Washington’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has imposed stringent export controls on Russia and Belarus, following the invasion of Ukraine. After Aeroflot, Azur Air, and UTair, the Moscow-based freight carrier, Aviastar-TU Airlines has now also been hit. The U.S. authority accuses the airline of actively supporting Russia’s war against Ukraine by transporting military equipment and weapons on board of its freighters.
The decree issued by Matthew S. Axelrod, Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at BIS, is crystal clear. It reads: “All export privileges for Russian cargo aircraft carrier, Aviastar,
are temporarily denied due to ongoing violations of the comprehensive export controls imposed on Russia by the [U.S.] Commerce Department.” In practice, this means that Western-sourced
aircraft components, navigation equipment, or spare parts for the airline's freighter aircraft, may no longer be delivered to the airline.
Aviastar exists for 22 years…
This full cessation of all supplies predominantly affects the 6 Boeing 757Fs Aviastar has in its fleet. However, its 3 Tu-204Cs that are of Russian production and manufactured in Ulyanovsk, are similarly hit. Until Putin’s war against Ukraine, the aircraft were chartered by the Russian Post to fly airmail and parcels between China and Russia. The last annual tonnage mentioned (without an indication of which year) on the carrier’s website is 20.000+ tons.
In addition to other products carried, such as pharmaceuticals, valuables or dangerous goods, the company also explicitly mentions “military cargo”.
Although made in Russia, the Tu-204Cs are equipped with modern, Western technology that, following the BIS order, can no longer be easily replaced in the case of technical failures or damages. In those cases, the aircraft will have to be grounded for security reasons unless spare units are in stock and could be installed immediately.
…but does the carrier still have a future?
These operational disruptions are precisely the purpose of the BIS export restrictions order now issued, emphasizes Gina M. Raimondo, Secretary of Commerce, and Matthew Axelrod's supervisor: “The Export Enforcement is laser-focused on depriving Russia of the items and technologies it needs to sustain its war machine, and today’s action is another critical step in cutting Vladimir Putin off from the global economy,” she stated.
Degrading Russia’s airlift capacity
Ms. Raimondo went on to say: “The Commerce Department will continue using every tool at its disposal to disrupt Russia’s ability to wage war and demonstrate the power and reach of U.S. law.”
Airlift capacity is essential for military success and economic prosperity. “That is why we targeted Russia’s aerospace sector in response to its brutal invasion of Ukraine,” commented Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security, Alan Estevez. Actions like the Temporary Denial Order (TDO) implemented now “demonstrate that BIS’s Export Enforcement is working hard to ensure that our new controls have their intended effect: To severely degrade and diminish Russia’s capacity to quickly move people, cargo, and weapons against Ukraine,” he underlined.
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