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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Putin awaits his 'Air Force One'
New presidential plane under construction
The plane is to come into service by the end of the year
Work on a new flying residence for Russian President Vladimir Putin has entered its final stages and the plane is expected to take to the skies by the end of the year.

Putin on a visit to the aircraft factory
Putin inspected the work at the plant
A team of engineers in Ulyanovsk in the Volga region designed the interior of Mr Putin's "airborne office". But the fittings themselves were made in England, from where they have just arrived.

Construction of the plane itself, the equivalent of America's Air Force One, started in Voronezh several years ago.

Mr Putin inspected the project there when he was still prime minister.

Top secret

"All technical information on the closed project is a state secret," Russian NTV Mir television told viewers.

Table with chairs
Artist's impression of top-secret interior

The channel showed footage of Mr Putin's visit to the plant in Voronezh, as well as an artist's impression of the new top-secret interior.

Deputy Chief Designer Oleg Glushkov told NTV Mir stress had been laid not only on the "main passenger's comfort", but also on providing an environment conducive to work.

"This is not just a suite, it's a control panel and an airborne office," Mr Glushkov said.

There's a conference room to sit nine people, complete with the presidential ensign, the national flag and the Russian coat of arms.

Functional interior

Otherwise the decor is quite restrained, with no gold or silver, just plastic and stainless steel. The only sop to tradition are the walls, which are covered with silk, Mr Glushkov said.

At the same time, the plane conforms to international safety norms and can withstand the stress of a sudden manoeuvre or an emergency landing, he said.

The plane has been equipped with a special security apparatus, including a type of escape capsule. Its design is unknown, but passengers won't have to use parachutes, he said.

Ten British experts will be part of the team putting the finishing touches to the presidential plane.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

26 Sep 01 | England
Firm to refit Putin's plane
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