S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 001012
STATE FOR EUR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/22/2015
TAGS: MOPS PGOV PINS PREL LH RS UP
SUBJECT: SU-27 CRASH: LITHUANIA TAKING DECISIONS ON BLACK
REF: A. SECSTATE 176092
Â¶B. VILNIUS 993
Classified By: Political-Economic Officer Nancy Cohen for
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
Â¶1. (C) Summary. The GOL accepted Ukraine's offer of
assistance in analyzing data on the black boxes recovered
from the Russian Su-27. The Government softened its rhetoric
against Russia today, stating that there is no evidence to
prove the Russian aircraft willfully violated Lithuanian
airspace and that the incident posed no real threat to
security. Lithuanian officials are working to expedite the
Su-27 pilot's return to Russia. End Summary.
Â¶2. (C) Ambassador and DCM discussed with Minister of Defense
Kirkilas and other GOL officials Lithuania's plans for moving
forward on the investigation of the crashed Su-27 per ref A
instructions. Kirkilas reported to the Ambassador September
23 that Ukraine has offered to send a mobile team to Vilnius
to decode the black box, and asked whether the USG had any
concerns about Lithuania accepting the offer. MOD U/S
Renatas Norkus noted that France, which reportedly has mobile
decoding capability, did not respond on September 22 to
Lithuania's urgent request for assistance on this matter.
Ambassador acknowledged that the Ukrainian offer represented
an immediate resolution to the decoding issue and advised the
GOL to accept it. (The Ministry of Defense subsequently told
the local press that the Ukrainians would do the job.)
Drawing on ref A points, Ambassador suggested that the GOL
submit a formal request to NATO for help on other aspects of
the investigation, and the DefMin agreed to do so.
Â¶3. (C) Ambassador told Kirkilas, as he had FM Valionis on
September 22, that the GOL should allow pilot Valery
Troyanov's return to Russia. Kirkilas agreed (as had
Valionis) and said the GOL is working with the Prosecutor
General to effect the release as soon as possible. President
Adamkus also told the Ambassador today that he wanted
Troyanov released "as soon as possible." The DefMin and
Commander of the Lithuanian Armed Forces met with the pilot
and his wife September 23 to, in his words, "emphasize
humanitarian support for this family that has been caught in
a quite unusual situation." U/S Norkus told DCM that the
pilot could be released as early as September 24 or 25.
Â¶4. (C) To give the Lithuanians political cover to get the
pilot out of here and combat charges that NATO allies had
abandoned the GOL, the Ambassador provided a radio interview
in which he:
-- praised Lithuania's calm, constructive response and
decision to work with the Russians in an open, transparent
-- expressed expectation of a quick and smooth resolution;
-- noted that the matter attracted NATO attention as well,
and that while he couldn't speak for NATO, he was sure the
alliance would work closely with the Lithuanians on any
appropriate follow-up; and
-- expressed U.S. enthusiasm for the assumption of its NATO
air patrol responsibilities in the Baltics next week.
We provided these remarks to the MFA and distributed them to
the local wire service for the widest play.
Â¶5. (U) The Minister of Defense, presenting preliminary
conclusions regarding the plane in a press conference later
on September 23, said he had no evidence that the Russian
plane's violation of Lithuanian airspace was deliberate.
"Based on the latest information I have received today, I
would like to declare with responsibility that the
widely-discussed possibility of a willful violation of
Lithuania's airspace can be discarded. Today we do not
possess any facts to prove it," the Minister told the press.
Kirkilas also emphasized that the incident "poses no real
threat to the security of our country, NATO, and the EU."
Â¶6. (C) Comment: The GOL is working quietly off-camera with
NATO partners and others allies to complete the investigation
of the crash. Today's more amicable public line reflects the
GOL's hope for a concomitant cooling of rhetoric from Russia.
Â¶7. (S) One element of ref A that we have not yet shared with
the Lithuanians is our judgment that the incident resulted
from equipment failure. Such an analysis will prompt
questions here about our interpretation of the pilot's
disengagement from a formation flying over the Baltic Sea,
his switched-off transponder, his reported repeated circling
of Kaunas, and misleading Russian responses about the plane's
cargo. We would much appreciate more information on the U.S.
analysis in order to fend off such questions.