The British government has sought to exclude Russian officials from this year’s Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) by refusing to issue its usual special invitations for the country’s official delegation. According to the Russian embassy in London, some Russian business visitors have been denied UK visas, preventing them from traveling to this week’s show.
The moves come in the wake of escalating European Union sanctions against Russia in response to the country’s alleged military interference in Ukraine. Over the weekend, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) confirmed that it has taken “clear action” to remove Russia from the list of countries eligible to use Open General Export Licenses in an effort to discourage Russian attendance at FIA 2014. An official at the FCO told AIN that their officials will not escort any foreign representatives as government guests around the airshow’s Russian Pavilion.
A spokesperson for show organizer Farnborough International Limited (FIL) told AIN that none of the 67 Russian companies on the exhibitor list have pulled out of the show as a result of the actions. However, the Russian embassy in the UK has complained that the British government has denied visas not only to government officials, but also to technical personnel needed to support Russian companies’ exhibits.
While the FCO insisted that the British government plays no role in deciding which companies get invited to the show, the government ultimately determines through the visa process which individuals can or cannot enter the country.
In a statement, the Russian embassy expressed regret that “a greater part” of the Russian delegation due to visit the show won’t attend, including officials from Russia’s Ministry of Trade, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos), the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) and “dozens” of Russian companies. The embassy has sent what it called “an urgent note” to the FCO asking for an explanation for its actions.
“This is not the first case when Russian delegates fail to take part in an international event in Britain,” the Russian embassy said in a statement. “This summer Russian private companies have been unable to fully participate in the Infosecurity Europe 2014 [event] and incurred financial losses as a consequence (stand lease, participation fee, hotel booking and air tickets).”
The embassy added that Britain denied visas to a number of Russian exhibitors at Natural and Organic Products Europe earlier this year and a “large number” of Russian authors couldn’t present their books at the London Book Fair for the same reason.
FIL confirmed that it has not extended its usual invitations to Russian officials and that the visa process has presented some obstacles to Russian exhibitors. “The Farnborough International Airshow has a total of 67 Russian companies exhibiting civil and commercial products. We are aware that some personnel have not yet received confirmation of visa applications and have assisted where we can with the appropriate support,” FIL said in a statement. “Current political sensitivities mean it is not always appropriate for us to invite official delegations from every country to FIA 2014 and as such there will be no officially programmed civil or military delegations from Russia this show.However, the Farnborough International Airshow is a truly international event for the aerospace community with representation from some 39 exhibiting countries.”