Russian Antonov An-124 Enters EU Airspace With Ban Exemption
Two Volga Dnepr Ilyushin Il-76TD-90VD, registrations RA-76511 and RA-76950, are flying across the European Union airspace this month, landing at Brno–Tuřany Airport (BRQ) in the Czech Republic, despite the ongoing ban of Russian-registered aircraft due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As reported by local media outlets, the planes received an exemption from the authorities and landed in the European country to deliver “an important cargo.”
Flying to the European Union
This is not the first exempted Russian aircraft that flies across the European Union since Russia invaded Ukraine and was hit with a set of sanctions. For instance, Slovakia made an exemption in March, allowing another Volga Dnepr Airlines IL-76 to land in Bratislava. The aircraft brought much-needed fuel, and the local government granted a special permission to overfly prohibited airspace for the Russian plane.
Fast-forward to September, two Volga Il-76s, registrations RA-76511 and RA-76590, flew from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport (DME) to Brno (BRQ). Instead of flying through Belarus and Poland, the aircraft had to route to the Baltic Sea, flying across the ocean between Finland and Estonia, before going south and entering the Czech Republic through Germany. The total flight time was three and a half hours.
RA-76511 has only taken one flight between Russia and the Czech Republic. RA-76950 has scheduled three round flights between both countries between September 6 and September 10. František Jemelka, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, said,
“In accordance with a directly applicable EU regulation, the Ministry of Transport issued an exception for the Russian air carrier Volga Dnepr for flights to or from the Czech Republic for the purpose of transporting a specific commodity in the strategic interest of the Czech Republic and other EU member states, for the reason that at the moment there is no available alternative to air transport.”
Volga Dnepr Airlines received an exemption from the authorities and landed in the European country to deliver
“an important cargo.”
Photo: Getty Images.
Ladislav Kříž, a chief spokesperson of ČEZ Group, confirmed that Volga Dnepr Airlines was transporting fuel assemblies for the Temelín nuclear power plant, located in the Czech Republic. It was a valid contract derived from an order last year, he added, stating that the transport of nuclear fuel has an exception with regard to the safety of ensuring production from these sources and that similar deliveries continue to other countries as well.
Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Volga Dnepr operated this flight at least once, landing at Bratislava’s Milan Rastislav Štefánik airport.
Russia’s ban from European airspace
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the European Union banned Russian planes and companies from flying in its airspace. Russia retaliated, which added many hours of flight time for commercial airlines in Europe and lots of headaches for the commercial aviation industry on both sides of the border.
For instance, the sanctions have forced Russia to rely on homemade components, reducing its dependency on imports. Local airlines are also unable to take delivery of outstanding orders from Airbus and Boeing (and instead, they have turned inwards; for instance, Aeroflot placed an order for 339 locally built aircraft).
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