ANKARA, Turkey -- Soviet officials flew a MiG-29 jet fighter back to the Soviet Union Sunday, but left behind the wounded air force pilot who a day earlier made a daring flight to Turkey and asked for politicial asylum in America.
Turkish officials said the MiG-29 took off at 4.30 p.m. from Trabzon airport on the Black Sea, and was escorted by Turkish air force jets to Soviet air space. The plane had several bullet holes in the side from a shootout Saturday in the Soviet Union.
Soviet technicians who arrived early Sunday aboard a Ilyushin transport plane inspected the MiG-29 to ensure that it was airworthy, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. The technicians dismantled 4 air-to-surface missiles on board the MiG-29 and loaded them onto the Ilyushin.
The Soviet Foreign Ministry Saturday demanded the return of the plane and the pilot. Ankara kept good on its promise to return the plane but said the pilot's request for political asylum in the United States was being examined.
Soviet air force Capt. Alexander Zuyev, 28, was still recovering in a hospital at the Black Sea city of Trabzon from a bullet wound in the right shoulder. Zuyev said he was shot by Soviet guards early Saturday as he made a dash to the MiG-29 at the air base near Batumi in Soviet Georgia.
Zuyev said two other Soviet air force pilots were to have defected with him but changed their minds at the last moment, after returning from air maneuvers, according to the newspaper Tercum.
'I decided to run away alone. I left them and started walking toward (another) plane. At that moment they started shooting at me,' Zuyev told hospital staff Saturday. The newspaper quoted an unnamed doctor who learned the story from the staff.
The newspaper said Zuyev originally intended to defect in the plane he had flown in the maneuvers but switched to the MiG-29, which apparently was covered with tarpaulin. Reporters in Trabzon said shreds of tarpaulin were still hanging from parts of the plane after it landed.
Zuyev reportedly skimmed 30 to 40 yards above the Black Sea to avoid detection by Soviet radar.
'Despite the fact thatI was wounded in the arm, I very quickly got into the air,' Zuyev said. 'I arrived in Trabzon and landed the plane near the terminal building. I don't regret it. I want to go to the states,' he said.
Zuyev has refused to speak to reporters or be photographed, covering his face with a blanket when reporters entered his room. A translator said Zuyev promised to hold a news conference later.
Saturday, the official Soviet news agency Tass said Zuyev attacked a sentry. It said he previously had been discharged because of health reasons.
A doctor, who asked not to be named, said besides the bullet wound in his right shoulder, Zayev also had bruises on his body as though he had been beaten with a stick.
The MiG-29 was the second Soviet military aircraft to be flown to Turkey since 1973, when a Soviet pilot landed a military observer plane at a Black Sea city and asked for political asylum in the United States. His request was granted and the plane was returned to the Soviet Union.
Two civilian aircraft on domestic flights in the Soviet Union were hijacked to Turkey in 1970 and 1982, respectively, and the defectors asked for political asylum in the United States.