No Russian Plane Was Detained In Armenia

Ophelia Simonyan

Journalist, fact-checker

On March 22, the Russian “Interfax,” referring to the Russian Minister of Transport Vitaly Savelyev, wrote that almost 80 planes of Russian airlines were detained abroad due to anti-Russian sanctions.

“We had a total of 1,367 planes in the country, 78 of which we lost, they were detained during flights,” Savelyev said at a meeting of the Federal Council’s economic policy committee. According to him, the planes were detained, including in Russia’s friendly countries – Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia.

This information was widely spread in the Armenian media, emphasizing that Russian planes were detained in Armenia.

News.am, in particular, wrote that “Armenia is among the countries that have detained Russian planes.” Tert.am, oragir.news, mamul.am, Channel 5, and other media outlets mentioned that “a plane of a Russian airline was detained in Armenia.”

Media.am tried to understand how real the information that is being spread is.

The news was repeated

The claim that a Russian plane was detained in Armenia is not true. The plane in question was not Russian but was simply leased by a Russian airline. The Russian tenant was deprived of the right to use the given plane after the sanctions imposed on Russia.

About 3 weeks ago, on March 3, the “Aviator” Telegram channel wrote that a plane had been detained in Armenia and published a photo in which an Airbus A320 plane was seen. The news was first spread in the Armenian media by the Russian “Sputnik Armenia.”

On the same day, the news of the detainment of the plane was denied by the RA Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, and a day later, by the Civil Aviation.

According to the clarification, the A320 aircraft in question was operated by Russian Siberia Airlines and was not detained, but its flight permit was temporarily suspended. According to civil aviation, the problem was with the aviation authority of the airline and the country of registration of the aircraft, as well as the lessor of the aircraft.

The screenshot published by the Telegram channel (taken by flightradar24) also shows that it is not a plane registered in the Bermuda Islands but in Russia. The A320 is owned by the reputable leasing company SMBC Aviation Capital, which is one of the Dublin subsidiaries of the Japanese Sumitomo Mitsui.

The flight information of the last 7 days of the plane is currently missing from flightradar24, which means that either it has not had a flight for at least the previous week or that such flights have not been registered in the system.

The latest information about the plane appeared on flightradar24 on March 16, when the A320 flew from Yerevan to Greece’s “Heraklion” airport. This means that the plane has been in Armenia for about two weeks, but on the day of Vitaly Savelyev’s announcement, March 22, had not been in Armenia.

Why couldn’t Armenia allow the flight?

The problem is that since March 2, Airbus, Boeing, and other aircraft leased from foreign companies operating in Russia have suspended cooperation with Russian companies and stopped supplying and servicing spare parts. Depending on the leasing companies, the documents on the suitability of the aircraft, and the flight permit, they can also recall the aircraft registered in their register.

The British Civil Aviation Authority of the Bermuda Islands later suspended the certificates of airworthiness of aircraft used in Russia. More than 700 aircraft flying to Russia are registered in those islands of the Atlantic Ocean. This is the case when, according to the official data of the Russian Ministry of Transport, Russian airlines operate 1,367 planes.

In general, more than half of Russian commercial aircraft are leased, i.e. Russian companies do not own the aircraft and only rent them temporarily, moreover, many aircraft are operated by companies outside Russia.

The cooperation agreement between the Bermuda Islands and Russia was signed in 1999. In case of termination of the agreement, all control functions must be returned to Bermuda, they can recall the aircraft registered in their register, and cancel the licenses of Russian pilots.

That was the reason why on March 11, Vladimir Putin decided to facilitate the re-registration of foreign-leased aircraft in Russia. Thus, the planes can already get permission to fly from the Russian aviation authorities, as they will already be registered in the Russian register. There is a double registration of aircraft, one abroad, the other in Russia. Meanwhile, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) considers the legality of dual registration of aircraft questionable. And Armenia is a member of that international organization. By allowing the flight of the A320 plane to Russia, Armenia would violate its international obligations.

Summing up, the claim that a Russian plane was detained in Armenia is not true, as the mentioned Airbus A320 is a plane registered in the Bermuda Islands, and operated only on lease in Russia. After entering Armenia, it really didn’t return to Russia, as on March 2, Airbus stopped cooperating with Russian lessors and demanded the return of its planes. Armenia, as an ICAO member state, has acted in accordance with its international obligations.

For clarification, on the day the news was spread, we also applied to the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, where they denied that a Russian plane had been detained in Armenia. The Ministry urged us to apply in writing for more detailed information, to which they promised to respond within a day, but so far no response has been received.

Ophelia Simonyan

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