Sri Lanka Seized Russian Aeroflot Aircraft, Amid Sanctions And Aircraft Registration Issues

Aeroflot has seen cases in countries globally to seize planes it is flying without permission from the owners. Photo: Getty Images.

Amidst a diplomatic row between Russia and Sri Lanka over the detention of an Aeroflot aircraft here, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has informed Moscow that the issue with the Russian flag carrier is not between two countries but a private legal matter, according to a media report on Sunday.

A senior Sri Lankan minister has also apologised to all the passengers and crew after the island nation’s aviation authority prevented a flight of the Russian flag carrier to depart the Colombo airport.

The flight, scheduled to depart from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport to Moscow on June 2 with 191 passengers and 13 crew members, was not allowed to depart due to an enjoining order issued by the Commercial High Court of Colombo, a statement from the Airport and Aviation Services said.

A spokesman from the Prime Minister’s office told the Daily Mirror newspaper that Wickremesinghe did have a discussion on the issue with the secretary ministry of foreign affairs and advised him on what should be done.

Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva expressed his apology to the crew and passengers of the aircraft who were left stranded, the News First website reported.

He also acknowledged that the issue would make an impact on the tourism industry in Sri Lanka, in addition to the foreign exchange crisis.

Sri Lanka is going through the worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1945.

The economic crisis has prompted an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and other fuel, toilet paper and even matches, with Sri Lankans for months being forced to wait in lines lasting hours outside stores to buy fuel and cooking gas.

Minister de Silva said that due to the harm caused by the issue, the Sri Lankan government has decided to provide a legal framework in which all parties are granted fair judgement, despite the outcome of the case.

Therefore, he mentioned that the Attorney General will make submissions to court over the Aeroflot issue on Monday.

Russia Falsified Registration Paper

While both flights carried flight number SU288, commercial services remain suspended for now. In a statement to The Economic Times, Aeroflot said.

The Colombo Commercial Court has banned the seized A330, RA-73702 (previously VQ-BMY), from leaving the country until June 16th under the original order. However, there is a hearing scheduled for June 8th to potentially lift the order and allow Aeroflot to fly its jets home.

However, lessor Celestial Aviation Ireland is unlikely to let this happen without a fight. The A330 was previously leased to Aeroflot by GECAS and AerCap and was reregistered in April after the EU ordered that all leases to Russian carriers be cancelled and aircraft seized. While the former went into effect, getting the planes back has been difficult due to the reregistration.

The situation with Russian airlines and aircraft continues to evolve amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. We’ve seen several surprises occur across the aviation industry in the last few months since the start of the invasion. There will undoubtedly be several more twists in the coming months as operators and authorities try to adapt to the global conditions.

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