Volga-Dnepr and Antonov Split up at Leipzig

Antonov Airlines has decided to exit Ruslan Salis GmbH, a 50/50 joint venture started in 2006 between the Ukrainian capacity provider and its Russian counterpart Volga-Dnepr to provide transport capacity for the EU and most NATO states. In future, both airlines will continue serving their EU and NATO clients but use different platforms.

Volga-Dnepr and Antonov Airlines will continue flying for the EU / NATO but on their own account  -  picture LEJ
Volga-Dnepr and Antonov Airlines will continue flying for the EU / NATO but on their own account - picture LEJ

According to the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), responsible for the strategic airlift operated by both Volga-Dnepr and Antonov Airlines, there will be separate contracts signed with both former partners to secure future uplift capacity from Leipzig, Germany, each time needed either by EU countries or NATO members. NSPA said the two separate accords reached with V-D and Antonov on airlift matters are expected to be inked during the first half of December. The contracts will run until 2019 but can be prolonged for five additional years.
The upcoming deal secures Volga-Dnepr 60 percent of the flights on behalf of their western contracting authorities, while Antonov gets the remaining 40 percent. The unequal share of air transport orders results from fleet availability and the different fleet size. While V-D operates ten An-124-100 freighters, there are seven belonging to Antonov.

The West still lacks sufficient airlift capacity
As done in the past, two of the big all-cargo aircraft have permanently to be based at LEJ, for immediate accessibility should a NATO or EU state want goods and equipment to be urgently transported. The number of Leipzig deployed An-124s could go up to six in case of sudden occurrences like urgent humanitarian flights to bring relief goods as fast as possible to regions hit by earthquake or flood catastrophes. Similarly, if large numbers of military equipment have to be rushed to political hot spots like Afghanistan, or places in the Middle East or Africa. 

Antonov and Volga-Dnepr terminate cooperation
The end of Ruslan Salis in its previous form became apparent earlier this year after state-owned Ukrainian carrier Antonov Airlines announced terminating all business relations with any Russian company, including the privately owned Volga-Dnepr Group (CargoForwarder Global reported).
The company’s step is a reaction to the ongoing conflict between Kiev and Moscow over the illegal annexation of the Crimea by Russian troops and the ongoing hybrid war in the eastern parts of the Ukraine, supported by the Putin government. 
To prevent having disadvantages resulting from this political and military conflict and due to the lack of sufficient own uplift capacity, NATO and EU found a Solomon-like solution to further secure An-124 operations on their behalf. So at the end both Volga-Dnepr and Antonov will sign individual contracts, this way ending commonalities and avoiding legal disputes, but concurrently securing sufficient uplift capacity for their western contractual partners. But for their individual accounts only.


Antonov sets up own marketing agency in the UK
As consequence of exiting Ruslan Salis, Antonov announced to establish a UK-based company named Dreamlifts Ltd for marketing the capacity of their seven units comprising An-124 freighter fleet. The airline assures that an international group of well-known experts from the outsize and heavyweight cargo industry will manage the offspring. This should help Antonov customers to seamlessly transit their business from Ruslan Salis to the new entity and better adapt to the given situation. According to President Oleksandr Kotsiuba of Antonov, his company will continue offering the capacity of the freighter fleet to the market for many years to come. “We look forward to working with the experienced and dedicated team in the UK.” He went on to say that he sees a bright future for the operation of the Ukraine company’s An-124s, despite quitting Ruslan Salis.

Heiner Siegmund

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