Russian missiles pose danger to planes flying over Iran, Iraq and Caspian Sea, authorities warn

A warship of the Caspian Flotilla launching missiles from the deployment area in the south-western Caspian Sea in an image taken from a video on Oct 7, 2015.
A warship of the Caspian Flotilla launching missiles from the deployment area in the south-western Caspian Sea in an image taken from a video on Oct 7, 2015. PHOTO: EPA/RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY

Missiles fired by Russia at Syrian targets could pose a danger to aircraft flying over Iran, Iraq and the Caspian Sea, the European Aviation Safety Agency has warned.

The aviation regulator noted in a safety bulletin last week that the missiles, fired from warships in the Caspian Sea, pass below flight routes that are used by commercial planes. However, it had no specific recommendations for airlines and did not advise that airlines avoid flying there.

The bulletin said: "EASA was informed from public sources of several launches of missiles from warships, located in the Caspian Sea, to Syria on 6 and 7 October 2015. Before reaching Syria, such missiles are necessarily crossing the airspace above Caspian Sea, Iran and Iraq, below flight routes which are used by commercial transport aeroplanes."

Air France has taken the warning into account and made adjustments, the airline said in a statement, without releasing details. It does not fly over Yemen, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq or Libya, Bloomberg reported.

Lufthansa has not changed its flight paths across the region, a spokesman said, while British Airways said it would adjust flight plans where appropriate.

The warning comes as Dutch safety investigators prepare to release a report on Tuesday about Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine in July last year as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people on board were killed.

 
 

A Dutch newspaper has already claimed, hours before the official release, that the international investigators concluded that the plane was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile fired from rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, first launched air strikes on Sept 30, saying that it was targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorists.

Syrian rebels, however, have accused Moscow of targeting moderate and Islamist opposition fighters, rather than extremists. Most strikes have taken place in areas held by opposition groups, including many backed by other Arab states, Turkey and the United States.

More than 250,000 Syrians have died since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Forces loyal to Mr Assad are fighting those who are against his rule, as well as ISIS militants.