Russia’s Vladimir Putin ordered the downing of a passenger plane that had reportedly been overtaken by hijackers planning to target the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, the President said in a new film.
In a two-hour documentary titled “Putin” that was posted on social media on Sunday, the Russian President said he was told about the impending attack moments before the Games were due to start.
But the threat turned out to be a false alarm, Putin said, and the plane was not shot down.
The documentary’s release comes amid a wave of flattering pre-election coverage of the President, and details moments intended to show off Putin’s heroism. In addition to the episode with the plane, Putin also said in the film that his helicopter reportedly came under fire over Chechnya in 2000, according to the state-run Sputnik news agency.
Russians go to the polls on March 18.
In the film, Putin told interviewer Andrey Kondrashov – a Russian state television presenter who became the President’s election campaign spokesman in January – that he received a phone call from security officers on February 7, 2014, while en route to the Olympics opening ceremony at Fisht Stadium.
“Somewhere in the middle of the road, the adjutant [military officer] handed me the phone, it was an agent … from the headquarters of the Olympics safety department. He reports: an airplane that should have flown from Ukraine to Istanbul was captured. The hijackers demand to land in Sochi,” Putin said.
Pilots of a Turkish Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-800, flying from Kharkiv to Istanbul with 110 passengers on board, said the hijackers had a bomb.
Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia’s internal intelligence service, the FSB, who also took part in the film, said that a decision was made to “raise combat aircraft in order to control the flight.”
“We had just a few minutes,” he said.
Putin gave the order “to act in accordance with the plan.”
But in five to seven minutes a second call came through and the same employee said that the hijacking was “a drunken trick.”
The plane successfully landed in Turkey.
On Sunday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Putin’s account of the incident, according to Reuters.