Middle East 24 November 2015
Russian air carriers to tighten security after A321 terror act
Russian security service FSB’s conclusion the A321 passenger jet of Russia’s Kogalymavia airlines that was carrying home more than two hundred holidaymakers fell apart in the air over the Sinai Peninsula when a bomb planted on board went off made the federal air transport agency Rosaviatsiya to urge air carriers to tighten security. Polled experts have told TASS this is strongly required in view of the growing activity of the terrorist organization calling itself Islamic State. Rosaviatsiya on November 17 advised complementing passenger planes’ crews by security specialists and technicians, who would oversee maintenance procedures and checks of aircraft at foreign airports. Also, the air carriers have been advised to take on board a greater amount of in-flight meals, enough for the return flight. The gist of all recommendations is to minimize Russian air liners’ contact with ground services at foreign airports. The president of the Religion and Politics Institute, Alexander Ignatenko, believes that tighter security measures would be quite reasonable not only on flights to Turkey, Tunisia and Lebanon, countries that saw terrorist attacks recently, but on routes to all 47 states featuring on the Rosaviatsiya’s recommendations list. "The advice is crucial and justified even for the European countries, quite safe at first sight. Those not in the know may erroneously think Islamic State activities are confined to Syria and Iraq. But the Islamic State has exclaves, so called vilayats, and provinces in 30 countries and regions around the world," Ignatenko said. "The A321 plane exploded over Sinai Vilayat. But such tragedies may happen in any part of the world where Islamic State agents may be operating undercover. The group’s radical Islamists are financed by a number of countries in the Middle East in various ways, including purchases of their crude oil. With such major sources of revenue at their disposal the terrorists will not stop at committing more attacks," he warned. An anonymous FSB official has agreed on the condition of anonymity to comment on tour operators’ warnings the new security measures would inevitably push up air fares: "Whatever the air carriers’ costs of increasing air crews by adding the positions of technicians and security specialists, this spending will be reasonable and crucial, because nothing is more precious than a human life. Air passengers will certainly respond with understanding." The president of the Secret Services’ History Society, Lieutenant-General Alexander Zdanovich, is certain that no flight safety measure will be redundant. This concerns the idea of complementing air crews with technicians and security specialists, which is standard practice on Israel’s airlines. "Naturally, Russia cannot intervene with the procedures and routine operation of foreign airports. It will have no chance to tell their management that we will bring our own specialists to do all the work, while your ground services may take their time. I believe that this issue will be raised with the ministries of foreign affairs and transport, air carriers and airports of various countries. That’s a subject matter for international negotiators," Zdanovich said. A former FSB chief, currently State Duma member Nikolay Kovalyov, has told TASS that all of Rosaviatsiya’s recommendations were devised a long time ago. "Whenever terrorist threats and challenges emerged or soared in the past, Russia invariably resorted to such measures. Plainclothes security agents were present on each flight. Foreign personnel’s access to the planes was minimized and strictly controlled to forestall the risk there may be terrorists’ agents among them. That precaution was very right and appropriate and proved fully justified. As for the presence of technical personnel on board, it is customary with many western airlines and Russian domestic carriers operating charter flights. Too bad the state regulator has confined itself to issuing recommendations, and not binding instructions that have to be followed to the letter."