Passengers aboard a plane at a Krasnoyarsk airport had to sit idle for two hours in the freezing cold with the cabin doors open on February 7. The aircraft was supposed to take off for Moscow at 8:15 a.m., local time, but the pilot suddenly announced that “because of the arrival of state officials,” the airport would be closed — even for airport staff.
This meant that even the ground crew wasn’t able to remove the ladders from the Boeing-737’s two open exit doors, forcing the passengers and crew to wait in the airplane for two hours in temperatures that dropped to 16 degrees below zero (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit). The visiting official turned out to be President Vladimir Putin.
Grigory Skarchenko, a passenger on the flight, told the independent U.S.-government-funded media outlet Radio Svoboda that the pilot said it was “technically impossible” to activate the plane’s heaters while waiting on the runway. “It was -16 degrees outside. Not that cold, so we got lucky,” Skarchenko said, adding that the toilets were operable and the flight attendants handed out free drinks. “Pobeda” Airlines has promised to reimburse any passengers who missed their connecting flights in Moscow.
President Putin’s official visits always occasion heightened security measures wherever he goes. In September 2017, when he visited Yandex’s Moscow headquarters, for example, staff were only permitted into the building according to a list drawn up by the Federal Protective Service, whose agents also searched employees' personal items. Thirty minutes before Putin arrived, the authorities halted all traffic in the area.