UK imposes sanctions on Russian airlines to prevent landing slot sale

Latest measure aimed at stifling flow of cash to Vladimir Putin’s economy will hit national carrier Aeroflot

A plane from Russia's flagship airline Aeroflot. Reuters
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Russian airlines will not be able to sell lucrative landing slots at major UK airports under new sanctions introduced by the UK government.

State-owned Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, Ural Airlines and Rossiya Airlines will now be prevented from cashing in their unused slots estimated to be worth £50 million.

The UK, along with international partners, placed sanctions on the chief executive of Aeroflot Mikhail Igorevich Poluboyarinov in March. Aeroflot is subject to an asset freeze.

UK airspace is already closed to Russian aircraft under current sanctions. The export of aviation goods and technology to Russia has also been banned.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “As long as Putin continues his barbarous assault on Ukraine, we will continue to target the Russian economy. We’ve already closed our airspace to Russian airlines. Today we’re making sure they can’t cash in their lucrative landing slots at our airports. Every economic sanction reinforces our clear message to Putin — we will not stop until Ukraine prevails.”

Last week, the UK imposed sanctions on Mr Putin's financial network — including his ex-wife and cousins — to “tighten the vice on the president and his inner circle”.

Ms Truss said she was targeting the “shady network propping” up the leader.

The latest announcement comes as the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, takes up the presidency of the International Transport Forum, which he will use to call for a united response against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Shapps said: “The UK was one of the first nations to implement sanctions on Putin and his allies; we forbade entrance to their ships and planes, strangling them of the privilege to benefit from global trade and commerce.

“Today, the UK government has built on the strong action we have already taken.”

The UK has placed sanctions on more than 1,000 people and more than 100 businesses since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said international sanctions are having a significant impact on Mr Putin's “war machine”.

Russia’s Central Bank has admitted that sanctions are a major challenge for Russian supply chains.

Recently introduced powers make it a criminal offence for any Russian aircraft to fly or land in the UK, and give the government powers to remove aircraft belonging to designated Russian individuals and entities from the UK aircraft register, even if the sanctioned individual is not on board. Russian ships are also banned from UK ports.

Meanwhile, a British defence intelligence update suggested a culture of cover-ups and scapegoating was hampering the Russian military effort in Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defence said a number of senior Russian commanders deemed to have performed poorly had already been fired.

“A culture of cover-ups and scapegoating is probably prevalent within the Russian military and security system,” the MoD said.

“Many officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine will likely be increasingly distracted by efforts to avoid personal culpability for Russia’s operational setbacks.

“This will likely place further strain on Russia’s centralised model of command and control, as officers increasingly seek to defer key decisions to their superiors. It will be difficult for Russia to regain the initiative under these conditions.”

Updated: May 19, 2022, 11:08 AM