The Supreme Court of Switzerland has recently freed Vitaly Kaloyev, a Russian citizen convicted of killing Skyguide flight control officer Peter Nielsen. Kaloyev was released ahead of schedule. A mistake made by Nielsen in 2002 caused a terrible air crash when a passenger jetliner and a cargo plane collided in midair and crashed above Lake Constance. Vitaly Kaloyev’s entire family – wife, son and daughter - died in the catastrophe. The grieving man decided to take revenge for his loved ones and killed the air traffic controller in his own house.
Reporters and Kaloyev’s friends were waiting for Vitaly to arrive on a flight from Zurich to Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport. Vitaly Kaloyev gave a brief interview to reporters when the plane landed in Moscow. His interpreter, Anna, said that the Russian Consul to Switzerland showed Kaloyev straight to the plane before departure. When the man boarded the plane, the captain offered him to sit down in the business class.
When Kaloyev was told that he was going to be released from prison, he said: “Why do I need freedom now?”
A crowd of young people were waiting for Kaloyev outside the airport. Members of the youth movement Nashi (Ours) were holding posters saying: “You are the real man.”
Vitaly Kaloyev has become one of the most talked-about personas in Russia these days. Many Russians believe that he committed a heroic deed avenging for the death of his family. A murder is a terrible crime, of course, but Kaloyev became a victim of a terrible mistake, which ruined his entire life. That is why many people in Russia believe that he deserves indulgence.
Vitaly Yusko, a member of an organization helping those who lost their relatives in air crashes, is certain that Kaloyev is a hero: “Kaloyev is a hero. Those guilty of causing air crashes often remain unpunished. Such a radical punishment is the only way to make them carry responsibility for their crimes,” he said.
Vsevolod Chaplin, a senior priest of the Moscow Patriarchy, said: “He has suffered a lot. Now he needs human care. I do not think that controversy would help him. We have to pray for him first and foremost .”
Mikhail Veller, a writer, believes that Vitaly Kaloyev is a ruthful person. “What he has done is justifiable. The actions of the flight control company (Skyguide) were revolting, greedy and inhumane. Instead of rehabilitating those who lost their loved ones in the air crash, they rehabilitated the flight controller. I think that the jury should have acquitted Kaloyev in the very beginning.”
Eduard Baltin, a Soviet Union Hero: “A hero is a person who has done a lot for his country. However, I can understand Kaloyev from the point of view of a human being.”
Vitaly Kaloyev has become a martyr, a hero and a murderer for most Russians. When he lost his family, he was waiting for the legal punishment to come to those who caused the tragedy. Instead, he saw European cynicism, lies and loutishness, which completely destroyed his inner world. Kaloyev, a man of the Caucasian origin, returned to his roots when the West turned a blind eye on his tragedy.
“Vendetta is still practiced in the Caucasus where Kaloyev came from. He is an avenger who followed the laws and customs of his native land. Thousands of other people of his nationality would do the same,” Ruslan Aushev, the former President of Ingushetia said.
Peter Nielsen, the flight control officer, whom Kaloyev stabbed to death in his own house, was a father of three children. When Kaloyev was approaching the Nielsens’ house with a knife in his pocket, he was most likely enveloped into unbearable pain. Kaloyev came to the Nielsens to hear a simple human apology. He lost his temper when Nielsen refused to apologize, and Peter Nielsen’s children lost their father.
Can Vitaly Kaloyev be considered a hero? The Swiss justice showed that he can. However, several political forces in Russia decided to use the man’s tragedy for their own selfish interests. No one even wondered if Kaloyev wanted to carry the status of a national hero.
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