Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 41

Russia’s response yesterday to Cuba’s destruction of two U.S. civilian planes over the weekend indicated that the United States will get little help from Moscow in its effort to win official UN condemnation of the action. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman expressed regret over the loss of life, but said that Moscow, which is a permanent UN Security Council member, would refrain from condemning Cuba at the UN until all the facts were known. He also suggested that the flights off the Cuban coast were a provocation, that the U.S. government was implicated in the tragedy, and that Washington should henceforth take concrete steps "to prevent conscious violations of Cuba’s airspace." (1)

The Clinton Administration accused Cuba of a "blatant violation of international law" following the February 24 downing of two U.S. civilian aircraft by Cuban MiG-29s. The unarmed, single-engine Cessna 337s belonged to the Miami-based Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue. U.S. officials denied that the two downed planes had crossed into Cuban air space.

In Moscow, demands that the Cuban side be heard were in line with improving relations between the two former Communist allies. The rapprochement began last fall following a visit to Cuba by Russian first deputy minister Oleg Soskovets, during which the two countries reached several economic agreements and one on the use by Russia of a Soviet-era intelligence station. Talks were also launched on completing an unfinished nuclear power plant near Juragua. Those negotiations continued during a visit to Havana February 18 by Russian atomic energy minister Viktor Mikhailov. (See Monitor, February 20) Washington objects to the plant on safety grounds.

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