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Russian Jet Hijacked: Putin Cuts Vacation Short, Sets Up HeadquartersAired March 15, 2001 - 12:01 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that hijacked Russian jetliner that Daryn mentioned has 160 passengers on board. It's on the ground now in Saudi Arabia, as we continue to follow this developing story.
Hijackers commandeered the plane shortly after takeoff from Istanbul, on a flight from Moscow. That's where CNN's Steve Harrigan is monitoring this story for us. We go to him now live -- Steve.
STEVE HARRIGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, the latest numbers we have here in Moscow are 174 people on board that plane. That means 162 passengers, plus two crew members.
The anxiety level is high here from top to bottom. We just heard that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was on holiday in Hackasia (ph) in the far reaches of Siberia, has interrupted that holiday. He set up headquarters there to help deal with the situation. He has reportedly, CNN has just learned, instructed his foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, to contact the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry.
We've also heard from a Russian government spokesman that they assume the two terrorists are Chechens. Russia has been fighting a war in the tiny breakaway republic of Chechnya for more than a year. No concrete word on it, but the presidential spokesman saying he assumes they are Chechens.
Finally at the airport here out of Moscow, a very confused and distraught scene. Passengers were notified by a loudspeaker that the plane would not be arriving from Istanbul. That it, in fact, had been hijacked. We saw people standing around, on the mobile phones, some in tears, some really in a state of confusion at that airport, wondering whether or not their relatives will get back and when that will happen -- Leon.
HARRIS: All right, thanks much, Steve Harrigan, reporting for us from Moscow.
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