Since 2014, after the occupation of Crimea, flights to the territory of the peninsula have become illegal. And since 2015, the airspace of even mainland Ukraine has been closed for Russian aircraft. Therefore, when the pilots are flying to the peninsula and back, they go around the Russian-Ukrainian border. A Ukrainian court has seized 65 Russian intruders. The Prosecutor's Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea says that this list may be supplemented as new violating aircraft are identified.
In 2014, Ukraine and the international community imposed sanctions on businesses that supported the occupation and do business in Crimea. Dobrolet and Pobeda, subsidiaries of the Russian Aeroflot, suffered the most, in the field of civil aviation. This year, the prosecutor's office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea announced that at its request, the Kherson city court arrested 65 Russian aircraft in absentia. But it is no longer possible to see these documents - access to them is closed.
“In the public domain, the latest resolution is indicated with a February date. Although we know for sure that there were still decisions after this date, they are now closed. An ordinary person cannot see them. This is done so as not to harm the interests of the investigation. The prosecutor wrote a motion to close these decisions. Perhaps he decided that it would be inappropriate” explained Nikita Panasenko, editor of the Bureau of Judicial Information.
Nikita Panasenko managed to study some of these documents even before access to them was closed. He counted 37 Russian airlines whose planes were included in these regulations, among them: Rossiya Airlines JSC, Globus LLC, Ural Airlines JSC, Aeroflot - Russian Airlines PJSC, Red Wings JSC, JSC Rusline Aviation Company, Jet Express LLC, North Wind LLC, Yakutia Airlines JSC, Gazprom-Avia LLC.
The planes under arrest continue to fly to the occupied Crimea even now. Moreover, we have recorded some of them abroad. For example, an Airbus A-320 with the tail number VQ-BDF of S7 Airlines flew from Simferopol to Moscow on March 22, 2020, from there to Ufa, then to Sochi, and on March 23, the plane ended up in Turkish Antalya.
The State Aviation Service of Ukraine keeps a register of violations and last year recorded 32,457 illegal flights over Crimea. The public organization "Maidan of Foreign Affairs", together with the Blackseanews resource, tracked where these aircraft still flew.
It turns out that after the Crimea, 150 aircraft have visited the EU and the United States, and none of them has yet been physically arrested.
“There are practically no real levers of influence for Ukraine to confiscate or prohibit these airlines from flying. I would very much like the result of such sanctions to be the termination of leasing contracts by manufacturing companies and companies servicing Boeing and Airbus planes that are currently operated, including Aeroflot. Russia would be forced to limit itself to its own aircraft fleet. In fact, we could "landed" the Russian aviation by this. But I understand that this is a very long work, and so far I do not see significant shifts in this direction” noted the Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine in 2016-2019 Volodymyr Omelyan.
There is another mechanism for overlapping the supply of spare parts and aircraft maintenance, says Vyacheslav Konovalov, an expert on compliance with European standards.
“You can do it like in Iran - just block the supply of spare parts. It is no secret that you cannot install Zhiguli spare parts on Boeing and Airbus, because these will be uncertified spare parts. That is, these planes will be able to fly only on the territory of Russia, but they will no longer be allowed into the noble society” explained the expert of the public organization “Europatrol”.
Despite the fact that Russian planes do not fly to mainland Ukraine, they can still be arrested, said lawyer Roman Marchenko.
“We have signed agreements with many states on mutual assistance in criminal matters. And within the framework of these agreements, arrests can be carried out even abroad. If there is no such agreement with some state, then you can apply for the execution of the decision on the principles of international reciprocity, the so-called “principle of international politeness” commented Marchenko, senior partner of the Ilyashev & Partners law firm.
In some countries, the decision of the Ukrainian court will be accepted for execution automatically, in others it will be necessary to obtain a decision from the local court. According to the lawyer, the arrest procedure can be organized from a month to a year. And if the delayed plane is idle without work, the airline will incur losses.
Another tool is pressure on the pilots themselves. And such a precedent already exists. The ARC Prosecutor's Office reports that it has already announced two suspicions. One of the decisions was found by Nikita Panasenko. The Russian is accused of violating the rules of international flights. In 2019 alone, he made at least 62 flights from Russian territory to Crimea and back. And in the same 2019, he was officially on the territory of mainland Ukraine.
According to Serhiy Kislitsa, Ukraine's Permanent Representative to the UN, the issue of violating airspace over Crimea was raised back in 2014, with the first adopted resolutions.
“The resolutions of 2014 concerning Crimea are systemic. They are the foundation and framework for the activities of the United Nations, all dozens of agencies of the organization, from collecting statistics to control over the airspace of Crimea. In addition, these resolutions are an important factor in the consideration of court cases both in The Hague and in Strasbourg” said the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN.
Since 2018 and until now, the State Aviation Administration of Ukraine has recorded 68 airlines flying illegally to Crimea. And these are not only Russian companies, there are three British, one Syrian and one Kazakh companies on the list. The Ukrainian side has already imposed fines on them. But this does not stop air carriers, the airport "Simferopol" receives dozens of planes every day, and a ticket can be bought in a few clicks online.