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Only one civilian plane shot down by USSR/Russia

Re: "Russia or Soviets involved in the shooting down of many jets", Letters, August 10

Somehow, even with Google's help, people can still get many facts wrong.

USSR and its successor Russia have been involved in exactly one - Korean Airline flight 007 in 1983. However tragic, it wasn't a mistake in a sense that the decision to shoot down that aircraft was taken at the highest echelons of power and according to existing protocols. Had any other plane flown over prohibited airspace it would have met with the same fate. ICAO later had to issue an amendment to its laws to better define use of force against civilian aircraft and ensure safety of the passengers in case of military interceptions. Even that came in effect only in 1998.

Russia was not in any way involved in shooting down of airplanes during a civil war in newly independent Georgia in 1993, that was their local madness.

Ukraine was an independent country for a decade when its military, in 2001, accidentally shot down Russian civilian plane over the Black Sea with a surface-to-air missile. Despite public admissions of probable guilt, Ukraine still officially denies it was at fault and Ukrainian courts ruled numerous times that their military was not the cause of the accident; the most recent ruling was made in 2013.

Ukraine did pay compensation to the victims in 2003, much faster than the US did after 1988 downing of Iranian jet, which took some eight years. The US still hasn't apologised for that incident or acknowledged any wrongdoing.

The captain of the ship that shot down the plane even received a medal for his service during that period.

Maybe the US did display humility elsewhere but George HW Bush, vice president of the United States at the time, commented on the incident during 1988 presidential campaign: "I will never apologise for the United States - I don't care what the facts are... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy." He subsequently won.

Volk Tambovski


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