Lithuanian air force chief fire because of classified information revealed to Russia

The commander of Lithuania's armed forces said Tuesday that the country's air force chief, who was fired Monday, had revealed classified information to Russian officers during the investigation of a crashed Russian fighter bomber.

On Monday, Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas declined to give a reason why Marcinkus was fired, saying only that it was related to the crashed jet. On Tuesday, Kirkilas told reporters that Marcinkus had "certain problems with alcohol," but did not say whether that was a factor in him being fired. The plane crashed in Lithuania while traveling from St. Petersburg to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. The pilot ejected safely and is being held by Lithuania pending the result of the investigation. Two of the four German F-4 jets responsible for policing the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for NATO intercepted the crashing jet after the pilot had ejected and just before it hit the ground, a NATO spokesman has said.

Marcinkus was criticized by Lithuanian media for taking too long to alert the NATO jets about the Russian plane after it was picked up by Lithuanian air force radar. Investigators, with help from Ukrainian experts, are decoding the plane's two flight data recorders, and the investigation is expected to conclude near the end of this week, the AP reports.

Kirkilas said last week that the crash was almost certainly unintentional and that the pilot would likely be sent back to Russia without charge. AM

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