Two missiles were allegedly fired at a Russian passenger plane flying over Syrian territory with 159 people on board, an informed source in Moscow told Interfax news agency, RT Reports.
“Syrian [officials] informed us that on Monday morning, unidentified forces launched two ground-to-air missiles which exploded in the air very close to a civilian aircraft belonging to a Russian airline,” the source told the Russian agency.
The pilots managed to maneuver the plane in time however, “saving the lives of passengers.”
It is believed the aircraft was intentionally targeted in the attempted strike, “but it remains unclear whether the attackers knew whether it was Russian or not,” the source added.
The targeted plane belongs to Nordwind Airlines – a Russian charter air carrier, says Russian federal Agency for Tourism, citing the Ministry of Transport. It was en route to the city of Kazan, in Russia’s republic of Tatarstan, from Egypt’s resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, reports RIA Novosti.
“No one was injured, and the plane was not damaged. The aircraft landed in Kazan as it had been planned,” the tourism agency’s press service told RIA Novosti.
Russia’s embassy in Damascus is looking into the report of the attack on the Russian passenger plane, RT has been told.
Meanwhile, Syrian aviation authorities received no indication of the alleged attack on the Russian plane, says the director of Syrian Airlines, Ghaida Abdullatif:
“We contacted the service that monitors traffic within Syrian airspace. None of the air traffic control services or other ground services at the airports in Damascus and Latakia have confirmed the information of a Russian plane plane being fired at”. – Voice of Russia Reported.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s said on its website the plane’s crew “detected battle action on the ground that, according to the crew, could constitute a threat to the 159 passengers on board the plane.”
So far, the incident has not been officially confirmed but Russian experts have already voiced their doubts that a passenger plane can actually perform kind of maneuvers that could help it avoid a missile attack.
“Planes are usually attacked either from the side or from above. A pilot could not have seen the missiles ,” Vladimir Gerasimov, a Russian pilot and an expert on flight security told RT.
“A passenger plane crew simply couldn’t see what’s behind. And if something is approaching the plane from the opposite direction – the speed doubles, so there is no time to do anything, ” he added.
Russian aviation watchdog Rosaviatsia has urged all Russian airlines to suspend until further notice the flights over countries that are currently caught in military conflicts, following a report of “hostilities” against a Russian passenger plane flying over Syria.
The civil war in Syria between the government of President Bashar Assad and opposition forces has been raging for over two years, claiming the lives of more than 70,000 people according to UN estimates. Assad says he is fighting an insurgency which has been sponsored from abroad.