ANKARA, Turkey -- Three Soviet citizens Sunday hijacked a Russian jetliner with 40 people aboard and forced it to land at a U.S. Air Force base in Turkey where they surrendered after stabbing the pilot and two passengers.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman said the hijackers were taken into custody and requested political asylum in West Germany.
It was the third successful air hijack from Russia to neighboring Turkey in 12 years. On Oct. 15, 1970, a father and son hijacked an AN-24 aircraft to Trabazon, killing a stewardess and wounding three crew, according to Soviet reports. Turkey refused to extradite the hijackers.
Twelve days later, two students hijacked a five-seat plane to Sinop. They were granted asylum and sentenced to 10 and 13 years in jail but returned voluntarily to the Soviet Union in December 1971.
Turkish officials said the hijackers, all born in East Germany but Soviet citizens, surrendered after a three-hour standoff at the U.S. Air Base in Sinop, a Black Sea port 200 miles northeast of Ankara, that houses an American military communications center.
The pilot of the Aeroflot jet and two passengers were stabbed during a fight with the hijackers, but the wounds were not serious, an official said.
'Both were treated immediately at the Sinop state hospital and reboarded the plane,' he said.
Officials said the charter jet, bound for Odessa in the Soviet Ukraine, was flying from Novorisik when it was hijacked and forced across the Black Sea.
The plane landed at the U.S. Air Force base at about 5:30 a.m. EST, officials said. The hostages were allowed to leave the plane about 8:15 a.m. EST.
Turkish Foreign Ministry officials in Ankara identified the hijackers as Boris Schmidle, Vitali Schmidle and Aptyp Schuller. They were armed only with a knife, said officials.
Witnesses described the hijackers as between the ages of 50 and 60. They said the three men appeared tired but happy to surrender to Turkish authorities, who took them into custody pending an investigation.
Turkish officials said the plane was quickly reloaded for a flight back to the Soviet Union, but after speaking with the Soviet Embassy in Ankara, Turkish authorities ordered the plane to stay on the ground.
Officials in Ankara said a Soviet envoy would fly to Sinop to investigate the incident and interview the plane's crew.
A Foreign Ministry announcement in Ankara said an investigation was under way, and permission had been granted for a Soviet Embassy delegation to visit Sinop, one of Turkey's 'red-alert' provinces that is normally out of bounds to foreign reporters and diplomats.
Turkey's relations with the Soviet Union have declined since a mid-October incident in which two Turkish soldiers were shot to death in the border region after trespassing on Soviet territory.
Military sources in eastern Anatolia said that as a result and order was issued to Turkish troops to 'exterminate' all Soviet trespassers in Turkey -- mainly Soviet border guards.
No incident has been reported since then.