Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Russian, Estonian Pilots Convicted in Tajikistan

A court in Tajikistan has sentenced Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy and Estonian Alexei Rudenko to eight and a half years in prison each for smuggling and border violations. They had both denied the charges. The pair were detained by Tajikistan's security service in March after landing at Kurgan-Tyube airfield with two aircraft, one of which was carrying a spare engine, which the court described as a "smuggled engine." The aircraft was en route to Moscow from from Kabul, Afghanistan, where it was carrying out humanitarian relief work. After entering Tajikistan airspace, local air traffic controllers ordered the plane to return to Kabul. The pilots said they could not comply due to lack of fuel but landed at Kurgan-Tyube instead. The Russian Foreign Ministry described the sentences as "extremely severe" and "politically charged," and said the case would harm Russian-Tajik relations.


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