Law on Downing "Suicide" Airliners to Be
Adopted in April

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) — Colonel General Yuri Solovyov, commander of the Special Troops Command, has announced that from this April the air defense forces of Russia will be allowed to down passenger liners hijacked by terrorists, if the latter plan to crash the planes at strategic facilities in Moscow, Gazeta.ru reports.

He said, "the legislation necessary for such emergency actions" is being drafted. His forces, which are responsible for the air defense of Moscow and Central Russia up to the Urals, have taken measures to effectively prevent terrorist attacks from the air.

The command of the Air Force forwarded the first idea of shooting down hijacked planes over Moscow and other big cities of Russia to the Russian leadership after 9/11 in the US. Anatoly Kornukov, then commander of the Air Force, suggested placing men armed with portable air defense systems on the roofs of Moscow high-rise buildings.

The idea resurfaced in December 2004, when Vladimir Vasilyev, head of the State Duma security committee, said, referring to the draft law "On Combating Terrorism," that the air defense forces would be granted the right to down planes hijacked by terrorists intending to use them to attack strategic facilities.

The problem arose when the authors of the law reached the crucial element, responsibility. Nobody wants to assume responsibility for downing a passenger plane. On the whole, the mechanism could work without a hitch, if it were not for one thing: if a hijacked plane takes off from the nearest airport, its flight time to the center of Moscow would be 40-50 seconds. Besides, the ground-based controller must be 100% sure that the plane will be used in a suicide attack.

Gen. Solovyov did not specify who would make the decision to down a passenger plane over Moscow within 30 seconds, but it will surely not be the president. A duty officer will most probably make the decision. The military is waiting for April, when the scheme is approved by the State Duma, the Federation Council and the President.