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26 Feb, 2009 12:07

Russian Maestro Valery Gergiev’s close call with Israeli fighter jets

Russian Maestro Valery Gergiev’s close call with Israeli fighter jets

The Israeli air force took to the skies on Wednesday to intercept a private plane carrying renowned conductor and director of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev.

If Georgiev’s pilot thought the fighter jets were part of some sort of welcome salute, he was quickly disappointed. The Israeli air force was activated after it was reported that an unidentified plane had entered Israel’s air space.

Fortunately, as the Israeli fighter jets approached Gergiev’s plane, the pilot of his aircraft were able to identify themselves with the air-traffic controllers at Eilat airport.

Gergiev said he knew nothing of the close call until his pilots had informed him of the incident afterwards. The renowned conductor, who is more famous for bringing down house than planes, added he was not frightened, “but surprised by the fact.”

Air force authorities have detained the pilot who they say was drunk.

It is still not clear what triggered the activation of the Israeli jets, although there is speculation that the communication system could be to blame.

The Russian conductor boarded a private jet from Turkey to the Israeli city of Eilat because no regular flight was available to the “Classics on the Red Sea” festival.

Gergiev is expected to open the event and also conduct a concert of the Mariinsky Theatre symphonic orchestra, which will perform Rakhmaninov's third piano concerto and Mahler's eighth symphony

The festival runs from February 26 till February 28.