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Russian Jet Hijacked: Radio Communication EstablishedAired March 15, 2001 - 11:09 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to bring you more now on that top story about that Russian plane that has been hijacked. And it's now on the ground in Medina, Saudi Arabia. This is the plane that took off earlier today from Istanbul, headed to Moscow. Many of the people on the plane are Russians, some are Turks.
For more on this, let's go to our Moscow bureau and Steve Harrigan with the latest -- Steve.
STEVE HARRIGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, we're getting some more information on numbers from Vnukovo Airlines. That's the charter company that arranged this flight that was supposed to go from Istanbul to Moscow.
At the airport here in Moscow, some very bewildered friends and family members milling around, smoking, talking on cell phones. They were stunned to hear a loud speaker announcement that the plane was delayed due to a hijacking.
Well, as you said, that plane is on the ground now in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
And according to Vnukovo Airlines, radio communication has been established with that plane.
Now, the Russian government has been sparse in its comments. But it has said, according to a presidential spokesman, that the hijacking was carried out, it assumes, by Chechens. Russia, as you know, has been fighting a war with Chechnya, the tiny southern republic, for more than a year.
Also Russian President Vladimir Putin, he is on holiday now, skiing in a remotest region of Siberia. You might remember, last autumn, when the Kursk submarine went down, Mr. Putin was also on vacation. He got a lot of criticism for that, for not cutting his vacation short. He seems to have learned from that. This time, he has established headquarters to deal with this problem.
Word is that Russian intelligence agents are being prepared if necessary to, quote, "liberate the plane" if that situation does become necessary.
This is also the second time a Vnukovo Airline plane has been hijacked in just the past four months. So some real tension and worrying here, both at the airport and for Russians as a whole worried that this is another terrorist act by Chechens -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Steve, from where you are in Moscow, do you have any more information about the status of this plane? Once again, we did report that it's on the ground in Medina, Saudi Arabia. But do we know if the people are being let off if negotiations are taking place? What is the status right now?
HARRIGAN: We've heard from the airline company that radio communication has been established. We don't know the status of whether or not people have been let off. There are at least 160 people, passengers who were on board, plus 12 crew members, plus the two hijackers.
Now, at least 50 of those people were Turks. The rest of them, almost 100, were likely Russians. These were people either going on holiday to Turkey, back and forth after a long winter year, or else shuttle traders, people who buy and sell clothing and small appliances in Turkey and sell it back here on the streets in Moscow.
At the airport, it was really a mixed crowd of Russians and Turks, people waiting for their family and friends to come home. A wait that is still going on.
KAGAN: All right, Steve Harrigan in Moscow, we will check back with you for the latest on this hijacking situation. Thank you.
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