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Aeroflot jet searched by Britons at Heathrow lands in Moscow

The airline said the search fully ran counter to the international practice for such operations

MOSCOW, March 31. /TASS/. The jet of the Russian national flag-carrying airline Aeroflot that underwent a surprise search by the British boarder guards at Heathrow airport on Friday landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in the small hours of Saturday.

Aeroflot executives said on Friday the UK authorities had searched the jet, bound to perform a return flight SU2583 from London to Moscow, without providing any explanations for their action. In violation of the effective international rules, the captain of the jet was locked in the cockpit.

The airline said the search fully ran counter to the international practice for such operations.

In the meantime, Vitaly Mitrofanov, the captain of the Aeroflot crew said upon arrival in Moscow the British security officials had looked for the objects banned for transportation.

"After we landed at Heathrow and the passengers disembarked, a group of five or six people with a sniffing dog appeared and told the cabin crew they needed to inspect and search the jet in order to see whether or not there were prohibited objects aboard," Capt. Mitrofanov told Rossiya’24 news channel.

He said he was the only person whom the Britons allowed to stay aboard. The operation itself lasted from five to seven minutes. "They didn’t present any warrants to me or explain anything or actually tell me anything."

"I couldn’t even watch what they did," the captain said. "Rules say a flight attendant should escort every inspector. We agreed to this search only after taking counsel with the [Russian] Consul and navigation safety officials in order to complete the fight [make a return flight to Moscow - TASS]."

The Russian Embassy to the UK called the search of the jet ‘a blatant provocation’ that defied the accepted international rules.

"Today, we have witnessed another blatant provocation by the British authorities," the Embassy said in a report at its official homepage.

"Border Force and Customs officers have searched the aircraft that was conducting the Aeroflot flights 2582 / 2583, Moscow - London - Moscow," it said. "This kind of event is extraordinary. Moreover, the British officials tried to search the aircraft without the crew being present, something categorically prohibited by the rules in force."

"After an Embassy officer arrived at the airport, long negotiations were conducted that allowed to ensure the right of the captain to be take part in the search," the embassy said. "After the search was over, the British officers refused to provide any written document that would specify the reasons for their actions, their legal foundation and their outcome."

"Our attempts to get in touch with the Foreign Office in order to clarify the reasons of the inappropriate behavior of British officials did not bring fruit," the report said. "The Embassy has sent a diplomatic note demanding the British side to provide explanations of the incident."

The Embassy promised careful analysis of the incident.

"At this moment, we have no other explanation but that the incident at Heathrow is in one way or another connected with the hostile policy that the UK government is conducting with regard to Russia," the Embassy said.