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Rust Called Self-Promoter, Gets 4 Yrs. in Labor Camp : Red Square Pilot Not Surprised

September 04, 1987|Associated Press

MOSCOW — The Soviet Supreme Court convicted Mathias Rust today and sentenced him to four years in a labor camp, saying the West German teen-ager flew a single-engine plane into Red Square to promote himself, not world peace.

Judge Robert Tikhomirnov and two lay people convicted Rust on all three counts stemming from his astonishing May 28 flight from Finland across more than 500 miles of Soviet territory to the seat of Soviet power.

"Rust was most of all governed by adventurist intentions," Tikhomirnov said in a half-hour statement delivered to a packed courtroom. "He was striving for popularity and self-advertisement."

Slight Reaction

Rust reddened slightly during the statement but showed no emotion. His mother, Monika, who testified on his behalf Wednesday, stiffened when the sentence was read.

Later, Rust told a Soviet TV interviewer about the sentence, "I was prepared for it." His mother said, "I also was expecting that kind of sentence."

Western diplomats have said the Soviets might expel Rust before he serves time, but Soviet officials gave no indication that this would happen.

The 19-year-old pilot said he made the flight as a mission of peace to discuss a new world order and disarmament with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

The flight caused a worldwide sensation but embarrassed the Kremlin. It prompted the firing of the air defense chief and the resignation of Defense Minister Sergei L. Sokolov.

Rust had asked for leniency. He said his flight was a big mistake and that he "will never betray the court's trust, never in my life."

Spoke With Family

After the court adjourned, Rust spoke briefly and quietly with his parents and younger brother as photographers crowded around. Then khaki-clad soldiers led him away.

The Supreme Court panel heard the case because Rust's flight involved charges from two Soviet republics--Estonia and Russia.

The courtroom in the Soviet Supreme Court building, seldom the scene of mass media attention, was lit by television lights and packed with journalists and court workers. All were on their feet during the judge's statement.

Tikhomirnov gave Rust four years on the charge of malicious hooliganism, the only charge Rust contested. Rust drew two years for violating the Soviet border and three years for breaking international flight rules. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

More Years Possible

Rust could have received up to 10 years in prison for violating international flight rules.

The judge said Rust showed a "particular impudence" when he circled at low altitude over crowded Red Square and nearby highly populated areas before landing.

He said Rust would be sent to a "general regime labor colony," the least severe of four levels.

Tikhomirnov said the court considered Rust's youth and his clean legal record, but said neither side could appeal.

There are special camps for foreigners, but the judge gave no indication where Rust would be sent.

Release Held Possible

The 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution next month or any visit by a high-ranking West German official could provide an opportunity for the Soviets to release Rust and rid themselves of an embarrassing issue.

Soviet television showed Rust's mother kissing him and touching his cheek with her hand after the verdict.

The Soviet news agency Tass quoted her as saying she was satisfied with her son's treatment and the work of his Soviet lawyer.

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