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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Hands KAL Data to South Korea, U. S.

President Boris Yeltsin gave 9-year-old transcripts of conversations from the cockpit of the downed KAL-007 flight to American and Korean delegations Wednesday.


Calling the incident "a Cold War catastrophe and the most terrible tragedy of our country", Yeltsin said, "We regret that we are not capable of undoing the wrong".


The transcripts taken from the black box in the airplane - which was shot down by a Russian pilot over Sakhalin Island on Sept. 1, 1983, killing all 269 passengers and crew - were among 12 documents transferred.


Yeltsin gave the information at ceremonies in the Kremlin's St. Catherine's Hall to four Korean officials and five American family members. He also gave identical papers to Izvestia, which, he said, will make them available to the mass media.


He also regretted "that our country did not tell the truth about what happened", he said.


It was unclear what the documents, all translated into Russian, will reveal about the flight. The portfolios included reports from the Ministry of Civil Air Defense, the KGB, the Soviet Navy as well as pictures and maps, Yeltsin said.


Yeltsin handed them over to Sang Hyan Chang, South Korea's deputy minister of transport and head of the Korean delegation and to Hans Ephraimson-Abt, whose daughter, Alice, 23, was killed in the incident. Over 100 South Koreans, 63 Americans and 101 citizens from 14 other ; countries perished in the incident.


"Our tragedy was the last effigy of the Cold War", said Ephraimson-Abt, chairman of the American Association for Families of KAL-007 Victims. "We hope we will learn if bodies were found and what was among the debris that was recovered by Soviet ships". "Our main focus is to get information about the bodies and personal belongings", said Nicola Truppin, whose father and stepmother perished in the airplane. "But we hope that Yeltsin will grant an ex gratia sum, which is customary between countries". She said the amount sought would not exceed $75, 000.


William Stevens, who lost his Japanese wife of nine months in the KAL incident, said he was relieved by the day's events.


"We've come a long way, but it's not easy to go through this", Stevens said. "It never goes away, but Yeltsin's humanitarian gesture has helped me and my family's wife deal with the grief. After all, what is life? It's your family".


A Bush administration official traveling with the delegation said, "Our sole interest is not to rehash Cold War" incidents but to help account for what


happened to the family members. Some of the families have not had funerals".


He added that, "We are quite confident that the documents will confirm that it wasn't a spy mission". He noted that the U. S. government had released all documents concerning the case in recent years.


The American delegation will spend two days in Moscow meeting with Russian officials about the documents as they are translated.


Yeltsin said he would give identical information to the Canadian and Japanese governments and the International Civil Aviation Organization on Thursday.


Ephraimson-Abt said Yeltsin told the group that he wants to build a monument to the victims of KAL-007 and hold a memorial service.