Espreso. Global

Russian airlines receive at least $1.2bn worth of aircraft parts despite sanctions

23 August, 2023 Wednesday
21:09

Russian air carriers have received aircraft spare parts worth at least $1.2 billion since May last year despite Western sanctions

This is reported by Reuters with reference to customs data.

"Despite Western sanctions designed to stop Russian carriers from procuring parts for their Airbus and Boeing jets, Ural Airlines has imported over 20 of the US-made devices since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022," the news agency writes.

In total, since May 2022, when the most stringent trade restrictions and export bans were in place in the US and Europe, Russian airlines have received aircraft parts worth at least $1.2 billion. These include critical equipment for aircraft flight capability, such as Northrop Grumman devices, cabin pressure valves, cockpit displays and landing gear; and simpler parts, such as coffee makers, flight attendant telephone handsets and toilet seats.

"The customs records showed the parts made their way to Russia through middlemen in countries including Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, China and Kyrgyzstan – none of which has endorsed Western sanctions on Russia," the statement said.

It is reported that this is not the entire cost of aircraft parts imported over the past year. After all, the documents received only relate to supplies that were addressed to Russian airlines or their technical departments, and not to aircraft parts that went to other companies in Russia.

Oleg Panteleev, head of the Moscow-based AviaPort aviation analytical centre, said they had found a way out of the situation: "At first there was a shock, no one knew what to do," he told Reuters. "After two to three months, new supply channels were found and, after six or nine months, quite a lot of alternatives appeared, which allowed for a reduction in prices and delivery times."

Western sanctions have created problems for Russian aviation. However, as of May 1 this year, Russian carriers had 541 Western planes in use or undergoing maintenance. This is roughly the same as before the sanctions were imposed, if we take into account the 75 aircraft leased by Russian airlines and returned by their foreign owners.

Sanctions against Russian airlines

In 2022, severe sanctions were imposed on the Russian aviation industry: most of the world's countries closed their skies to Russian airlines, and the lessors, mainly from Ireland and Bermuda, demanded that all aircraft be returned to their owners. These aircraft were also stripped of their flight safety certificates. 

Russia is trying to circumvent the restrictions and is actually starting to pirate the aircraft. They are also hastily re-registering them. However, this does not eliminate the impact of sanctions. So, at the moment, Russian airlines can only fly domestically and to a few "friendly" countries, and then only as long as the aircraft are in good technical condition, as foreign companies will not supply them with any repairs or spare parts. Leading aircraft manufacturers have also joined the sanctions.

On September 14, 2022, the ICAO issued a "red flag" to Russia, indicating serious problems in civil aviation safety.

On October 1, Russia was not re-elected as a member of the governing council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) at the UN, and on October 4 it was finally expelled from the governing bodies of this most authoritative structure in the industry.

Since the end of 2022, incidents with passenger aircraft have become more frequent in Russia. Sanctions have led to numerous breakdowns and accidents

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