Observations on the Military Prosecutors’ Recent Communiques on the Status of Investigations into December 1989 (III, the Case of General Iosif Rus)

For previous episodes in this series, please see:



(for recent use of my work, see Andrei Ursu, Mădălin Hodor, Roland O. Thomasson, „Cine a tras în noi după 22?”Studiu asupra vinovățiilor pentru victimele Revoluției Române din decembrie 1989)


Characteristic of the quality of what the military prosecutors have thus far presented to the public is the example of one of the accusations against the head of the Air Force in December 1989, General Iosif Rus.  The most recent communique of the SPM (12/21/2018) is less specific, perhaps truncated because of the broader discussion, but still contains the same basic allegation against Rus:  on 23 December 1989, he purposely dispatched a helicopter to fly to the TV tower in central Bucharest, but instructed those at the Titu-Boteni base to intentionally paint over the roundel on the helicopter and replace it with other symbols of a different geometric shape.  The insinuation is that the plane was supposedly to look like a “terrorist” aircraft–i.e. those supposedly fighting against the change of regime on behalf of Nicolae Ceausescu–and thus give the impression of a “terrorist” attack against TVR(L) and the leaders of the National Salvation Front (Ion Iliecu, et. al.) who had seized power.

It is important to understand the symbiotic nature of this accusation with the broader accusation of the military prosecutors that no “terrorists” actually existed, that those who seized power and the heads of the military intentionally created the image of a non-existent enemy to manufacture revolutionary credibility and legitimacy for themselves and prevent others from seizing power.

This accusation was enthusiastically and uncritically embraced by certain segments of the public, particularly those long convinced that no “terrorists” actually existed and that the heads of the Ceausescu military were responsible for manufacturing the diversion.  Here is a classic example (from social media), whereby the author bellows, “these are the facts, which cannot be ignored in research.”

Nu băieții cu ochi albaștri, ci comandantul aviației, generalul Rus, este cel care a poruncit în 23 decembrie 1989 ca elicopterelor de la Regimentul 61 Elicoptere Boteni să le fie schimbate, prin revopsire, cocardele tricolore de pe fuselaj și înlocuite cu alte însemne, de alt format geometric. Astea-s faptele, care nu trebuie neglijate în cercetare.

The author of these words simply accepts the military prosecutors’ accusation at face value.  It must be true, right?  I mean, military prosecutors, accusing one of “their own,” a fellow military man, and a general no less?  I would offer that the author does not question the allegation, in large part because it converges with his narrative of what he thinks happened in December 1989.

Let us examine the claim of the military prosecutors:  that the order 1) was given on 23 December, 2) was connected directly to the flight to the TV station, 3) intended to confuse those on the ground, and 4) (implied) was part of the broader plan to create the appearance of an in fact non-existent adversary.

a) These allegations are completely upended by the claims of Comandor inginer Marian Pavel who was at Boteni during these memorable days in December 1989.  Pavel recounts that on the afternoon of 22 December 1989:

“After Nicolae and Ceausescu were put down in a field [this was after the pilot of their helicopter was forced to land or facing being shot down], Major Suciu ordered us in the S.L.A. [apparently ground/maintenance/livery crew] to paint over the roundels that were on the underside of the helicopters, that was in the form of a star, and to make them into a flag, therefore a rectangle, and to take off immediately, in order to perform aerial reconnaissance on all the nearby roads.”

In other words, the painting of the helicopters happened on 22 December and not 23 December as the military prosecutors allege, and preceded/was connected not to the flight to the TV station, but to the search for the Ceausescus.  Pavel relates that the order was relayed from Major Suciu, which means that it nevertheless could have come from Rus (although elsewhere Rus suggests the initiative was Suciu’s and not his).  The logic behind painting over the roundels is not clear from this revelation, but it hardly sounds to be the nefarious and truncated claim that the military prosecutors made:  the “other geometric shape and form” was a rectangular flag of the Romanian tricolor, and thus likely showing their allegiance to Ceausescu’s overthrow (and possibly not to be shot down by those who also supported his overthrow).  Below, in Romanian, and then we shall continue the discussion.

Marian Pavel (r): “Dupa ce Nicolae si Elena Ceausescu au fost lasati in camp, maior Suciu a ordonat la S.L.A sa vopsim cocardele de pe burta elicopterelor, care erau sub forma de stea…” (Eroica, 2015)

Comandor inginer (r) Marian Pavel, “La Boteni in Decembrie 1989,” Revista ‘Eroica,’ nr. 1-2 (2015), pp. 24-26.

–sa le facem sub forma de drapel, adica dreptunghiulare, si sa decolam de urgenta, sa facem o cercetare aeriana pe toate soselele din imprejurimi.”





b) support for the idea that far from being an effort to give the impression that the helicopters belonged to the supposedly non-existent “terrorists,” their intention was to ensure the opposite…even if it came to be tragically misinterpreted and caused confusion.

In fact, this is exactly what a civilian journalist argued in March 1990:

“Attention, in order to avoid confusion however, on the underbelly of the helicopters and on the sides, the tricolor was painted over the roundels…”

Thus, if this was, as the military prosecutors have alleged, some secret effort to fool everybody, to make people believe in non-existent “terrorists”…it would have made little sense to introduce the issue into the media, and expose the supposed dastardly operation.

De la Boteni, insa, nu s-a speriat nimeni si cea mai buna dovada este ca pina si pilotul maior Zamfir pornea la cerere in ziua urmatoare doboririi sale la o noua misiune, cum au pornit si alte elicoptere militare venite in apararea Bucurestiului, de atacurile truperlor teroriste. Atentie, insa, ca sa nu se dea loc la confuzii, pe ‘burta’ elicopterelor si lateral, peste cocarda a fost vopsit tricolorul, iar piloti Botenilor au actionat cu cura impotriva teroristilor din Cimitirul Ghencea, ca si a altora, care trageau in alte zone ale Capitalei, in Floreasca, bunaoara, la una dintre misiuni, s-au localizat pe blocuri teroristi care trageau de pe acoperis, dar faptul ca jos se afla armata impreuna cu garzile patriotice nu a permis actionarea cu foc, pentru a nu periclita viata fortelor revolutionare.

Horia Alexandrescu, “Misterele de la Boteni (IV):  Fata in fata cu ‘Razboiul Electronic’,” Tineretul Liber, 18 martie 1990.

c) further confirmation that what was painted on the helicopter that flew to and supposedly intentionally attacked the TV station, comes from none other than the pilot of that helicopter, Captain Comandor Adrian Constantinescu who says “we had a tricolor painted” on the tail/fuselage.

Domnule căpitan-comandor (r) Adrian Constantinescu, în decembrie 1989 eraţi pilot militar încadrat la Regimentul 61 Elicoptere, care se afla la Titu-Boteni.

– Dar, dumneavoastră, pe elicopter, ce marcaje aveaţi?

Aveam vopsit tricolorul pe coadă.


Un elicopter la Televiziune, în Caietele Revoluţiei Nr.2 (34)/2011, 72 – 77




d) finally, a poster who gives a detailed account of the incident from his vantage point on the 23 December 1989 in the TV area, inadvertently gives confirmation to the claims made above, that these were not some strange, intentional (false) “terrorist” markings, but “a rectangle with the colors of the Romanian flag and a circle (roundel?) with the colors of the Romanian flag!”

Victor Says:

Adevarul despre elicopterul care a tras in curtea televiziunii in dimineata zilei de 23 decembrie 1989
1,S- a tras imediat dupa ora 8 dimineata
2.Inainte de acest eveniment un colonel de infanterie a dat ordin parasutistilor si ne-a spus si noua celor din garzile patrotice ISPE ca daca apare un elicopter sa nu tragem in el deoarece vine sa traga in teroristi,nu in noi.
3.Dupa ce elicopterul a tras in curtea TV ,colonelul de infanterie care era foarte in varsta a disparut.
4.Dupa ce a tras ca sa ne omoare ( din fericire a ratat ) am riscat ca sa vad care erau insemnele si am INGHETAT,avea atat dreptunghiul cu culorile drapelului Romaniei dar si un cerc cu culorile drapelului Romaniei !
Acesta a fost ADEVARUL ! in cazul elicopterului !
Au fost si altele pana atunci !


CONCLUSION:  It should be abundantly clear that the accusations (rather innuendo) of the military prosecutors is way off and the details of the repainted helicopter have been truncated and decontextualized to fit into a broader, incorrect narrative.  (As to the existence of “terrorists” in the vicinity of the TV tower and firing upon it–the reason, not “pretext” for why the helicopter was summoned in the first place, I may return in a later episode).  For now, the pertinent excerpts from two of the recent SPM communiques referenced in the introduction to this episode.

Totodată, inculpatul Iosif Rus, în calitate de comandant al Aviaţiei Militare, ar fi intervenit în noaptea de 22/23.12.1989, fără drept şi în deplină cunoştinţă de cauză, asupra planului de apărare a Aeroportului Internaţional Otopeni şi ar fi contribuit astfel la moartea a 48 de persoane (40 de militari şi 8 civili), precum şi la rănirea gravă a altor 15 persoane. La 23.12.1989 a emis ordinul diversionist de schimbare a cocardelor tricolore ale elicopterelor aparţinând Regimentului 61 Boteni, fapt ce ar fi dus la deschiderea focului fratricid, implicit la rănirea unor persoane. A emis şi alte ordine militare, conduite care în afara rezultatelor concrete enunţate ar fi contribuit la agravarea psihozei teroriste.


În calitate de comandant al Aviației Militare și membru al Consiliului  Militar Superior, gl. lt. (r) Iosif Rus a dat ordine cu caracter diversionist. Astfel, în seara zilei de 22.12.1989, din proprie inițiativă și fără drept, acesta a insistat în emiterea unui ordin prin care a solicitat ca în sprijinul microgarnizoanei Aeroportului Internațional Otopeni să fie trimisă o subunitate a trupelor de Securitate. Acest ordin, dat de o persoană ce nu avea dreptul să intervină în organizarea pazei și apărării Aeroportului Otopeni (cu plan propriu de apărare), a produs o ruptură informațională și de comunicare între forțele angrenate în paza și apărarea acestui obiectiv, constituind sursa unei grave confuzii, factori esențiali ce au creat premisele focului fratricid între militarii MApN și cei ai trupelor de Securitate sosite în sprijin. Fără acest ordin, neregulamentar și inutil, nu ar fi fost posibilă tragedia survenită în dimineața zilei de 23.12.1989, în urma căreia au decedat 48 de persoane (40 militari) și alte 15 au fost rănite. Totodată, față de gl. lt. (r) Iosif Rus există probe care demonstrează că, la data de 23.12.1989, acesta a dat ordin ca elicopterelor de la Regimentul 61 Elicoptere Boteni să le fie schimbate, prin revopsire, cocardele tricolore de pe fuselaj și înlocuite cu alte însemne, de alt format geometric. În condițiile în care gl. lt. (r) Iosif Rus a ordonat, în mai multe rânduri, ca aparatele de zbor amintite să efectueze diverse misiuni deasupra Capitalei (TVR, Cimitirul Ghencea etc.) și în alte zone, cu scopul combaterii presupușilor teroriști, au fost generate confuzii și suspiciuni întemeiate la nivelul militarilor dispuși la sol pentru paza diverselor obiective, situație care a dus la deschiderea focului fratricid și creșterea în intensitate a psihozei teroriste. De menționat că toate afirmațiile făcute cu privire la existența elementelor teroriste s-au dovedit ulterior a fi false.



4 thoughts on “Observations on the Military Prosecutors’ Recent Communiques on the Status of Investigations into December 1989 (III, the Case of General Iosif Rus)

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