General Pyotr Deinekin, commander-in-chief of the Russian air force, has belatedly denied Ukrainian charges that Russian warplanes had violated Ukrainian airspace last month. He called the accusations "groundless." The Ukrainians had accused the Russians of flying within 2-3 kilometers of Ukraine’s Serpent Island in the Black Sea and of endangering civilian air traffic within Ukraine’s "area of responsibility" for air traffic control over the Black Sea in late March. (See Monitor, April 4 & 7) Deinekin said the aircraft involved were reconnaissance planes taking part in the Redut-97 exercises of the North Caucasus Military District, and were conducting training missions using a NATO and international naval force as a target. "The reconnaissance flights," he said, "were carried out in strict compliance with international legal standards on flight above the open sea which do not necessitate special permits from the littoral countries or other countries." He denied that any international airways had been crossed and noted that his planes had long carried out similar missions against American and other NATO ships and the countries involved had never reacted as Ukraine had done. (Interfax, April 12)
The Russian air force also had to defend itself from similar charges in another part of the world. Over the weekend the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force published a report indicating that last year it was forced to make 234 "emergency flights in connection with threats of violations of the air border by foreign military aircraft." In 70 percent of these cases, the alerts were said to be triggered by "Russian fighter aircraft carrying out dangerous maneuvers close to the Japanese islands." A press spokesman for the Russian air force denied the reports and said that its planes "carry out flights over neutral waters in strict accordance with the demands of international air law for flights over open sea." (Itar-Tass, April 14)
Russian Expert Warns Off Fall in Arms Exports.