russian borders. "Because of NATO expanding we should apply tough policy, including tough measures to NATO aircrafts. If an aircraft violated the state border, it must be shot down. International law allows this", said General Kornukov. "To begin with, the Baltic states should be reminded that good-neighbor relations have nothing to do with military aircrafts barraging along the neighboring country borders. They are flying not just for pleasure, they are likely to be well-armed".)
Of the many international newspapers that recorded Kornukov’s new position, few, if any, noted the fact, so clearly evident in the Russian communiqué’s appended to the 1993 ICAO report, that Kornukov was but the low general on the totem pole, while those above him who had given Kornukov the order for the shoot down, some, by abdication to his will, were all, apparently, exonerated. These were, in ascending order of their ranks at the time, General Valeri Kamenski—Commander of the Far East Military District Air Force, General Strogov—Deputy Commander of the Far East Military District, General Ivan Moiseevich Tretyak—Commander of the Far East Military District, and General Vladimir L. Govrov—Commander of the Far East Theater of Operations.