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Russian Hijacker Seized, 155 Freed

December 11, 1997

MOSCOW (AP) _ A hijacker who seized a Russian plane and threatened to blow it up Wednesday was mentally unstable and had sent letters to the government asking to emigrate, security officials and news reports said.

Commandos overpowered the man, who demanded $10 million and safe passage to Switzerland, less than an hour after the flight landed at Sheremetyevo-1 airport in Moscow.

All 155 crew and passengers aboard the Ilyushin-62 were released unharmed after elite Alpha Squad commandos rushed the plane and grabbed the hijacker when he came out to talk to officials.

Security officials said the man, identified as Gennady Todikov, 59, was mentally unfit and had written letters to the government calling for the ``reconstruction of the world.″

Todikov, in footage shown on Russian Television, said he was frustrated when he got no answer to letters sent to President Boris Yeltsin asking to emigrate.

``So then I decided to act like this in order to get out of here, to threaten an explosion and to demand that they exile me at least to Switzerland,″ he said.

The plane, belonging to Magma Airlines, was commandeered en route from Magadan in the Russian Far East, eight time zones east of Moscow.

Todikov, who claimed to be wired with explosives, insisted after taking control of the plane that he had two accomplices. Only after the plane landed in Moscow did it become clear that a lone hijacker was involved. Officials said the explosive device Todikov claimed to have was a plaster model.

No shots were fired when Todikov was captured, although scores of Interior Ministry troops and police armed with sniper rifles and machine guns ringed the airport.

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