Sergei Sokolov

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Sergei Sokolov (Associated Press Photo)
MOSCOW (AP) - Sergei Sokolov, the Soviet defense minister fired by the Politburo after a German teenager landed his plane on Moscow's Red Square in the 1980s, died in Moscow on Friday. He was 101

Russian media reported Sokolov's death without specifying the cause. Russian television reported that his wife of 70 years, Mariya, died Wednesday and that the two will be buried together.

Sokolov was dismissed days after 19-year-old Mathias Rust landed his Cessna light aircraft in the square in May 1987. Although Soviet radars and interceptors tracked Rust's flight from Finland, air forces took no action.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was enraged over the incident and fired Sokolov along with dozens of other defense officials.

Born into a family of a czarist army officer in 1911, Sokolov was a Red Army commander during the 1938 Soviet-Japanese military conflict and in World War II. As deputy defense minister, he helped plan the Soviet occup ation of Afghanistan in 1979 and was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union a year later.

He was appointed defense minister in 1984. After his dismissal he worked as a Defense Ministry counselor. At 101 years old, Sokolov was Russia's oldest marshal.

He is survived by two sons, both of whom are retired colonel generals.

Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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