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Homeland Security

ARMED POLICE TO PROTECT FLIGHTS

RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, April 5 (RIA Novosti) - A new federal law under which plain clothes police will fly on domestic and international flights came into force yesterday. Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said these policemen "will be armed," Izvestia reports.

All the changes provided for in the law are designed to transfer part of aviation security functions from airport services and airlines to the Interior Ministry. The law says that the latter's agencies have the right, "given information about a possible breach of aviation security requirements onboard an airliner to accompany it during the flight."

Russian airlines strongly oppose guns on planes because they endanger aviation safety. A shot may lead to a loss of cabin pressure and the plane crashing. In Soviet times, security services used armed agents onboard airliners, but experience forced them to abandon this practice.

Sergei Bykhal, PR director for Transaero, has stated that his company has always opposed the presence of armed guards onboard airliners. As an example, he cited a tragedy in the early 1970s when a policeman accompanying a Tu-154 airliner took out a gun, prompting a terrorist to detonate a bomb. The plane was lost. Apart from that, the use of fire arms at 10,000 meters in a closed space where key control systems pass through the passenger cabin immediately makes all passengers, the crew and the airliner hostages to the situation.

Aeroflot has stated that the staff members of the company's security service already accompany the planes flying, for example, to Havana or Bangkok. However, this measure is aimed against hooligans, not terrorists.

As the law has just come into force, the specific details of its implementation are "in the finalization stage," the press-service of the transport police has stated.



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