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13/16
November 2001
5762 Kheshvan

"SINISTER ANECDOTE"
MIKHAIL FRENKEL
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... We wandered in the darkness. We knew no way to the light.

After the terrible September 11 events there were some voices saying that "Americans with their Hollywood horror movies brought the disaster upon themselves". This point of view is rather disputable though in those days, of course, some "stunning" film tricks flashed in our memory.

Then there were the October 4 events. Though the situation with the TU-154 plane shot down by Ukrainian missile is tragic one can't help from remembering a classical Russian saying - "Sinister anecdote". There was one popular in the Soviet times: "An infuriated general burst into the ballistic missile launching room and shouted: "Who, sons of a bitch, has pressed the button? I don't care a bit of that Australia! I want to know why there is no discipline and order in the missile troops?!"

This sinister anecdote in that October day became a terrible reality. Many people understood that there is no order in Ukrainian missile troops. And not only in them. One may say it is a hasty conclusion, there were other versions, though less real. But today everything is clear already. So, what can one say?

The authors of the tragedy were not lucky. At that time, after the September 11 events, the fear of terrorism reined over the world and it was easy to try to shift the responsibility to a terrorism act. However, the Russian plane was on the route from the Ben-Gurion airport, which is considered to be one of the safest airports in the world. Besides, there were Americans, who, apparently, didn't want to officially interfere into the case, organized "information leakage" from the Pentagon where they use services of satellite-spies. To crown it all, the reporter of the popular TV "1+1" channel without any bad intention played a trick "on the military, who let him to the launching range. Without knowing about the tragedy yet, he joyfully said, when reporting, that "two missiles didn't hit the target and went over the horizon ... in the direction of Sochi".

On those days I received many calls from my friends from Israeli radio. They inquired about the official version and asked: "Why did Kuchma say such a strange phrase about the tragedy?", "What do people say? Do they feel pity or don't care for "others"?"

I answered what I thought. I didn't try to make it smooth, neither did I compress the situation. The topic was very painful.

The initial official version of the Ukrainian military about their non-involvement in the incident was hardly believable at once. One could wonder what they would say when everything was cleared up. Like in the same sinister anecdote, the memory recollected the case with A.A.Gromyko "the patriarch" of the Soviet foreign policy. Answering the question of "impudent" foreign reporters on what had happened with the South-Korean "Boing" after it met the Soviet jet-fighter, he calmly said: "It went into the direction of the Pacific ocean". When the Soviet diplomats were pressed with convincing proofs afterwards, a high official of the USSR Foreign Ministry cynically told the same reporters that their Russian was very bad and they misunderstood A.A.Gromyko. Comrade A.A.Gromyko, in his opinion, said the truth because "it went into the direction of the Pacific ocean" means "it fell into the Pacific ocean". Such a "philological story".

Defense Minister of Ukraine Alexander Kuzmuk didn't rely on philology. Apparently, he relied on amnesia of those who heard his first after-incident statements. Nothing else can explain the fact that at first he decisively waived off the "missile track" in the catastrophe of the TU-154 plane. Then, when the truth became vivid, he said that he handed his resignation report to the President on the first day already, for he understood what the missile launching in the Crimea had finished in. No comments are needed...

As to the famous phrase of Leonid Kuchma, I am sure he didn't intend to hurt the feelings of relatives and countrymen of the perished. Without vindication of anyone, I would say that journalists do know that most of our post-Soviet politicians of the highest rank sometimes give awkward answers to unexpected questions. This is what happened with L.Kuchma too. L.Kuchma wanted to say that there were many other urgent problems in the world stricken with panic of terrorism, however, it came out ...

What is done cannot be undone. In some days afterwards, the President in his TV address said all the words needed. He expressed his deep regret and excuse to the relatives of the perished, to the peoples of Israel and Russia. By the way, due to many reasons the TU-154 catastrophe seems not to cause any complications in relations between Ukraine and Israel, Russia. Though, of course, the compensation problem may be painful. This, however, cannot be avoided.

And now about the attitude of a "common" Ukrainian to the TU-154 incident. After the acts of terrorism in the USA one could hear people saying that America was also to be blamed for imposing its will all over the world. Nothing of the kind was with the TU-154 tragedy. I never heard foul words about the deaths of "alien" people. It was worth remembering the last year incident with a "stray" missile that hit the residential building in Brovary not far from Kiev. The behavior of the "valorous" military was the same as with the TU-154 case. At first, they hearty lied that they had not nothing to do with the case but then acknowledged the guilt under the pressure of convincing proofs. Several people were killed then. Everyone understood that he might have been at the place hit by the missile, moreover, it could have fallen at any other place. That is why the TU-154 tragedy called for no other feeling but compassion to the innocent victims.

Though, some politicians of different trends tried to use the situation in order to declare their position. There were statements about enemies that "cowardly tripped Ukraine up". This time, however, the enemies were sought not in the Middle East but the near east. For example, the statement of the Ukrainian People's Ruch said that it did not exclude the possibility that this tragedy was related to the intention of Russia to prolong the term of the Russian Black Sea Navy in the Crimea for an indefinite period and that was an element of the deeply hidden game, even with participation of the secret service.

Did anyone doubt that it was the "cursed moskali" who shot down their own plane in order to hardly harm the obstinate neighbors? If seriously, the constant accusations of "national-patriots" are intentional attempts to receive a political indulgence in case they are asked what contributions they have made to Ukraine.

More honest was the position of the opposition. The address of the Congress of public organizations of Ukraine said: "We, on behalf of millions of Ukrainian citizens, ask the world community for an excuse ... for insincere statements of officials and military who tried to delude our Motherland and the world public. We state that the officials and generals do not constitute the whole Ukrainian people. We appeal to the world public to keep no malice against Ukraine, the best sons and daughters of which are fighting nowadays for the ideals of democracy and justice".

As one can see, there is no uniform point of view among Ukrainian politicians on what has happened. Unanimity was only about the retirement of Alexander Kuzmuk. It did take place. Will he be found guilty of what has happened?

TV shots showing high-rank military who bluntly lied using different charts of the "stray" missile flight are of no interest any more. They are boring. I would not like to discuss them in this article. However, there is no doubt that it is the highest military officials of Ukraine who are, first of all, responsible for the disaster by having permitted the missile launching in the an inappropriate area, close to civil sea and air routes. There is fear, however, that the "guilty" person will be the one who in the presence of the high command was better than others in launching but mixed the training target will the civil plane. As it is usually said: "We tried to do better but it came out bad, as usual".

Nowadays, with a grief irony, we should appreciate and pay tribute to the sensible decision of the first President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuck who sanctioned the destruction of the Soviet nuclear ballistic missile located on the territory of Ukraine. As the recent tragic event shows, if the weapons of this kind got into the hands of Kuzmuk's gallant generals, the sinister anecdote, said above, might have become true.

... Meanwhile, Ukraine shall have a new Minister of Defense. Rumors say he will be civil. I see no difference. The only thing that matters, he should be a responsible and honest man. Only such a person is entitled to this post.

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