Largest Russian cargo airline starts bypassing Belarus due to sanctions
Russia’s largest cargo carrier, the private group Volga-Dnepr, owned by Russian oligarch Alexey Isaikin, refused to fly over Belarus, according to FlightRadar24 data. “We have indeed decided not to use the airspace of Belarus for flights,” a representative of the Volga-Dnepr group told the Russian news agency RBC. He declined to comment further.
This happened after the European Union, Great Britain, and the United States imposed sanctions against Belarusian companies, including the national provider of air traffic services ,Belaeronavigation, and also after the ban of the UK Civil Aviation Authority to work with this provider. Volga-Dnepr complied with the restrictions imposed by British aviation authorities because it strictly follows all international rules, a source close to the group told RBC. The Volga-Dnepr Logistics B.V. group is headquartered in the Netherlands.
Representatives of the Russian Transport Ministry and the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, Rosaviation, declined to comment.
The United States and Great Britain, following the European Union, imposed sanctions against Belarus after the incident with the Irish airline Ryanair, which was flying from Athens to Vilnius on May 23 but had to land in Minsk after Belarusian air traffic controllers said there was a bomb on board the plane. While the plane was in Belarus, two passengers, the co-founder of the opposition Telegram channel Nexta Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sophia Sapega, were removed from the plane and arrested.
European countries banned their airlines from using Belarusian airspace almost immediately after the incident with the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk. Regular flights to the Belarusian capital were canceled by German Lufthansa, Polish LOT, and Latvian Air Baltic.
On June 21, the British Civil Aviation Authority sent a letter to international airlines, including Russian airlines, stating that it was terminating its cooperation with Belaeronavigation.
Under the sanctions, Belaeronavigation’s assets are frozen, and providing funds and economic resources to it is disallowed, including fees for flights in Belarusian airspace and landing at airports in Belarus. “Any legal entity that pays such fees will directly or indirectly violate the sanctions provisions and commit a criminal offense,” the letter reads.
According to FlightRadar24, Volga-Dnepr airlines stopped using Belarusian airspace the day after receiving a letter from the British Civil Aviation Authority. The group accounted for 95% of the net profit of Russian cargo airlines in 2020.
In addition to Russian cargo carriers, the Volga-Dnepr Group includes amTES (Germany) and Volga-Dnepr Gulf (UAE). British cargo carriers CargoLogicAir and German CargoLogic Germany have also been created with the participation of Isaikin.