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Russian defence chiefs demand new powers allowing them to shoot down passenger planes

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Russian defence chiefs demand new powers allowing them to shoot down passenger planes despite the country being implicated in the MH17 disaster

  • The Defence Ministry is seeking approval for a new decree from the Kremlin
  • It would allow the downing of civilian aircraft believed to have been hijacked
  • The West suspects Russia of bringing down flight MH17 in 2014, killing 298 
  • Safeguards are built-in to issue warnings and shooting would be a last resort

By Will Stewart for MailOnline

Published: 13:55 EST, 11 January 2019 | Updated: 15:18 EST, 11 January 2019

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Russian defence chiefs are demanding new laws allowing them to shoot down passenger planes violating the country's laws and posing a threat to lives and strategic facilities.

A decree has been drawn up by the country's Defence Ministry for approval by the Kremlin, said a report by Izvestia newspaper.

New rules would give explicit permission to the Russian air force to shoot down civilian aircraft suspected of intending a deliberate crash causing a 'massive loss of life', an environmental catastrophe or the destruction of strategic facilities.

Aleksandr Bortnikov, director of FSB, next to Vladimir Putin and Sergey Shoigu, minister of defence. Russian defence chiefs are demanding new laws allowing them to shoot down passenger planes
Aleksandr Bortnikov, director of FSB, next to Vladimir Putin and Sergey Shoigu, minister of defence. Russian defence chiefs are demanding new laws allowing them to shoot down passenger planes

Aleksandr Bortnikov, director of FSB, next to Vladimir Putin and Sergey Shoigu, minister of defence. Russian defence chiefs are demanding new laws allowing them to shoot down passenger planes

'This will also prevent attacks involving the hijacking of aircraft,' stated the report.

The new rules would aim to prevent a situation equivalent to the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Towers in September 2001, it is believed.

The move will be seen as controversial since the West has blamed the Russian military machine for the shooting down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 killing 298 people with a BUK missile in 2014.

Earlier the USSR downed South Korean flight 007 in 1983 with the loss of 269 lives.

The Russian defence ministry says that current rules are ambiguous and need clarifying.

Aleksandr Bortnikov, director of FSB, (right) next to Vladimir Putin. New rules proposed by the Defence Ministry and awaiting Kremlin approval would give explicit permission to the Russian air force to shoot down civilian aircraft suspected of intending a deliberate crash
Aleksandr Bortnikov, director of FSB, (right) next to Vladimir Putin. New rules proposed by the Defence Ministry and awaiting Kremlin approval would give explicit permission to the Russian air force to shoot down civilian aircraft suspected of intending a deliberate crash

Aleksandr Bortnikov, director of FSB, (right) next to Vladimir Putin. New rules proposed by the Defence Ministry and awaiting Kremlin approval would give explicit permission to the Russian air force to shoot down civilian aircraft suspected of intending a deliberate crash

Counter terrorism laws permit the downing of aircraft that fails to obey orders to land or change route.

But another decree forbids or restricts the shooting down of aircraft with passengers on board.

The latter was a response to the 1983 incident which brought international opprobrium on the Soviet Union since the plane was not engaged in spying but had made a navigation error to fly over the USSR's territory.

'The new document should eliminate these contradictions,' said military expert Vladislav Shurygin.

The new draft decree meets international standards on such threats, say the Russians.

Safeguards are built-in to ensure warnings - radio and visual - to the aircraft, and a system for correcting its route and providing for emergency landings, said Izvestia, citing the draft decree.

The West has blamed the Russian military machine for the shooting down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 killing 298 people with a BUK missile in 2014 (pictured)
The West has blamed the Russian military machine for the shooting down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 killing 298 people with a BUK missile in 2014 (pictured)

The West has blamed the Russian military machine for the shooting down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 killing 298 people with a BUK missile in 2014 (pictured)

Shooting at the plane would be a last resort.

'The offender will be visually and radio-warned that they will open fire due to insubordination,' stated the report.

'Before the attack itself, planes and helicopters with small arms and artillery weapons will be the last to declare the seriousness of their intentions - they will open warning fire.

'If the offending aircraft does not respond to this, it will be shot down.

'If necessary, the Armed Forces are allowed to use anti-aircraft missile, rocket-artillery and artillery weapons.'

Shooting to kill is inly permitted if - after due warnings - 'there is a real danger of massive loss of life, the onset of an environmental catastrophe or an air attack on strategic targets'.

If there is no such danger, the aircraft must not be brought down.

Debris of the Boeing 777, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed during flying over the eastern Ukraine region near Donetsk, Ukraine, 17 July 2014
Debris of the Boeing 777, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed during flying over the eastern Ukraine region near Donetsk, Ukraine, 17 July 2014

Debris of the Boeing 777, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed during flying over the eastern Ukraine region near Donetsk, Ukraine, 17 July 2014

Many Western aircraft daily overfly Russia on routings between Europe and the Far East.

At the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 there were fears a hijacked plane posed a threat to the opening ceremony hosted by Vladimir Putin.

A 'drunk' Ukrainian man who claimed he had a bomb demanded a Turkey-bound plane should fly to Sochi.

The pilot tricked the man into believing he was following his wishes but instead landed the plane in Istanbul.

Putin revealed last year that he had authorised the aircraft with 110 on board to be shot down if it posed a threat to the opening ceremony.

He was informed about the situation by his FSB chief Alesander Bortnikov.

'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,' said Putin.

'I said: "act according to the plan."'

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