Russia is responsible for the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, according to a wild new theory presented by an American aviation expert.
Jeff Wish, who is also a respected sci-fi writer and CNN consultant, recently claimed in a New York magazine article that MH370 was hijacked by Russian President Vladimir Putin and landed at the "slowly crumbling" Baikonur Spaceport.
Wish's theory, which is based off of pings that the plane emitted for seven hours after veering off its course, argues that the Russian hijackers likely "spoofed" the plane's navigation data to make it appear as if flight MH370 went in a certain direction. In reality, Wish writes, the aircraft was flown to Baikonur Cosmodrome, an operational space launch facility leased by the Kazakh government to Russia until 2050.
"As it happened, there were three ethnically Russian men aboard MH370, two of them Ukrainian-passport holders from Odessa. Could any of these men, I wondered, be special forces or covert operatives?" he asks in the lengthy article.
In presenting an argument for his theory, Wise reminds readers that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had personally appealed to Kazakhstan's president, the Soviet-era strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev, to allow Malaysia to carry out a search operation in the country following the plane's disappearance--a request to which Kasakhstan never responded.
"If Russia has the savvy to plan an insanely complex special operation, they also have a track record of implementing such schemes," Wise wrote.
"Kazakhstan lacks the means and technical savvy to carry out a sophisticated hijack, the same is not true of Russia. Russia is (arguably) the only country that stands apart from the West and yet is as technically advanced in the aerospace industry as the United States," Wise had said.
The "Plane That Wasn't There" author acknowledges that he is unsure of why Vladimir Putin would want to 'steal' a Malaysian passenger plane.
"Maybe he wanted to demonstrate to the United States, which had imposed the first punitive sanctions on Russia the day before, that he could hurt the West and its allies anywhere in the world," says Wish.
He adds: "Maybe what he was really after were the secrets of one of the plane's passengers. Maybe there was something strategically crucial in the hold. Or maybe he wanted the plane to show up unexpectedly somewhere someday, packed with explosives."
Wish's theory is among many regarding the missing plane, which disappeared nearly a year ago en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. Despite a massive search that has covered 9,200 square miles of ocean floor, there has been so sign of the Boeing 777 in the Southern Indian Ocean, making it one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time.
According to the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau, the search is expected to end in May 2015.
"Assuming no other significant delays with vessels, equipment or from the weather, the current underwater search area may be largely completed around May 2015," the group said in an operational update.
The Bureau's Commissioner, Martin Dolan, has also predicted the fate of the missing plane will not remain a mystery for long despite lack of evidence.
"I don't wake up every day thinking 'This will be the day' but I do wake up every day hoping this will be it, and expecting that sometime between now and May that will be the day," he said.