VILNIUS - Before the Russian Su-27 fighter investigation is complete, President Valdas Adamkus said, the public must refrain from jumping to conclusions about the crash, namely that it could spoil mutual relations between Russia and Lithuania.
"Let's not draw hasty conclusions. First of all, facts have to be collected and then we will consider what effect on international relations it may have," Adamkus told journalists.
While apparently taking part in a training mission, one of six Russian fighter jets illegally entered Lithuanian airspace and subsequently crashed in the Sakiai district, some 50 kilometers from Kaunas on Sept. 15 (see Lithuanian news). According to preliminary reports, the Su-27 crashed due to a failure with navigational equipment.
The pilot ejected safely from the aircraft by parachute and landed in the neighboring district of Jurbarkas. Luckily, there were no casualties.
However, the incident has caused much consternation between the two countries, as well as raising questions over NATO's ability to monitor airspace violations.
Prosecutors, suspicious that pilot Valery Troyanov knowingly violated international flight regulations, have placed the Russian under house arrest. The pilot is currently staying at a hotel in Vilnius.
Shortly after the crash, Russia demanded that the pilot be returned home, but Lithuania objected. Officials replied that the pilot's fate would depend on the results of an investigation into the cause of the crash.
The plane, which was flying from St. Petersburg to a base in the Kaliningrad region, is believed to have lost orientation due to a navigation failure, and then crashed after its fuel ran out.
When confronted about the Lithuanian border agreement, which has not been ratified by Latvia's Parliament, Adamkus rhetorically asked whether "one political issue that has not been agreed upon can destroy unity."
"There are disagreements in a good family as well. If we do not agree on one issue or another, it should not impede joint work," the president said.
The Lithuanian-Latvian sea border treaty was signed in 1999. Lithuania's Parliament ratified it the same year, while Latvia has delayed due to political reasons.