ITF ramps up pressure over scapegoated Russian air traffic controllers

April 9, 2015

The ITF has ramped up the pressure to drop criminal charges against three air traffic controllers at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport who it says were unfairly scapegoated for the tragic accident which killed the head of oil giant Total and all crew members on 20 October 2014.

ITF general secretary Steve Cotton wrote to Russian president Vladimir Putin on 17 March about head air traffic controller Roman Dunaev, air traffic controller Alexander Kruglov and trainee air traffic controller Svetlana Krovtsun who, immediately after the crash, were charged with ‘causing multiple deaths through negligence by breaching air safety rules’.

Cotton warned that the ITF would monitor the situation closely and would encourage its affiliates to show solidarity if the charges were not dropped.

Cotton described as “a shocking move, to say the least” the public identification and charging of the three with criminal offences at the very early stages of the investigation without any formal conclusions. He said this “has also put in danger the establishment of equilibrium between two equally relevant goals: aviation safety and the administration of justice”, which would create a climate of fear for air traffic controllers that any incident or accident might result in a criminal prosecution.

The technical commission has established the preliminary causes of the crash and the ITF understands that its report indicates no suggestion of intent to do wrong from the air traffic controllers. Cotton claimed that these interim results proved that the ongoing criminalisation was inconsistent with Russia’s commitment to the International Civil Aviation Organization regarding Just Culture.

The Just Culture initiative encourages the development of an environment in which employees report incidents and the necessary processes for investigating and developing preventive action are put in place.

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