U.S. Urges Turkey to Enforce Sanctions against Russian Airlines

 - February 6, 2023, 1:56 PM
An Aeroflot Boeing 777-300ER approaches Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport in May 2021. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-SA) by Anna Zvereva)

The U.S. State Department has urged Turkey not to serve as a haven for illicit Russian assets or transactions amid reports that Turkish ground service provider Havas warned Russian airlines that it might stop supporting their Western-made aircraft. Sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine prohibit third countries from allowing Russian-operated Boeing and Airbus jets to operate into their territory or access to services such as refueling and spare parts provision.

In a statement to AIN, the State Department noted Turkey’s responsibilities as a member of NATO. “Turkey is a longstanding and valued NATO ally that has expressed strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s aggression,” it said. “We urge countries to prevent exports of items that can be exploited by Russia in its illegal war against Ukraine. We have urged Turkey to not become a safe haven for illicit Russian assets or transactions. We will continue to do so.”

On January 26, The Wall Street Journal reported that senior U.S. officials warned of the risk of jail time, fines, loss of export privileges, and other measures for Turkish individuals who provide services such as refueling and spare parts to U.S.-made airplanes flying to and from Russia and Belarus. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Thea Rozman Kendler delivered the message to Turkish officials during a December visit to Turkey, the officials said.

After suspending most of its international flights in March soon after the Ukraine invasion, Aeroflot resumed flying to Turkey in May, effectively giving Russians an air corridor to the West. According to flight records cited by the paper, Russia’s S7, Azur Air, Utair, and Belarussian flag carrier Belavia also flew Western-made aircraft to Turkey last year.

According to media reports in Turkey, Havas has given notice to Russian carriers that it may soon suspend services. Neither the company nor French airports group ADP, which owns Havas' parent TAV, responded to requests from AIN to comment on the situation.

Even in Russia, Aeroflot and other airlines have struggled to secure spare parts for their Western-made jets, prompting the transfer of the flag carrier’s production facilities and human resources to local MRO provider A-Technics. Aeroflot began the process of transferring line stations, scheduled and unscheduled maintenance facilities, and component MRO in July, a month after A-Technics obtained a certificate for design and manufacture from Russian aviation regulator Rosaviatsiya.

In late September, Russian authorities extended the certificate, allowing A-Technics to design and authorize documentation for the structural repair of Western-built aircraft. Components in question include air conditioning systems, lighting equipment, windows, doors, braking devices, thrust reversers, fuselage skins, and fairings. The company also gained approval for developing documentation for production and modifications of Level III components such as parts of galleys, passenger cabins, and flight decks.

During its general assembly last October, ICAO passed a resolution “strongly condemning” Russia’s infractions of the Convention on International Civil Aviation. Specifically, it cited Russia’s move to place the airplanes, most owned by Western lessors and banks, under its own civil aviation register and, in turn, allow for their operation without valid airworthiness certificates.