Russia has elections next weekend. Putin’s power is secure, but he still has an aggressive PR campaign to look tough in advance of the polls. So we get a stream of Putin tough guy messaging, including that he gave the order to shoot down a Pegasus Airlines 737 in 2014.
I’ve long said that the primary reason fighters scramble when there’s the possibility that a plane has been hijacked is to be prepared to shoot down that plane. There’s a lot of handwaving about visual inspections of the cockpit, scrambling jets means being ready to take out everyone onboard to protect those on the ground.
And that’s standard procedure in Russia. The pilot of the Pegasus flight from Kharkiv, Ukraine to Istanbul reported that a passenger had a bomb and was demanding they head to Sochi where the Winter Olympics were being held.
Putin says, “I told them: act according to the plan,” which “called for the plane to be shot down.”
However it didn’t come to that because the Pegasus jet provided an update that “the passenger was drunk” and they weren’t actually diverting. The 110 passengers onboard would be permitted to live.
In fact as the plane arrived at Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport Turkey scrambled fighter jets as well.
Here’s the man being removed: