Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation into law that would allow Russia to seize planes on lease to the country for use in domestic travel, according to multiple reports.
The law is Russia’s latest attempt to maneuver around crippling sanctions imposed by the West in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing Russian state-owned news outlet TASS, that the law would allow Russian airlines to keep and operate commuter planes on lease from foreign aircraft manufacturers that have pulled out of the Russian market and canceled contracts with airlines in the face of sanctions. The Journal noted that seizing those planes would have limited effect, since sanctions also disallow maintenance, support, or spare parts supplies to Russia, and flying them with inferior parts or poor upkeep could pose risks to passengers.
Both the U.S. and the European Union have imposed heavy sanctions on the Russian aviation industry as part of their sanctions campaigns against Russia. The Department of Transportation announced on March 1 that both it and the Federal Aviation Administration were issuing orders blocking Russian aircraft from entering U.S. airspace. The DOT order and FAA Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) suspended operations of all flights, both passenger and cargo, for all Russian air carriers and commercial operators, regardless of the country of registry; aircraft registered in Russia; Russian state aircraft; and all aircraft owned, chartered, leased, operated or controlled by a Russian individual or business, regardless of the country of registry. Limited exceptions were given for aircraft engaged in humanitarian operations, diplomatic aircraft, or aircraft experiencing an in-flight emergency.
Around the same time, the United Kingdom revoked the foreign carrier permit held by Russian airline Aeroflot, suspending flights into the U.K. until further notice. European Commission President Usrula von der Leyen announced that the EU was shutting down EU airspace for Russians, and proposing a ban on aircraft owned, registered, or controlled by Russia. That ban also applied to any planes owned or chartered by a Russian individual or entity. Business Insider reported on March 1 that the EU gave European companies until March 28 to end rental contracts with Russian airlines, which would include repossessing their planes. Business Insider also reported, citing data by aviation aggregator Cirium, that 777 of Russia’s 980 commercial aircraft are leased, and 515 are leased from foreign companies, mostly from Ireland. Bermuda also suspended Russian aircraft from its airworthiness system, legally prohibiting about 740 planes from flying.
The plane seizures are the latest move by Russia to try to get around international sanctions. The Daily Wire reported Saturday that the Russian Parliament was considering loosening restrictions of intellectual property laws, effectively legalizing online software and media piracy, in an effort to get around sanctions and media companies that stopped doing business with Russia. Russia has also taken retaliatory action against Western countries. Russia imposed an export ban on more than 200 products in an effort to counter sanctions, as The Daily Wire reported. Russia has also announced a ban on entry into Russia for 13 U.S. officials, including President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and others.
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