A group of four students, Ukranian Jews, are fighting for recognition within the Soviet Union. They are tired of being treated as second-class citizens and are prepared to use violence if necessary. When one of their number is captured after shooting a policeman, they know time is running out. Their only hope is to hijack a plane, fly to the West and then on to Israel.
One country after another refuses to let them land, until the plane finally sets down in Britain, low on fuel. Charlie Webster, an Intelligence officer on the Soviet desk, is brought in to negotiate with the hijackers. But it is unclear whether they are political refugees or dangerous criminals. As the government wavers, the students become increasingly desperate and start to lose patience, and control.