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Chronicle 1983

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    • 31 August - 1 September


      A Boeing 747 civilian passenger airliner with 269 people on board goes 300 miles off course while flying from Alaska to Seoul and enters Soviet air space. The reasons for the deviation remain unknown to this day. Acting on orders, the Soviet SU-15 pilot Osipovich shoots down the plane with two missiles. The plane crashes into the Sea of Japan. None of the passengers – who include 63 Americans – survives.

      American-Soviet relations reach their nadir. In a radio address on 5 September, US President Reagan describes the downing of the plane as a "massacre" six times and condemns it as a crime against humanity; however, he declines to take radical measures. On 6 September, the Soviet TASS news agency tries to justify the shooting down of the plane; it says the aircraft was a spy plane under orders from the US government.

      On 7 September, the Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko publicly defends the action during his speech at the closing session of the CSCE in Madrid. A meeting between US Secretary of State Shultz and his counterpart Gromyko in Madrid on 8 September, which was originally supposed to provide the basis for a new disarmament initiative, is instead marked by a heated dispute over the shooting down of the plane. less
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