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Saturday 21 April 2018

Putin ‘approved plan to shoot down hijacked plane in 2014’

The Russian president spoke about the case of a Ukrainian man who tried to hijack a Turkey-bound flight and demanded that it go to Sochi during the Winter Olympics.

Mr Putin said he approved a plan to shoot down the aircraft, which had more than 100 people on board (AP)
Mr Putin said he approved a plan to shoot down the aircraft, which had more than 100 people on board (AP)

By Nataliya Vasilyeva

Russian president Vladimir Putin has said in a new documentary that he approved of a plan to shoot down a hijacked passenger jet four years ago.

A Ukrainian man tried to hijack a Turkey-bound flight and demanded that it go to Sochi as the Winter Olympics were about to start there in February 2014. The Sochi Games were Mr Putin’s pet project designed to showcase Russia.

The plane’s pilot instead tricked the man, who was drunk and falsely claimed he had a bomb, and landed in Istanbul. Officials credited the pilot and crew for convincing the 45-year-old-man that they were following his wishes.

Mr Putin said in a two-hour documentary about him that aired on state television late on Sunday that the chief of domestic intelligence agency FSB had briefed him on the phone and said they were prepared to shoot down the plane, which had 110 passengers on board.

“I asked: ‘What are you suggesting?’ and the answer was the one I expected: shoot it down in line with the contingency plans for such situations,” Mr Putin said, quoting his conversation with FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov.

“I said: ‘Act according to the plan.'”

Mr Putin recalled he was on a bus with other dignitaries travelling to the opening ceremony of the Sochi Games and he did not tell anyone what the call was about.

Minutes later, the FSB chief called Mr Putin to say the incident was a false alarm and that the plane was due to land safely in Turkey.

Asked about what he felt after receiving the call, Mr Putin said: “I’d better not talk about it.”

The flight, operated by Turkish budget carrier Pegasus Airlines, was travelling from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv to Istanbul.

The Ukrainian man, Artem Kozlov, was later convicted in Turkey and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison in 2016.

Press Association

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