OSLO, Norway -- An Austrian pilot who twice strayed into Soviet airspace apparently was attempting to commemorate the flight of West German Mathias Rust, who landed in Red Square a year ago, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
Andreas Sommer, an Austrian national living in Hamburg, West Germany, claimed bad weather forced him last Saturday to fly his single-engine plane over Soviet territory that included the world's largest concentration of nuclear weapons bases.
'Soviet air defenses were scrambled to intercept the plane but took no direct action,' a Defense Ministry source said on condition of anonymity.
'It appears that with the summit coming up the Soviet command decided not to cause an incident,' the source added, referring to the Moscow summit between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan.
Moscow lodged a formal protest with Norway Tuesday, claiming that Sommer deliberately entered Soviet airspace while flying between Finland and Norway, the Foreign Ministry said.
Chief Foreign Ministry spokesman Lasse Seim told United Press International, 'it is reasonable to assume' the flight 'was done in order to mark the first anniversary of Mathias Rust's flight, which took place exactly a year ago.'
Rust, a West German amateur pilot, is serving a four-year labor camp sentence in the Soviet Union for flying his Cessna 172 unchallenged from Finland to Moscow and landing in Red Square last May. The incident led to the dismissal of Soviet Defense Minister Sergei Sokolov and several senior military officers.
Foreign Ministry officials said Sommer flew a single-propeller Cessna 172 identical to Rust's from the northern Finnish town of Ivalo en route to the Norwegian town of Kirkenes at the northern end of the 120-mile Soviet-Norwegian border. While flying over the Pasvik River, the Cessna changed course and headed over Soviet territory.
On the return flight the same day, the pilot made an even longer detour into Soviet airspace over the Kola Peninsula, home of the world's largest concentration of nuclear weapons bases, officials said.
The West German news agency DPA said in a report from the Finnish capital of Helsinki that when Sommer landed in Ivalo he told interrogators that bad weather forced him off his route.
'He said it was the weather. We told him to leave Finland,' a Finnish Border Guard spokesman said.
In West Germany, Wolfgang Neuman, owner of a perfume distribution company in Munich, said he wants to sell Rust's Cessna for $250,000, The Washington Post reported.
Neumann bought the aircraft last year to use it to promote his company's products at exhibits but potential sponsors backed off, fearing they would offend the Soviet Union, the Post said.