The Kremlin is stepping up its verbal attacks on the Trudeau government by raising predatory accusations following diplomatic quarrels. The dispute arose over the seizure of a Volga-Dnepr Airlines-owned AN-124-100 freighter, which is unable to leave Canadian airspace due to sanctions imposed by Ottawa. It has been parked at Toronto Pearson Airport since 27FEB22. Three days earlier, Russia had invaded Ukraine, prompting extensive sanctions by Western countries against the Putin regime. Volga Dnepr Airlines' AN-124-100 was the first seizure of Russian ownership by Canada.
Russian government officials are raising their voices. They accuse Canada of theft and cold expropriation. Only days ago, Moscow’s Foreign Ministry demanded the immediate return of the freighter
to its rightful owner, Volga-Dnepr Airlines. If Canada does not comply with the demand, there will be “harsh consequences”, trumpeted Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov in an unequivocal note to
Ottawa. Apparently, a parliamentary address by Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, Melanie Joly in Ottawa, had put Lavrov and his squad on alert. The reason for his wrath, agencies report, were
these words by Ms. Joly: “We're able to see how much we're isolating the Russian regime right now [through our penalties, HS] - because we need to do so economically, politically, and
diplomatically - and what the impacts are also on society and how much we're seeing potential regime change in Russia.”
The tone gets rougher
“Regime change” - an outrageous provocation in the ears of the Russian nomenclature. In an immediate counterattack, Moscow's government called Joly's remarks an unapologetic verbal “Russo-phobic insult”. Simultaneously, the Lavrov administration summoned Canadian charge d'affaires, Brian Ebel, on Monday (12JUN23), to inform him that Joly's comments were unacceptable. In this context, the Russian government again demanded the unconditional return of the seized AN-124-100, otherwise Russia reserved the right to take “appropriate steps” depending on Canada's further decisions. Moscow did not comment in detail on the possible measures.
Chained since 16 months
The 26-year-old AN-124-100F bearing the registration RA-82078, belongs to Volga-Dnepr Airlines’ fleet since 1996. Based on sanctions stipulated by Canada’s Special Economic Act, the large freighter aircraft was chained in Toronto, three days after the Russian assault on Ukraine, following the discharge of China produced medical goods.
Meanwhile, the aircraft has been parked at Pearson Airport since almost 16 months. This has raised parking fees to CAD 490,000, based on CAD 1,022 payable per day. Toronto Airport is entitled to levy this charge which is based on the current fee schedule. However, it is questionable whether YYZ’s management will ever get a single cent. Both Volga-Dnepr and the Russian State are unlikely to pay the parking fee, citing the sanction regime that prevented the freighter's planned return flight.
UR to replace RA?
In the meantime, there are increasing indications that the Canadian government is moving towards handing the aircraft over to Ukraine - as act of good will and compensation for the destruction of aircraft and airport infrastructure by Russian troops. Antonov Airlines’ iconic and unique AN-225 flagship freighter aircraft was deliberately blown up by Russian forces at Kyiv Airport shortly after they invaded Ukraine. Before RA-82078 can take off again, extensive technical checks must be carried out, and the aircraft will need a new registration - its code starting with UR.
The fleet of the state-owned national carrier, Antonov Airlines, includes six AN-124-100 freighters, which are currently based in Leipzig-Halle, Germany, for security and commercial reasons.
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