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24 September, 2023
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Commando's death: The objections from two officers were ignored

Questions remain over the tragic death of National Guard commando

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

There are many unanswered questions surrounding the death of commando Panagiotis Giannios, who, during a National Guard exercise, fell to his death from a helicopter in the Paphos area.

First and foremost, why was the National Guard conducting an exercise in the area?  Second, what was the specific reason that an exercise was needed? And third, who gave the order for the helicopter exercise?

Officially, the Ministry of Defense stated that the aircraft in the area were there for needed military exercises being conducted by the National Guard.  There was, however, no specific mention of the types of exercises that were to be conducted.  The Ministry did admit to having a civilian film crew shooting footage of the exercises, but according to information, this should not have been allowed since civilians, even with permits, are not allowed to shoot military footage.  

Objections and disagreements

Based on the information available, the crew filming the National Guard helicopter exercises was gathering footage to use in a video to be shown on September 7 during the Armed Forces Day celebrations.

According to the same information, the preparation and creation of the video were undertaken by a company within the framework of its corporate responsibility, however, it was reported four days after the tragic accident that disputes were awry within the National Guard over the use of its own equipment and personnel to collect the necessary footage. According to well-informed "K" military sources, the disagreements that appeared to have occurred came from high-ranking officers in the force. This is a staff officer of the Commando unit, to which SYOP Panagiotis Giannios belonged, and a senior officer of the General Staff of the National Guard. Despite the fact that the alleged objections came from high-ranking officials of the National Guard, they were ignored.  Orders were given from higher up to ignore the objections, unknown from whom,  and a green light was given to shoot the video based on the script. 

In exercise

The second serious issue that seems to come up is whether the helicopter was supposed to be included in the training activity and consequently, in the filming of the video.  In the immediate aftermath of the accident, the Ministry of Defense did say the helicopter was to be included, but it withdrew this statement later on.  However, the information given to "K" from military sources disputes the official claims as well. It claims that on that day there were no exercises scheduled for the National Guard and no mention of a helicopter and its crew to be used in the production of the video.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs

"K" requested an official response to the information above.  Moreover, there was a need to confirm whether or not officers from the National Guard objected to the filming and the creation of the instructional video.  Unofficial sources of the Ministry of Defense told "K" that they could not confirm or deny if some officers disagreed. The press representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, colonel Christos Pieris, from whom we asked for a statement, told us: "For the creation of this video, which would be to promote the life of a National Guardsman, there was a relevant approval".

How the approval was given

According to military sources with knowledge of the whole issue, the relevant proposal to create the video was submitted by a large company to the Ministry of Defense two months ago. In the initial contacts made, this company presented material it had created for the British army, which was uploaded to its home page on the Internet. The representative of the company is claimed to have waived his remuneration saying that it will be a gift to the National Guard.  According to the same sources, the first response was positive, resulting in a formal request for approval sent to the Chief of Staff of the National Guard, followed by a letter to the Ministry of Defense for final approval.

For the video, the film crew required access to various infrastructures of the National Guard, including military exercises like "Dimitra" coordinated with the Israelis.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  defense

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