Lithuania rejects Russian demands to hand over downed fighter pilot

The Foreign Ministry rejected request from Moscow to hand over a Russian air force pilot whose fighter jet crashed in the Baltic country, since the pilot is considered to be a suspect in the crash investigation.

Maj. Valery Troyanov's Su-27 fighter bomber crashed last week in Lithuania while en route from St. Petersburg to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. He is suspected of violating Lithuanian airspace and will not be released until the investigation is completed, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Albinas Januska said.

Moscow had demanded Monday that Lithuania hand Troyanov and the crashed plane back to Russia, saying the crash was an accident and the pilot should therefore have immunity from prosecution.

Russian Defense Ministry officials told their Lithuanian counterparts the day of the crash that the jet was unarmed, but investigators found two air-to-air missiles in the wreckage.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas underlined in his turn that only diplomats, not pilots have immunity, the AP reports.

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