LONDON (Oct. 15)
A veil of mystery surrounded the hijacking of a Soviet airliner to Turkey today in which a stewardess was shot to death and the pilot and co-pilot were seriously wounded. The plane, an Aeroflot Ilyushin-18 on a domestic flight from Batumi, in the Soviet Adjurian Republic to Sukhumi, in the Caucasus, landed at Trabzon on Turkey’s Black Sea coast where the hijackers reportedly surrendered to Turkish authorities. According to unconfirmed reports, the pair identified themselves to the authorities as Russian Jews and asked for political asylum in Turkey. A partial news black-out was imposed by Turkish officials. (Contacted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in New York, the Soviet news agency Tass said the Soviet government did not know who was involved in the hijacking. Tass said the Soviet Union has asked the Turkish government to extradite the hijackers and return the airliner. In Washington, the Soviet Embassy press attache said he had no official information on the incident. He was unable to identify the hijackers and whether or not they were Jewish.) Earlier today in Moscow a spokesman for the Soviet Civil Aviation Ministry denied to Western newsmen that a hijacking had occurred but then told them to call him tomorrow for a statement. (U.S. State Department spokesman John King, commenting on the hijacking at today’s press briefing, said, “We condemn all such acts of hijacking.”)
Fear was expressed in some quarters today that the Soviets might try to link today’s fatal hijacking to an alleged hijack attempt at Leningrad last June for which 30 Soviet citizens including an undetermined number of Jews were arrested. The incident was followed by searches of Jewish homes. It was reported last week that Soviet authorities were preparing a “show trial” in an effort to terrorize Jews and curb their efforts to emigrate. Today’s hijacking was reportedly the fourth against a Soviet airliner and the first to succeed. According to some reports the hijackers were identified as Lithuanians. (United Press International in New York reported today that they were identified as Brazinskas Korejevo, 46, and his son, Algervas, 18, residents of the Central Asian Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan.) According to reports by the Turkish radio and BBC, the Soviet plane was carrying 43 passengers and five crew members. They were taken to various hotels in Trabzon. The reports said the pilot and co-pilot were seriously wounded when they refused the hijackers’ demand to fly to Turkey. The stewardess was shot dead when she tried to foil the hijacking.