MOSCOW (AP) — 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 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.
Putin said in a two-hour documentary about him that aired on state television late 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 with 110 passengers onboard.
“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,” Putin said, quoting his conversation with FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov. “I said: ‘act according to the plan.'”
Putin recalled he was on a bus with other dignitaries traveling to the opening ceremony of the Sochi Games and he didn’t tell anyone what the call was about.
Minutes later, the FSB chief called Putin to say it was a false alarm and that the plane was due to land safely in Turkey.
Asked about what he felt after receiving the call, Putin said: “I’d better not talk about it.”
The flight, operated by Turkish budget carrier Pegasus Airlines, was traveling from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv to Istanbul.
The Ukrainian man, Artem Kozlov, was later convicted in Turkey and sentenced to 9.5 years in prison in 2016.