Russian airlines are said to have had 76 commercial aircraft seized abroad since the start of sanctions, which were introduced in response to the military attack against Ukraine. Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev mentions this number.
It cannot be verified whether the number stated by the Russian government member is correct or not. In an interview with the Russian media, the minister explicitly spoke about machines that were temporarily outside the Russian Federation for maintenance purposes, for example.
Savelyev, who was formerly CEO of Aeroflot, did not even discuss aircraft that flew to a foreign airport as part of a scheduled flight after the sanctions began and were chained up there, for example at the instigation of lessors.
For the first time, a high-ranking member of the Russian government admitted that Western sanctions have resulted in a significant part of the Russian airliner fleet being “extremely limited in its operational capability.” This is not just about the fact that Boeing and Airbus no longer provide services, but also about the simple reason that many countries cannot be contacted because of the risk that lessors would enforce immediate seizure.
Before the invasion of Ukraine, many Russian carriers had registered their Western aircraft in Ireland and the Bermuda Islands, among other things for tax reasons, but also under pressure from the Lessors because there were reservations about the Russian Civil Aviation Authority. The authorities there suspended the relevant registrations when the sanctions began. The machines were built at express speed without the consent of the owners transferred to the Russian register. This is considered illegal internationally and in many countries there is a threat of confiscation of the aircraft.
According to Savelyev, the machines, which many lessors believe have been “stolen from the state”, have only been able to reach eleven countries since November 2023. They had given written guarantees to the government of the Russian Federation that the machines would not be confiscated and that requests for legal assistance received from the lessor's countries would not be followed.