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#1 - JRL 2006-182 - JRL Home
Russia to down airliners seized by terrorists - AF chief

BALASHIKHA (Moscow Region), August 11 (RIA Novosti) - Only a genuine threat to Russia's vital installations may serve as grounds for downing passenger airliners, the Air Force chief said Friday.

On March 6, President Vladimir Putin signed a law that allows air defense forces to shoot down passenger planes hijacked by terrorists, in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks on the country in 2004.

"Should an airliner that has been seized by terrorists fly in from another country and refuse to obey our orders, we will definitely take measures to shoot it down," Vladimir Mikhailov said after a major terrorism alert in London on Thursday.

"In any event, the situation should be treated on a case-by-case basis. There can be no universal rules here," he said. "It is important to remember that terrorists hijack planes with passengers onboard."

Under a counter-terrorism law enacted in spring, air-defense forces have the power to shoot down planes that are thought to have been hijacked to prevent any 9/11-style attacks.

Mikhailov said decisions in such circumstances must be prompt and added that rules of conduct in emergency situations had been worked out and practiced.

"I learn about any emergency situations in the air within one and a half to two minutes," he said.

The commander also said that airports had to improve their regulations and bring order in their procedures to "prevent the chaos" that happened at Moscow's Domodedovo airport in August 2004. Terrorists blew up two passenger jets on domestic flights almost simultaneously after takeoff, killing 90 people.

A court later established the terrorists had not been arrested because a police officer who had been inspecting passengers had failed to do his job properly. The policeman was convicted for negligence and sentenced to seven years in prison.