In Russia, Revenge Gets You Glory

Photo: Sergei L. Loiko / Los Angeles Times

In 2002, Vitaly Kaloyev's wife and children were killed in a plane crash. He stalked the air traffic controller who was on duty all the way in Switzerland, knocked on the man's front door, and stabbed him to death.

Today, after serving just 5 years of a prison sentence, Vitaly goes back to Russia and is welcomed there as a hero:

"I don't really take offense at people who call me a murderer. People who say that would betray their own children, their own motherland," Kaloyev said. "I protected the honor of my children and the memory of my children."

By the time Kaloyev walked out of a Swiss prison and made an emotional return to this city spread in the icy shadows of the Caucasus Mountains late last year, his crime had been eclipsed by his fame and a social split over his significance. Some Russians cheer Kaloyev as a national hero, a "real man." Others are appalled by his celebrity status, which they believe highlights the worst tendencies of Russian nationalism.

Kaloyev's story is a postmodern tragedy, a tale of loss and vengeance, but also of clashing cultures -- of the deeply humanistic, man-to-man world of the Caucasus crashing confusedly into the sterilized, legalistic culture of big Western companies facing expensive lawsuits.

Although he says he blacked out and can't remember attacking 36-year-old Peter Nielsen, Kaloyev doesn't deny killing him, nor is he sorry for the man's death. Even in the earliest days of his grief, Kaloyev admits, he fixated on Nielsen, the only controller on duty when the plane carrying Kaloyev's family crashed into another plane in midair. Within two days of the crash, he had tracked down the air traffic controller's name and neighborhood. He knew that Nielsen had two children, and that his wife was pregnant with a third child.

Here's a fascinating report by Megan K. Stack of the Los Angeles Times: Link

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I agree with Vincent, it was NOT NEGLIGENCE on the part of Peter Nielsen that caused the crash, but rather, incompetent practices on the part of Skyguide management. I also understood Kaloyev's grief but cannot comprehend the fact that he continuosly deny any premeditation of the act. HOW CAN HE SAY THAT "HE JUST WANT TO SPEAK TO MR NIELSEN TO OBTAIN AN APOLOGY" WHEN IN FACT HE HAS IN HIS HAND A 22-INCH KNIFE!

Another thing, the RUSSIAN PRESS, as well as SKYGUIDE, is to blame for putting the blame solely on Peter Nielsen, which may have contributed to the vengeful passion of Mr Kaloyev.

And p.s., in my country somewhere here in Southeast Asia, blood revenge is more common, so I am quite familiar with the factors involved in the tragedy. But I find the practice of blood revenge awful as it does not resolve any dispute.
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God is the only one who can give peace in a drama like this. Revenge is the way people act when they don´t believe in Him. But making harm and hurting others won´t give you peace. Revenge don´t give you peace, just God. Jesus died in a terrible way and he taught us how to act.
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Peter Nielsen was not at fault for the crash; Skyguide's malpractices crippled his ability to control the airspace and that is why the planes crash. The courts ruled that Skyguide administration is responsible.

"Why was the air traffic controller not already in jail himself for criminal negligence? The Russian man may have killed a man. But how many did the victim kill by not properly doing his job?"

He WAS doing his job properly. Skyguide crippled him in this way:
* Often one controller manned two workstations several feet apart. Why did Skyguide let this happen?
* Maintenance men knocked out the phone system and disabled the visual collision alert warning system

So when Nielsen realized he was swamped as he had to help an Aero Lloyd land, he could not contact outside help (phone is dead). When he realized that BTC2937 and DHL611 were nearing each other, he asked BTC to descend when its TCAS told it to climb. As systems were down DHL611 could not tell Nielsen that it was also descending. Nielsen did not and could not know what the TCAS said for BTC2937.
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I bet the ATC was sitting at home laughing and joking about all the people he had killed... not!

Proper sentence for ATC = life sentence tops.
Proper sentence for Russian guy = life in prison.

One was a "mistake", one was a deliberate murder.

Nor should the Russian guy get sentenced to death, that's murder too. There's a reason countries with death sentences aren't allowed to enter the EU.
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