WARSAW, August 9. /TASS/. The district prosecutor’s office in Cziestochowa, Poland, has charged the pilot of a Russian light aircraft with supposedly violating the country’s airspace. The pilot erroneously entered a no-fly zone, where flights were restricted for a period of several days in connection with an international Catholic festival known as World Youth Day, attended by the Pope, the prosecutor’s office spokesman Tadeusz Ozimek has told TASS.
"On August 8, the prosecutor charged the Russian air pilot, age 46, with violating the country’s air code," Ozimek said. "While making a flight from Moravska Trebova (the Czech Republic) to Radom (Poland), he entered a restricted air zone near Czestochowa."
According to the Polish official, the Russian pilot was questioned as a suspect and pled innocent. "At the same time the perpetrator asked the authorities to fine him an equivalent of $2,300. A lawyer and interpreter participated in the questioning," Ozimek said, adding that the prosecutor would make a decision soon. The prosecutor believes the procedure may last about a month.
"The suspect was not detained and he is currently free. At the moment, he is participating in sports competitions (the world aerobatics championships in Radom - TASS). He is free to leave Poland at any time. If a trial is necessary, it may take place in absentia," the source said.
The maximum punishment for the said violation is a prison term of up to five years. However, the penalty can be substituted by a fine.
Poland imposed restrictions on all entertainment and training flights by light aircraft within 100 kilometers around Krakow for the World Catholic Youth Day event, held from July 24 to August 1. The Pope participated in the event.
On July 31, the Polish Defense Ministry said F-16 Air Force fighters intercepted a light Russian plane over Czestochowa. The ministry’s spokesman Bartholomew Misewicz said the Russian pilot was radioed and gestured instructions what he should do. After landing at Radom airport, he was detained by police only to be set free a short while later.
A spokeswoman for Russia’s aerobatics team, which had arrived in Radom for the world aerobatics championships earlier, Yelena Klimovich, said that the pilot had not been informed of the temporary no-fly zone. She said Polish F-16s escorted the Russian plane to the airport of destination. Local police questioned the pilot and examined the plane and its instruments. Later, the pilot was set free.