Provocation or hooliganism? How Amateur Pilot Matthias Rust Helped Gorbachev


28 May 1987        a foreign light aircraft Cessna-172, piloted by an 18-year-old amateur pilot from Germany, landed on  Matthias Rust.

«Gift» on Border Guard Day

Rust flew from  Hamburg to  Moscow, overcoming more than 1 thousand km without any obstacles. Ironically, it was on this day in the USSR that the professional holiday of the border troops was celebrated — Day of the border guard.

As it turned out later, on the territory of the USSR, the Rust aircraft was detected by radio equipment of air defense units, after which 3 anti-aircraft missile divisions were put on alert. However, they never received orders to destroy the target. Then the Soviet fighters visually fixed the Cessna. not far from & nbsp; Gdov, defining it as “a sports aircraft of the Yak-12 type”. “Cessna” was at low altitude and low speed, so     could accompany the fighters could not accompany it, and, having flown around the intruder, returned to base.

After the “debriefing” because of Rust's demarche, the air troops began to say that the military, “abundantly noted” The day of the border guard, in fact, just, as they say, missed the intruder plane. And  experts since haven not come to unanimous opinion since that it was — trick, childishness, stupidity of a lone youngster or a scrupulously prepared operation of the special services. Rust himself claimed that he wanted to establish an “air bridge” between two hostile social systems. Say, he flew to the former "Evil Empire" with a mission of peace, inspired by the warming of relations between the West and the USSR.

Despite this, the pilot was accused of hooliganism, violation of aviation laws, illegal border crossing and sentenced to 4 years in prison. But in the summer of 1988  Andrey Gromyko, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSRsigned a decree on his amnesty. Rust spent in the “Lefortovo” pre-trial detention center 432 days, after which he returned to Germany. In 2012 at the age of years in an interview with "Stern" he called his flight an “irresponsible act”.

The sports plane that Rust flew. 1987 Photo: RIA Novosti/Yuri Abramochkin

“Gorbachev showed his strength”

"I think that it was really just a frivolous act, which youth can be a lot of — said “AiF” historian Roy Medvedev. — Matthias Rust wanted to do something unusual — and did it. Rust was spotted by our military, but they did not attach much importance to this: just think, some one small sports plane with a single pilot on board. It's indecent to shoot down like that, because it won't bring any harm for sure… It could have been destroyed ten times, but, apparently, they simply didn't want to. And his landing on Red Square came as a complete surprise to everyone.

However, Gorbachev used this essentially insignificant event in the most dishonest way: he fired a number of prominent military commanders who were in no way responsible for landing the plane Rust on Red Square. In particular, she became the reason for the resignation of Minister of Defense Sergei Sokolov and Commander-in-Chief of the Air Defense Forces Alexander Koldunov, who were opponents of Mikhail Gorbachev's policy, and also for a large-scale purge in the army ranks. Although it would be enough to punish the air defense commander of the city of Moscow.

Thus, Gorbachev showed his strength and power, took control of the army and appointed low-authority people to the highest military posts. The military obeyed, but terribly disliked the Secretary General — Marshal Sergei Akhromeev, who was Gorbachev's assistant in military affairs, told me about this.

The Secretary General achieved his goal, but gave rise to discontent of the entire generals. And when                                              And it had a huge impact on the fate of the country.

Was Rust's flight a provocation by Gorbachev himself, who decided to frame the military in this way? It is not out of the question. He couldn't organize such a flight, but could"miss" Rust, when he was informed by the state security and intelligence lines about his intentions or about the start of his flight. But & nbsp; most likely, it was still just an accidental act of the "reckless" young man. But this insignificant event led to very important internal political changes in the USSR».

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