The Russian president says in a new film that he ordered the downing of a passenger plane reported to be carrying a bomb and threatening the Sochi Olympics — before it turned out to be a false alarm.
Vladimir Putin has claimed that he ordered a passenger jet to be shot down in 2014 amid reports that it had been hijacked and posed a threat to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The Russian leader’s comments come in a new two-hour documentary released online ahead of the upcoming presidential election in which he is the strong favourite.
In the film, called “Putin” and available on Russian social media, the president says he was told by security officers shortly before the opening ceremony was due to start that a plane had been hijacked.
“I was told: a plane en route from Ukraine to Istanbul was seized, captors demand landing in Sochi,” Putin says.
The reporter, Andrey Kondrashov, says in the film that the pilots of a Turkish Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-800 flying from Kharkiv to Istanbul reported that one of the passengers had a bomb and the plane had to change course to Sochi.
Putin says the advice from security officers was that the emergency plan for such a situation called for the aircraft to be shot down.
“I told them: act according to the plan,” Putin says in the film. The reporter points out that there were 110 passengers on board, while over 40,000 people had arrived at the stadium for the opening ceremony.
The president says he received a second call several minutes later, informing him that it was a false alarm. The passenger was drunk and the plane would continue its flight to Turkey.
The comments in the film were confirmed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Sunday.
Russia goes to the polls on March 18, and the film is being seen as part of a campaign to boost turnout and support for the president. Putin faces seven challengers but none is seen as a threat; the main opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been barred from running.
In the documentary, the president dismisses any notion that Russia could return Crimea to Ukraine. The peninsula was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. Last year the UN accused Russia of committing “grave human rights violations” in Crimea.