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Ban on liquids in carry-on luggage needed, but random step in Russia

January 13, 2014, 16:04 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Yuri Mashkov

MOSCOW, January 13. /ITAR-TASS/.A Federal Air Transport Agency ban on passengers taking any liquids aboard aircraft took effect in Russia on Saturday, January 11. The exception is made only for vitally important medicines requiring a doctor's prescription and personal hygiene items. Before the ban, liquids up to 100 millilitres were permitted inside.

The ban on unfettered carriage of liquids in cabin luggage was introduced in most Western countries in 2006 after British security services unveiled an Al-Qaeda terrorist plot to destroy trans-Atlantic flights with “liquid bombs”. Western and Russian specialists fighting terrorism set different priorities in systems of pre-flight security measures.

The United States and European countries put their faith in technical progress. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Airport Council International (ACI) have developed a security programme which relieves travellers of the need to remove footwear, belts and upper clothes and which will allow them to carry unlimited liquids in cabin luggage when the project is put into practice by 2020 - thanks to the use of ultra-modern technical devices.

Security services of Israel, which has not witnessed any terrorist act onboard aircraft for the past 35 years, rely on interviewing each air passenger. Subtle knowledge of psychology allows security officers at Ben Gurion airport to distinguish between anxiety of a passenger being late for a flight from that of a likely terrorist.

Russian security services adhere to two key principles to ensure pre-flight security: the presence of law enforcers in uniform at airports alongside technical re-equipping of transport facilities permitting checks of luggage, carry-on items and every traveller.

“The ban on any liquids onboard aircraft is some kind of preventive measure that will scare away more firmly a potential terrorist and will dissuade him from coming to the airport. But this is just a single element, not a system of security measures,” an unnamed general of the Russian Defence Ministry told Itar-Tass.

Retired lieutenant-general of the Federal Security Service Aleksey Kondaurov agreed with this opinion.”There is some sense in the ban on any liquids onboard. But Russia lacks a long-term strategy over development of transport security measures,” he told Itar-Tass.

Kondaurov believes U.S. and west European countries have set the example of enforcing security measures on transport services, including aircraft, “A system of measures there is consistently being translated into life. Security measures are being intelligently developed for fulfillment," he said, noting that “Effectiveness of these measures is confirmed by the absence of terrorist acts onboard aircraft for more than 10 years.”

Russia's security service general also praised sophisticated psychological tests on air passengers in Israel. Kondaurov noted that he had investigated the high-profile murder of respected aircraft designer Igor Berezhnoy in Moscow in 1981. Interviews with around 200 people helped his investigation, he said.

Meanwhile, the general had an ironic attitude towards possible use of Israel’s experience in Russia, “As tangerines cannot grow in Russia’s Urals, the experience of psychological testing of air passengers in Russia is unacceptable," he observed.

"In the little country of Israel, security services are informed perfectly well that Arabs and Palestinians burning down joyfully the portraits of late Ariel Sharon today can be suspected of preparing a terrorist act," he said.

“I have served in the North Caucasus. Repented and amnestied gunmen could have made up half the air passengers onboard aircraft flying from airports in Chechnya and Dagestan [Russian North Caucasian republics]. Their testing and interviewing can take days, even weeks.

“Only detective work can help avert planned terrorist acts," the general added. "This is the recruitment of agents, infiltration of agents among potential terrorists and use of controlling technical devices."

But the problem was the shortage of people qualified to undertake detective work which was subtle, dangerous and risky, he said, noting that agents were frequently uncovered and converted. Infiltrators had to be well-protected and provided with good cover stories, he said.

"It is important that the whole security system operates well to avoid terrorist acts because a terrorist act can be averted only at the stage of preparation. No specialist in the world can say anything new on this issue,” the general said.


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