EC Rejects Yugoslav Version of Copter Downing
The European Community on Saturday rejected the Yugoslav Defense Ministry’s account of the downing of an EC helicopter by the army, saying its flight plan had been cleared by authorities in advance.
EC mission spokesman Joao Da Silva told reporters that the day before Tuesday’s incident, the EC had sought the approval of federal air controllers to make the flight from Belgrade to Zagreb, the Croatian capital, via Hungary.
“An official from the federal administration for flight control in Belgrade confirmed that the flight had been approved,” Da Silva said.
He said a Defense Ministry statement giving the initial findings of a panel of inquiry contains “inaccurate facts.”
Four unarmed Italian soldiers and one Frenchman monitoring a U.N.-brokered cease-fire were killed when a MIG-21’s missile blasted their helicopter out of the skies over Croatia.
A second EC helicopter on the same flight was also attacked and forced to make a crash landing.
The Defense Ministry said Friday night that the panel of inquiry had found that the EC mission had traveled on the Hungary-to-Zagreb leg of its flight without a go-ahead from federal authorities.
It said the observer mission had also neglected to inform air control in Belgrade and told only regional air control authorities in Zagreb.
It announced that criminal proceedings had been initiated against an air force officer, and that four other officers face military disciplinary action over the incident.