Col. Gen. Anatoly Kornukov, appointed this week as the new commander of the Russian Air Force, admitted yesterday that it was he who had given the order in 1983 to shoot down South Korean Airlines Flight KAL-707. The airliner, with 269 people aboard, was downed by a Russian fighter after it had strayed over Russian air space during a flight from New York to Seoul. Kornukov said that the incident had left him with "a disagreeable sensation," but he still was certain that the plane was on a spying mission over Soviet territory. The event came close to ending his career. Kornukov had another close call professionally in September, 1976, when a pilot under his command defected to the U.S. after flying his then super-secret MiG-25 interceptor to an airbase in Japan. It was examined there by Japanese and American intelligence officers. Somehow, Kornukov kept his job, although a more senior officer was fired.
It seems, moreover, that Kornukov was not Defense Minister Igor Sergeev’s first — or even second — choice to head the Air Force. Sergeev reportedly had requested that Gen. Petr Deinekin be retained in the post despite his age. However, the recent rash of accidents involving Air Force aircraft prompted President Boris Yeltsin to turn down that request, and also soured him on proposals to appoint one of Deinekin’s deputies. Instead, he plucked Kornukov out of the Air Defense Forces. (AFP, January 22; Russky telegraf, January 21)
Aliev Orders Sweeping Legal Reforms.