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Wounded Soviet Pilot in MIG-29 Flees to Turkey

May 21, 1989|From Times Wire Services

ANKARA, Turkey — A wounded Soviet air force pilot commandeered a MIG-29 jet fighter after a shoot-out at a Soviet Black Sea air base Saturday and flew to Turkey, where he requested political asylum in the United States.

"Take me to hospital," the pilot, identified as Capt. Alexander Zuyev, 28, was quoted as saying upon landing at the airfield at the Black Sea port of Trabzon in northeastern Turkey after a 110-mile flight from Tskhakaya air base near Batumi, in Soviet Georgia.

He was treated for a gunshot wound in the right arm at Trabzon University Hospital, Burham Pisking, the hospital director, told the Reuters news agency.

'He's not too anxious, but he's not smiling, either," Zuyev said. "I think he might be a little fearful."

The plane, one of the Soviet Union's most advanced fighters, landed with a cloth cover hanging from parts of its fuselage and damage to the left wing, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Inal Batu said. The plane was fully armed and a pistol was found in the cockpit, Turkey's semiofficial Anatolian news agency said.

Return of Jet Demanded

The Soviet Foreign Ministry summoned Turkish ambassador Vocan Vural in Moscow and demanded the immediate return of the aircraft and pilot, the official Tass news agency said.

Moscow dispatched a plane and a crew Saturday to recover the jet, but Turkish authorities refused to permit the second plane to land.

A Turkish diplomat said, however, the Ankara government immediately consented to the Soviet request to return the aircraft. "The Turkish government wants to maintain good ties with the Soviet Union," the diplomat said. "Our governments have agreed that a team of Soviet airmen will go to Trabzon (today) and bring the aircraft back to the Soviet Union."

But there was no immediate word on whether the pilot would be granted asylum in the United States. Batu said the request would be forwarded to U. S. officials, unless Moscow produced evidence that Zuyev was a criminal.

Officials of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital, declined to comment on the defection. In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Shub said only that the United States has been informed of the incident.

Soviet Sentry Attacked

In reporting the defection, Tass described the defector as "a military pilot who had been discharged from flying duties for health reasons." It said he attacked a "sentry who was guarding the parking area of combat aircraft and wounded him with firearms."

The pilot then "hijacked a fighter plane from Tskhakaya airfield to Trabzon air field in Turkey . . . ."

Tass added: "The U.S.S.R. Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested that the Turkish government extradite the criminal offender and return the plane."

Diplomatic sources said the pilot suffered the gunshot wound in the shoot-out with guards but managed to get the aircraft off the ground and out of Soviet airspace before landing in Trabzon.

Zuyev asked for permission to land after entering Turkish airspace. The Trabzon control tower told him to turn back but he insisted on landing.

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