Moscow – Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the shooting down of a Turkish passenger jet after a bomb threat was made just before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
Putin opened up about the order in a new documentary titled Putin. In it, the president said he received a phone call from security officers as the ceremony was about to start.
Pilots of a Turkish Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-800 flying from Kharkiv in Ukraine to the Turkish city of Istanbul reported that a passenger on the plane had a bomb and was demanding to land in Sochi, the officers told Putin.
During discussions with security officers about how to handle the situation, Putin asked what the standard procedure in cases such as this would be.
The Russian president was told the emergency plan called for the plane to be shot down.
“I told them, ‘Act according to the plan,'” Putin said in the documentary, Reuters news agency reported.
Minutes after he made the decision, Putin got another call saying the claim was false and the passenger who had made the bomb threat was intoxicated.
The aircraft, which continued to its destination in Turkey, carried 110 passengers on board.
During the opening ceremony in Sochi, 40 000 people gathered in the city to watch the opening of the Winter Olympics.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, on Sunday confirmed the comments in the film.
The incident happened several weeks after unrest in Ukraine – from where the plane originated – led to the ousting of the country’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich.
Shortly after the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, an event that would eventually lead to the ongoing conflict in Donbas, a pro-Russian Ukrainian region where separatists are fighting the Ukrainian army to gain independence from Kiev.
Putin’s remarks come a week before presidential elections take place in Russia, with the long-serving leader poised to win another term.
It also comes several months before Russia’s next big sporting event, the 2018 World Cup, which will be held in several cities across the vast country. Russia is on a high alert for that event.