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Russia: Hijacked Plane Lands In Jeddah

Moscow, 15 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A hijacked Russian plane with more than 170 people on board has landed in Saudi Arabia. The plane's operator, Vnukovo Airlines, says the Tupolev-156 has landed in Jeddah. The plane was hijacked soon after it took off today from Istanbul, Turkey, on a flight to Moscow.

The nationalities of the passengers were not known, but many of them are thought to be Russian. About one third are said to be Turkish nationals.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the plane was hijacked by two people. He did not mention the nationalities of the hijackers. But Turkish Transport Minister Enis Oksuz said the hijackers were claiming to be Chechens.

Oksuz said the hijackers were armed with knives and that one crew member was injured. The hijackers took over the plane some 30 minutes after take-off.

Nothing is known of any demands by the hijackers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has set up a crisis center to deal with the hijacking.