Court hears case of two men who helped Chechen suicide bombers explode two Russian jetliners

The men supposedly helped two Chechen terrorists buy plane tickets and board the liners, which they exploded simultaneously

The Domodedovo court of Moscow held the hearings on the case of crashes of Tu-134 and Tu-154 jetliners, which took place in Russia almost simultaneously in August 2004. Armen Arutunan, a resident of the Krasnodar region of Russia and Nikolai Korenkov acted as defendants on the case. Arutunan worked as a private taxicab driver at the Domodedovo airport, from which the above-mentioned planes departed. Korenkov is an employer of Siberia Airline, which owned the liners. The two men have been charged with commercial bribery on clause 204 of the Russian Federation Penal Code.

Investigators believe that Arutunan and Korenkov helped two suicide terrorists depart from the Domodedovo Airport on board the Tu-134 and Tu-154 planes. The female terrorists subsequently exploded the planes at one and the same time on 24 August 2004 in the sky above the Tula and the Rostov regions of Russia.

The planes crashed with only one-minute difference. Russian special services named two Chechen suicide bombers – Aminat Nagayeva and Satsita Jebirkhanova.

Armen Arutunan and Nikolai Korenkov were arrested on 16 September 2004 on the allegation of assistance to terrorists. The chief of the anti-terrorist department of the Domodedovo Airport, Mikhail Artamonov, was soon taken under custody after the previous arrests as well. Artamonov was accused of professional negligence: the officer did not conduct a personal inspection of the two female terrorists, but only checked their IDs.

Prosecutor Kamil Kashayev reminded the events of 24 August 2004 in chronological order. According to Kashayev, the two terrorists left the police station and purchased plane tickets to Sochi and Volgograd. Arutunan helped the women with the tickets: he charged 2,000 rubles from one and 3,000 rubles from the other terrorist. Arutunan paid 1,000 rubles of that sum to Nikolai Korenkov, who worked as an agent for servicing VIP clients of Siberia Airline.

”With a view to obtain the money, Korenkov used his position in the company and stamped Jebirkhanova's plane ticket to accept her on board the plane, flight 1047. However, the date on the terrorist's ticket said that she was supposed to depart from the Domodedovo Airport only the next day, on August 25th. Having boarded the airplane, Jebirkhanova performed the terrorist act, which resulted in the death of all passengers and the crew – 46 people in total,” Kamil Kashayev said.

The prosecutor also told the court that the other Chechen suicide bomber, Satsita Nagayeva, was late for the flight to Volgograd and asked Arutunan for help again. The latter exchanged her the ticket for another plane, which was departing from Moscow an hour later.

When Kashayev finished his speech at the court, it became clear that the Office of the Prosecutor General did not consider the actions of the two defendants as assistance to terrorist activities. Defense councilor, Vyacheslav Frolov, told the Izvestia that the Office formulated its indictment as “commercial bribery.” The two defendants can be sentenced up to three years in prison.

”I will strive for the complete acquittal of Nikolai Korenkov. There was obviously no bribery at all,” Vyacheslav Frolov said. “We will invite two defense witnesses to the court, they are employees of Siberia Airline. The witnesses will confirm that my client was acting strictly in accordance with the instructions of the airline,” he added. 

”I am not guilty of anything. If I had not put the passenger on board the plane, the airline's administration would have fined me. There were about 100 vacant seats in the plane,” Nikolai Korenkov explained to the court. “When the plane departed, Arutunan came up to me, shook my hand and I found a thousand-ruble note in it. It happened for the first time in my life. It did not even occur to me that I was committing a crime – clients thank waiters like that too, for example,” he said.

Armen Arutunan pleaded guilty, albeit partially. The defendant told the court that he was coming to the Domodedovo Airport on a daily basis, taking passengers to the city in his car. He would also help passengers with tickets too: Arutunan was in friendly relations with managers of several airlines.

The trial is not going to last long: the judge is to bring down the sentence to the two defendants at the end of the current week.

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Author`s name Olga Savka