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European Parliament demands return of Bermuda-registered aircraft

An Aeroflot aircraft: the Russian airline has registered more than 150 aircraft in Bermuda and Ireland (File photograph)

The European Parliament has demanded the return of more than 400 aircraft from Russia, many of which were registered in Bermuda before the invasion of Ukraine.

The planes, many belonging to Irish leasing companies, were kept in Russia after the industry was hit by sanctions, the Irish Times reported last week.

Under European Union sanctions imposed on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine, aircraft-leasing companies were obliged to terminate their contracts with Russian carriers by March 28, sparking a scramble to recover and repossess the aircraft.

Hundreds of aircraft remain in Russia, worth an combined estimated $10 billion. Most are registered in Bermuda and Ireland, which have suspended airworthiness certificates, meaning the planes should technically be grounded.

But the Russian government announced on March 31 that the planes would be kept in the country, and passed a law to allow the aircraft to be entered in the national register, breaking international rules in an apparent attempt to allow airlines to keep using them.

In a resolution adopted by a show of hands last Thursday, members of the European Parliament voted to demand the return of the aircraft.

“Such a theft cannot be tolerated,” the text of the resolution reads, demanding “the immediate return of the [aircraft] in question to their lawful owners.”

It deplored the Russian government’s act as a “clear breach of international civil aviation rules” and warned of the potential for the lives of passengers to be put at risk as the usual safety procedures for the aircraft will not be possible.

“The Russian authorities lack the airworthiness safety oversight capacity for the hundreds of re-registered aircraft,” the resolution noted, warning that “the Russian authorities will be solely responsible for putting the lives of their own citizens at risk when putting these stolen aircraft into operation over Russian skies without being able to fulfil the necessary security requirements.”

The resolution was dedicated to the impact of the Russian invasion on the transport and tourism sectors, and it noted that the rising fuel prices, overflight bans for Russia and Belarus and disruption to supply chains had been hitting airlines hard after the Covid-19 pandemic already damaged the industry.

The text applauded transport operators who provided free travel to people fleeing Ukraine, and the “the countless initiatives of associations and individuals, throughout the EU, providing free transport of goods and persons to and from the Ukrainian border.”

In the debate on the resolution, which was held on Tuesday, Green MEP Ciarán Cuffe paid tribute to “the transport workers who risk their lives to keep transport in Ukraine running”, noting the role of the train system in allowing millions of refugees to escape while funnelling goods and supplies back into the country.

“These vital arteries are needed to help keep people alive,” Mr Cuffe said, calling for the EU to switch away from Russian oil and gas to renewable energy, and to help rebuild Ukrainian infrastructure that has been damaged at the cost of €100 billion.

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Published May 10, 2022 at 7:56 am (Updated May 10, 2022 at 7:56 am)

European Parliament demands return of Bermuda-registered aircraft

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