Russian air force grounded by Manchester's finest

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The Independent Online
The players of Spartak Vladikavkaz, who took on Liverpool in the Uefa Cup last night, looked to be in for an extended stay in England after their plane was "clamped" on the tarmac at Manchester airport.

The plane, carrying the players and 130 fans, was impounded after it appeared unexpectedly out of French airspace.

Officials at Manchester's Ringway airport had no choice other than to let the Tupelov 154 jet land but, under orders from the Civil Aviation Authority, they impounded the plane within minutes of it touching down.

The CAA, acting on instructions from the Department of Transport, had not received copies of an air operator's certificate proving the plane was airworthy or proof that the airline had out adequate insurance.

Speke Airport, on Merseyside, was also on alert when the plane suddenly appeared heading for the north west.

Dawn James, a spokeswoman for Manchester airport, said: "We were not expecting its arrival but had no choice about letting it land. The plane had a flight plan but the landing was illegal because there was not the correct documentation."

Airport officials allowed the team and supporters to leave the aircraft and head for Merseyside by coach after landing charges were paid in cash.

The DoT, which liaised with Greater Manchester and Merseyside police and Uefa, said it was prepared to let the plane leave Ringway, but because there was no proof of insurance cover it would not allow the plane to have any passengers on board.

The prospect of having Russian footballers and 130 fans stranded led to top-level talks between police chiefs, and it is understood arrangements were last night being made to find emergency accommodation.

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