Lithuania releases pilot of crashed Russian jet fighter

Authorities on Thursday released the pilot of a Russian military plane that crashed in Lithuania, saying he was no longer suspected of violating the airspace.

Maj. Valery Troyanov ejected safely when his Su-27 fighter bomber crashed in the Lithuanian countryside on Sept. 15. He was detained and placed in house arrest as authorities investigated his role in the crash, which has been ruled an accident.

"Troyanov is no longer a suspect in this case. I ordered the case to be closed," Prosecutor Mendaugas Duda said after meeting Troyanov at his office.

The pilot was handed over to Russian Embassy officials waiting for him in a car outside the prosecutor's office.

The crashed fighter was part of a convoy of Russian aircraft given permission to fly through an agreed "corridor" over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Lithuanian officials said.

Lithuania's Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said Tuesday that investigators found the crash was a combination of human error and technical failure.

The crash further strained tense relations between Russia and Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, and Moscow had repeatedly called for the pilot to be released.

The prosecutor's decision Thursday was welcomed in Russia.

"That was the only possible end to the misunderstanding caused by the unfortunate crash of the Su-27 fighter," Russian lawmaker Pavel Krasheninnikov was quoted as saying by news agency ITAR-Tass.

Lithuanian officials have said they recovered a top secret identification device from the wreckage of the plane, but Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Wednesday that the system had self-destructed and its codes couldn't be used, reports the AP.


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