German who landed in Red Square

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In the midst of the Cold War, a 19-year-old West German made a mockery of Soviet air defenses. On May 28, 1987, Mathias Rust flew a borrowed Cessna from Helsinki, Finland, to Moscow's Red Square - and landed there.

Mr. Rust had logged only 40 hours of flight time. He said the flight was in the interest of world peace. After landing, he signed autographs until he was arrested.

The stunt earned him a four-year prison term from a Soviet court. It also prompted then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to dismiss two high-ranking military officials. But after Rust's parents and a number of countries pleaded for clemency, Rust was freed after 14 months.

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After his release, Rust fell in love with a nurse while working in a German hospital. When she rebuffed his advances, he became violent. Rust was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison.

In 1994, Rust returned to Russia to visit an orphanage, and dropped out of sight. He was spotted again in 1997 selling shoes in Moscow. He reportedly has converted to Hinduism and was planning to marry an Indian woman and return to Germany.

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(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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