Russia has ordered its airlines to avoid Syrian airspace after a charter airliner with 159 passengers and eight crew aboard escaped a possible missile attack Monday. Russia Today quoted Interfax as saying the the Nordwind Airlines A320, on a flight from an Egyptian resort to Kazan in Tatarstan, was over the mountains of Syria when the crew spotted the launch of two ground-to-air missiles and took evasive action. The missiles reportedly exploded “very close” to the airliner at about 30,000 feet, but it was not damaged. The crew then asked ATC for a higher altitude and continued the trip at 33,000.
Russian officials have stopped short of calling the incident a targeted attack on the airliner but they have now banned civilian overflights of the war-torn country. Prior to the incident the government recommended airlines steer clear of Syrian airspace and most were doing so. On Tuesday the recommendation became an order. Russia is also making diplomatic inquiries to determined the exact nature of the incident and has stressed that it has no evidence to characterize it as an intentional attempt to bring the aircraft down.