Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 68

The Russian and Ukrainian chiefs of the general staffs, Generals Viktor Samsonov and Oleksandr Zatynaiko, agreed in an April 5 telephone conversation on the resumption of Russian military flights in Ukrainian airspace, subject to Ukrainian clearance under rules in force since 1995. In an official note, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry requested the Russian side to observe those rules once the restrictions are lifted. The command of Russian troops in Moldova confirmed that regular logistics flights between Russia and Tiraspol resumed on April 5. The Ukrainian General Staff had introduced the restrictions on March 30, following violations of Ukraine’s national airspace and of its Black Sea zone of responsibility by Russian military planes on March 25, 26, and 28. The restrictions applied to aircraft land-based in Russia, and not to the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s aviation, which apparently was not involved in the violations. (See Monitor, April 4)

Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma expressed concern at a news conference lest the air incidents or other actions by Russian officials derail high-level Russian visits to Ukraine that are tentatively scheduled for the weeks ahead. Kiev has long sought those visits in the hope of overcoming the impasse in its relations with Moscow. Reflecting that concern, Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council head, Volodymyr Horbulin, publicly disavowed his own General Staff by describing the restrictions as "unnecessary" and questioning "why the chiefs of staff failed to find a common language." Horbulin was speaking after Zatynaiko had complained that Samsonov had ignored a series of cables and telephone calls from Kiev.

The Russian side did not explicitly deny the violations. Russia’s Defense Ministry simply stated that the overflights were part of a "staff exercise" of the North Caucasus Military District. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, April 4 through 6) The statement did not address the violation charges and failed to explain why a North Caucasus exercise involved planes based in Saratov region, or why a staff exercise involved flights near Ukraine’s city of Odessa and Serpents’ Island. The flights in fact appeared to carry out reconnaissance missions.

Kuchma Promises "Concrete Decisions" Over Crimea.