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Published:August 21st, 2007 06:01 EST
Press Conference by Group of Russian Experts on Investigation of Air Incident

Press Conference by Group of Russian Experts on Investigation of Air Incident

By SOP newswire

Vyacheslav Kovalenko: Hello. I welcome you to the Russian Federation Embassy. Today we’re holding a press conference on the results of the work of a Russian expert group that stayed here for two days in connection with the air incident which occurred on August 6 on the territory of Georgia.

I want to introduce the members of the Russian expert group to you. It is led by Lieutenant General Igor Ivanovich Khvorov, Air Force Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander, and consists of Major General Sergey Kuzmich Nuzhin, Air Force Chief Navigator; Colonel Pavel Nikolayevich Akulenok, Air Force Chief Engineer for Air Armament; and Colonel Yuri Anatolyevich Rudenya, Chief of the Defense Ministry’s Directorate for State Regulation and Use of Airspace. From the Russian MFA we have Valery Fyodorovich Kenyakin, Special Envoy for Relations with the CIS Countries, and Alexei Viktorovich Pavlovsky, Deputy Director of the 4th CIS Department responsible for Georgia issues.

As you see, the makeup of the delegation is very competent; it comprises representatives of a very high level, considerable knowledge and high qualification on all issues related to air armament and aircraft. Now, allow me to give the floor to Lieutenant General Igor Ivanovich Khvorov.

I. I. Khvorov: Dear comrades, ladies and gentlemen. Very serious accusations have been brought against Russia over the August 6 air incident. The leadership of the Russian Air Force and Defense Ministry took them with heightened attention. Specialists were chosen to impartially and objectively assess all that’s related to this incident and offer their judgement. Since it was a question of a violation of the state border, the group has an expert in this field included. It also comprises a specialist on weapon use issues – a general who still performs flights and operates missiles, the most knowledgeable and skilled Russian expert in this field. A member of the group is also an engineer who directly prepares missiles and onboard complexes for work. Thus, we picked up specialists who can truly assess everything that’s related to the incident in a competent and professional way.

In principle, the picture was clear to us even in Moscow. But we decided to investigate things objectively and impartially, relying upon facts alone and without succumbing to emotions. It was with that mindset, with that work algorithm that we arrived in Georgia. We have presented a part of the materials to the Georgian side. They are the control results; the other part – we simply didn’t have time today. When we reported our official findings to the Georgian side, they did not consider it necessary to continue discussion with us. So, I am ready to present to you the document which we offered to our Georgian colleagues. The first document is a daily report on the situation in all sectors, embracing our Far East and Northwest, and the western sector. And the North Caucasus sector among others. This is the zone of responsibility of the air force formation responsible for the security of the air borders of Russia. Here’s an official report: the final message from military unit No. ____, Rostov-on-Don command post. “There were 90 air objects in the formation’s zone of responsibility on August 6, 2007, in accordance with the combined plan of overflights and the combined plan of army, air force and air defense flights. These aircraft made no flights in the direction of the Russian-Georgian border." I confirm this with our plans. We did not plan any cross-border flight requests; we neither planned nor arranged any such flights. But the border was crossed and this is recorded by our means of active monitoring. Those were declared aircraft and theirs were scheduled flights. The Georgian side carried them out, and upon crossing the border they were handed over to us and we operated these planes. There was no unauthorized border crossing. There was no beefing up of our air defense, and no air defense fighter planes went into the air – the usual things we always do if the state border is crossed. The air defense forces on duty were operating in the ordinary mode. We presented to the Georgian side the civil air traffic control data received from Rostov-on-Don. In addition, there are the data of the air defense forces, which have their own radar facilities, more powerful than the civil ones. Their data coincide; there was no violation. The Georgian side had presented a document to us alleging violations of the state border. We had studied it very carefully and we had many questions as a result. When we visited the place where the missile fell and studied the results of monitoring, we concluded that the plane had maneuvered. Based on practice, a plane never flies along a straight line, especially so a warplane. It had maneuvered, and its was an intricate maneuver at that. It had performed a turn. We saw nothing of this on the radar data transmitted to us. The first doubt we had was the very distinctly constructed flight track of the plane on the materials presented by the Georgian side. Having thus concluded, we could have finished our work, but our intention was to help the Georgian side in establishing all the facts related to weapon use. We deemed that there was no violation of the border by a Russian plane, and who did fly and use the weapon was an internal matter of Georgia.

Still, we went to the scene of the incident. What we saw does not fit into the logical chain of the development of events suggested by the Georgian side. Firstly, the flight’s nature and direction. It does not coincide with the way the parts lay scattered on the ground. Secondly, either specially or because of ignorance all the evidences which could have helped us sort things out were destroyed, including the missile number. We were just asked to believe the photographs and oral testimonies. It is not understandable why the missile fuse did not operate. It was also destroyed. In addition, I report that two/thirds of the parts of the missile and casing are lacking, although they say they collected everything conscientiously. How to square these facts with the use of the weapon? Moreover back in Moscow, as we saw TV footage from the scene and learned that the missile had not exploded, we witnessed a gross violation of safety rules. There were about twenty people at the crater. Can you imagine what would have happened if the 150 kilograms of TNT had exploded? They even brought the president and subjected him to danger.

To sum up, I want to say that, in the course of our investigation, we relied upon facts only. Our conclusion is as follows: there was no violation of the Russian-Georgian border by a Russian plane from the Russian side. I conveyed that conclusion to our Georgian colleagues.

When the missile could have appeared. During Soviet times several air force units were based on Georgian soil. Two of them directly had this type of weapon in service. At these airfields there were depots with air armament, storing more than a hundred of this kind of missiles. In addition, a central depot sat on Georgian soil. There were cargoes and ammunition stored in it, including it’s hard to say – more than a thousand such missiles All of this was there until December 1992. Thus, the missile could have been from Soviet stockpiles, or have got into Georgia some other way. As a result of the fact that the missile was exploded and its number destroyed, to establish its origin does not appear possible.

S. K. Nuzhin: The document presented by the Georgian side of the processing of the data of the aircraft that crossed the state border of Russia and Georgia is questioned by us in the sense that it does not record any of the other aircraft that were at the moment on the territory of the Russian Federation and on the territory of Georgia, although planes were there within the limits of the permitted zone. This corresponds to the objective monitoring that we had carried out. As to the use of air attack weapons: the pit inspected by us, which was of interest, had been filled up before our arrival. So, you can’t draw any specific conclusions. Nevertheless, some parameters can be defined. Using GPS, we took the coordinates of the pit and determined that given the position of the missile that was presented to us in the photographs its course must be 330 degrees of the northwestern direction. This runs counter to the data that were earlier given in the press. Further, in the case of the operation of the missile in ordinary mode, the missile could not have wholly sunken into the earth undamaged, as this supposedly happened according to the assertion of the Georgian side. The plastic base of a nose cone gets destroyed upon touching the earth. Only heavy fragments of the structure could have been extracted from the crater – parts of the engine or elements of the warhead. As to the launch of the missile from a Su-24 aircraft: the missile is so designed that, in principle, there can be no failures. Consequently, if the missile engine was operating, it should have exploded. There were no explosions, as you know. Therefore, we believe and question the possibility that this missile was launched at all.

I. A. Rudenya: I want to once again draw your attention to the fact that, according to data of military aviation sources of the Russian Federation, the Georgian side’s theory of a violation of the airspace from the Russian side is unsupportable. We presented the data of active monitoring on parity terms of the same lengths of time. At the same time I want to say that we have not yet established the authenticity of the materials of monitoring by the Georgian side. The reason: when we asked the Georgian side for information about the type of the supposedly attacked radar station and its coordinates, in order to clearly outline the zone of operation of this station and to ascertain the conditions of a possible detection by this station of the hypothetical object, we were refused. We will continue work on the materials presented to us, but we emphasize once again that, according to our data, there was no violation by the Russian side of the state border of Georgia.

P. N. Akulenok: The Georgian side has declared that an X-58 missile was launched. Let me specify at once that this “air to radar" missile operates only against radar stations. Upon arriving in Georgia, we immediately asked to be given the characteristics of the Georgian radar station against which a missile had supposedly been launched, in order to compare the possibility of a coincidence of the frequencies on which the radar station and the missile operate. This missile operates in a definite range of frequencies. The leadership of Georgia refused to give us this information. When we arrived at the scene, we discovered that the place where the missile had fallen was covered with earth and leveled off. Thus, we were unable to determine the depth of the crater and its location. But as we studied the photographs submitted by the Georgian side we took notice of the fact that there is no outlining in all the pictures of the crater. It turns out that the Georgian side on the 6th, in order to start work, exploded the upper part of the missile using a TNT charge of 800 grams, which information it does not deny. So, even to speak of what position the missile was in and from where it could have flown in is already becoming unrealistic. After the blast of 800 grams of TNT the position of the missile could have changed. But this is not enough. When we are being told that they can provide full information about the missile, including the year it was made, and offer the photographs to look at – we, having studied the location of the missile and its fragments, drew the conclusion that 2/3 of the missile are missing. And most importantly, the central section, where the wings, engine and warhead are housed and where the missile numbers are written, is not there. To our question where the central part was after all, the Georgian side declared that it had destroyed it. That is, it was destroyed on the same day the missile was retrieved. It is not understandable why that haste.


The Georgian side asked if that was indeed an X-58 missile. I officially declare that individual fragments of the missile could have belonged to an X-58 missile. They are the fourth section of the missile and two missile vanes of the four, which the Georgian side presented to us. The remaining two – it is unknown whether they have them. Also presented were some short fragments. There is nothing more to support that this is an X-58U missile. After inspecting the fourth section of the missile, I asked but how that section had been separated from the main section of the engine. To which the Georgian side began saying that the separation could have occurred from the blast. But upon closer study of the seam it is clearly and distinctly visible that the section was cut off using mechanisms for cutting metals and did not separate due to the blast. That is this section had earlier, very long ago been separated from an X-58 missile. The more detailed study of this cut showed the presence of much corrosion and rust, which on the high-alloy steels of which these missile parts are made do not arise at once. Too little time had passed. So, it can be concluded that this block is not from the missile which they present. It is a long-lain, old block. A second nuance. The missile body which they had taken out of the crater was destroyed. Just imagine, the main fragment, on which the number of the missile, its year of manufacture and the number of the warhead are inscribed, is destroyed, there is nothing to present. A third point. One of the photographs of the Georgian side shows a fragment of a device the inscription on which is executed in a foreign language. According to the Georgian side’s statement, the missile was made in 1991-1992. But, under the legislation of the USSR and the Russian Federation, mounting foreign, imported units on Defense Ministry air attack weapons is prohibited. That is, this block could in no way have appeared either on a Soviet or on a Russian missile. It can thus be concluded that the missile which was taken out of the ground and the one from which the fourth section was presented to us are not one and the same thing.

We also asked the Georgian side where were the remaining missile vanes; they showed us small fragments. But when we wanted to know from what material the vanes were made, we got no answer. For reference: as this is a high-speed missile, its vanes are made from a titanium alloy. The material that was presented to us as the vanes is not titanium unmistakably. To our question whether it was possible to remove some carbon from the fourth control section of the missile and in Moscow to carry out a spectral analysis and ascertain when this carbon formed in time, the Georgian side’s answer was “no".

V. F. Kenaykin: The work of the Russian experts in Georgia has shown that the Georgian version of the incident has fallen apart. To us the invalidity of the assertion about an imaginary involvement of Russia in the incident was clear from the very beginning. It seems the Georgian enthusiasm has also dampened and is now giving off only dull flares. The situation is clearing up, and so we can close the books on this investigation. We can close the books decidedly on Russia’s imaginary involvement in the incident. At the same time, we expressed our readiness to continue joint work towards identifying the forces which are not fully controlled by the central leadership and are capable of planning and carrying out this kind of provocation. But our offer was turned down. Also bewildering is the position of the so called independent group of experts that visited the place. One has the impression that that was not a case of expert work done, but one of political work and far from independent. They issued a politicized statement not predicated on any facts. They used the one-sided Georgian information. If it had been an independent group, then it should have shown interest in contacts with the Russian expert group. Yet the group, according to our information, is in Tbilisi, but did not want to get in touch with us. The question arises, to what extent one can regard this group as independent after this. We close the books on this so far, but if the Georgian side accepts our offer of cooperation, we will proceed further.

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