Anatoly Kornukov

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General Anatoly Kornukov

A pilot under his command, Victor Belenko, defected to Japan in an advanced MIG-25 fighter.

On Sept. 1,1983, Gen. Kornukov, was commander of Dolinsk-Sokol Air Base when Korean Airlines Flight 007 went astray and entered Soviet air space, first over Kamchatka.

As a subordinate to commander of the Far East Military District Air Defense Forces, Gen. Valeri Kamensky, and as commander of Sokol Air Base on Sakhalin Island, now Korunkov received the command from General Kamenski to shoot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 carrying 269 people including U.S. congressman Larry McDonald while it was over the international waters of Okhutsk, having exited Kamchatkan air space.[1]

Kornukov; "...simply destroy [it] even if it is over neutral waters? Are the orders to destroy it over neutral waters? Oh, well."[2]

Though Kamenski had ordered KAL 007 to be shot down while over international waters, he insisted that it first be verified as not civilian. Kornukov insisted that there was no need.

Kamenski: We must find out, maybe it is some civilian craft or God knows who. Kornukov: What civilian? [It] has flown over Kamchatka! It [came] from the ocean without identification. I am giving the order to attack if it crosses the State border.[3]

Kornukov gave the order for the shootdown as KAL 007 was about to pass out of the Soviet airspace over Sakhalin Island into International air space,

Kornukov: "O (obsceneties) How long [does it take him] to go to attack position, he is already getting out into neutral waters. Engage after burner immediately. Bring in the MiG 23 as well. while you are wasting time, it will fly right out." [4]

Kornukov became immediately aware that KAL 007 had not been downed and entered into a period of perplexity amd of frustration with his subordinants. All of this was captured by recordings at his command post. This perplexity and frustration continued on until the Soviet radar tracking could no longer capture KAL 007 in its descent over Moneron Island due to the curvature of the earth.

Kornukov: Well, I understand, I do not understand the result, why is the target flying? Missiles were fired. Why is the target flying? [obscenities] Well, what is happening?

Gerasimenko: Yes.

Kornukov: Well, I am asking, give the order to the Controller, what is wrong with you there? Have you lost your tongues?

Gerasimenko: Comrade General, I gave the order to the Chief of Staff, the Chief of Staff to the Controller, and the Controller is giving the order to…

Kornukov: (18:30) Well, how long does it take for this information to get through, well, what, [you] cannot ask the results of firing the missiles, where, what, did [he] not understand or what?

Kornukov, who had retained his position even when, in 1976, a pilot under his command, Victor Belenko, 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. On Jan. 22 1998, Boris Yeltsin appointed Kornukov as Commander of the Russian Air Force. This appointment by Yeltsin came on the heels of Yeltsin's dismissal of General Pyotr Deinekin, who had headed the air force since 1992. Deinekin was pressed to resign after a huge Russian AN-124 cargo plane crashed soon after takeoff at Irkutsk and landed on a nearby apartment complex, killing scores.

In January 2002, General Kornukov resigned as Commander of the Russian Air Force and he 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 is unprepared considering the Russian air defense commanders often absentee, "passing the buck", and lacking coordination. The following is a current example of his firm 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".

Asked how he felt about the victims KAL 007, Kornukov said the downing left him with some unpleasant feelings[5] but suggested that casualties were simply the price that had to be paid. On Hero of the Day, a Russian television interview show. Kornukov commented,

"I will always be convinced that I gave the right order. Sometimes, in strategic operations, we had to sacrifice battalions to save the army. In the given situation, I am quite sure that this was a pre-planned action that pursued quite obvious goals."[6]

See also


  1. KAL 007 :cover-up, David Pearson, Summit books, New York,1987,pgs.63,64
  3. ICAO '93, Information Paper no. 1,
  4. Report of the Completion of the Fact Finding Investigation regarding the shootdown of the Korean Air Lines Boeing 747 (KE007) on 31 August 1983, Information Paper 1, ICAO '93
  5. Los Angeles Times, January 23, 1998
  6. Los Angeles Times, Jan 23, 1998