A Tracking of KAL 007 to Water: An Interview

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The following account had met with great reservation until, but one year later, Boris Yeltsin released the Secret Memos of KGB head Victor Chebrikov and Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov to head of the Soviet Union Yuri Andropov. These memos did substantiate that, indeed, the descent of KAL 007 had been tracked by Soviet radar and that the radar screens had been photographed during the whole incident [1].

On the morning of August 9, 1991, Exie and I entered the crowded lobby of the Jerusalem Hilton. We had come to meet Reuben V., a former map maker assigned to Soviet Air Defense battery-Military unit 1845 located at the underground headquarters at Komsomolsk-na-Amure on the Siberian Maritime across the Tatar Straits from Sakhalin Island. This was the radar unit that, according to Avraham Shifrin, had tracked KAL 007 to a safe water landing. Across the lobby, I noticed a thin blond haired man rise from his chair and begin making his way toward us. This, I thought, must be Reuben. He seemed to have identified us, most probably knowing that Exie was a Filipino. We approached each other cautiously...

Over many cups of coffee, Reuben struggled with us in Hebrew, English and hand gestures, demonstrating and illustrating on hotel stationary over and over again, attempting to show us the angle of KAL 007's descent at different altitudes as it gradually came down (and here, Reuben's hand was almost flat palm down a few inches from the top of our coffee table) to an altitude Reuben called "Point Zero". We were later to learn that Point Zero is about 1,000 feet abvove the surface of the sea and is the point under which Soviet radar was ineffective due to the curvature of the earth.

After Action Report Map

Reuben, in such ways, conveyed to us the following story: On September 1, 1983, his commanding officer, while yet a lieutenant on night duty serving at Military Unit 1845 had photographed his radar screen which had been following the flight of KAL 007 for several minutes prior to its being shot down, After missile detonation, the radar had continued tracking the jumbo jet for over 12 minutes - until it had descended to Point Zero., The name of Reuben's superior. officer was Ryzhkov. Ryzhkov and the whole of Military Unit 1845 were part of the underground staff headquarters located at Komsomolsk-na-Amure. Ryzhkov told Reuben he was certain that KAL 007 had landed safely. Nor was his the only radar station that had followed the flight of the stricken passenger plane to Point Zero. Another of these was the radar station at Edinke, designated as Air Defense Unit 2212 PT6. Reuben drew a map of the Maritime on hotel stationary and placed Edinke not far from Unit 1845 but on the coast. Ryzhkov told Reuben that he had used three rolls of film, each containing 36 exposures, in photographing his radar screen.* These rolls, the lieutenant said were later confiscated by the KGB. All personnel at Unit 1845 as well as at the other radar station were commanded to maintain silence concerning the tracking of KAL 007 . Everyone understood that the penalty for disobeying this order would be death or exile.

"Why would anyone tell you all this?, I asked him. "Especially in the light of the penalties?" "He was drunk," Reuben told us. "And he was bitter. They had humiliated him - he had been passed over for promotion while others involved in the incident went up a grade. And when he inquired of the KGB why this was so, they told him that it was because he had failed to load the camera. But Ryzhkov knew better."

All this was told to Reuben when he served under Ryzhkov sometime during 1987-1989. Subsequently, Ryzhkov had finally received a promotion, being made captain and commander of the same Unit 1845. Reuben thought that Captain Ryszkov was later assigned to Mariinskoe, just north of Komsomolsk-na-Amure.

Ryzhkov. Valery Vladimirovich Ryzhkov. This name was to reappear in the Republican Staff Study (1991) undertaken with input of the CIA at the request of Senator Jessie Helms of the Committee on Foreign Relations. The existence of this document was first disclosed in the South Korean Parliament in October 1992 by South Korean legislator and opposition leader Sonn Se-il, and Reuters News Service published portion of it on October 26, 1992. The document mentions reports by new Russian immigrants to Israel concerning "several Soviet Air Defense radar sites on the Soviet mainland opposite Sakhalin" which "simultaneously tracked the gradual descent of KAL 007." The report continues, "For example, then Lieutenant Valery Vladimirovich Ryzhkov was the duty officer the night KAL 007 went down at Radio Technical Brigade 1845 at the town of Zavet Ilycha on the mainland coast. He personally tracked KAL 007 in its controlled descent to the water, and he was in communication with a least three other Air Defense radar sites and several Soviet KGB border guard boats which also tracked KAL 007 in its controlled descent"

Within just a few weeks of our interview with Reuben V., the question propelling us had subtly but substantially changed. No longer was it, "Where are the bodies?" The question had now become, "Where are the survivors?"...