ANKARA, Turkey -- A wounded Soviet air force pilot commandeered a MiG-29 jetfighter after a shootout at a Black Sea airbase Saturday and made a daring flight to Turkey, where he requested political asylum in the United States.
The Soviet Foreign Ministry immediately summoned Turkish ambassador Vocan Vural in Moscow and demanded the immediate return of the aircraft and pilot, the official Tass news agency said. A Turkish diplomat said the jetfighter would be returned but gave no indication of the pilot's fate.
Turkey's semi-official Anatolian news agency said the pilot, Alexander Zuyev, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the shoulder, asked for political asylum in the United States immediately after landing at Trabzon airport in northeastern Turkey at 5.10 a.m. The request was relayed to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.
The defection was believed to be the first by a Soviet pilot across the Turkish border.
'After making an armed attack on a sentry who was guarding the parking area of combat aircraft and wounding him with firearms, Alexander Zuyev, a military pilot who had been discharged from flying duties for health reasons, hijacked a fighter plane from Tskhakaya airfield (near Batumi in Soviet Georgia) to Trabzon airfield in Turkey today,' Tass said.
Diplomatic sources said the 28-year-old pilot also suffered gunshot wounds in the shootout with guards but managed to get the aircraft off the ground and out of Soviet airspace before landing in Trabzon, about 100 miles from the Soviet airbase on the Black Sea.
Zuyev asked for permission to land after entering Turkish air space. The Trabzon control tower told him to turn back but he insisted on landing, and permission was then granted, Anatolian said.
But air traffic controllers refused permission for a second Soviet plane to land at Trabzon when it unexpectedly showed up late Saturday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
He said the second plane carried technicians and apparently another pilot, sent from the Soviet Union to take the Mig-29 back. Trabzon airport was closed when it showed up, and Turkish officials had not expected the technicians until Sunday, in Ankara.
Tass did not identify the type of aircraft used in the defection, but Turkish officials described it as a MiG-29, a highly sophisticated jetfighter produced beginning in 1985 to replace the aging MiG-21 and MiG-23.
A Turkish diplomat said Zuyev underwent surgery for his wounds and was 'now recovering from his operation in Trabzon.'
'He has requested asylum in the United States and our government is dealing with the matter,' he said.
'The USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested that the Turkish government extradite the criminal offender and return the plane,' Tass said.
The diplomat said the Ankara government immediately consented to the Soviet request to return the aircraft. 'The Turkish government wants to maintain good ties with the Soviet Union,' the diplomat said. 'Our governments have agreed that a team of Soviet airmen will go to Trabzon tomorrow and bring the aircraft back to the Soviet Union.'
'This incident has not affected our relationship in any way,' he added.