DALLAS – The US Commerce Department has announced enforcement charges against Aeroflot (SU), Azur Air (ZF), and UTair (UT) for breaching export limits.
The decision comes after the US identified more than 170 Boeing planes operated by Russian airlines in breach of US sanctions, including about 40 SU Boeing 737 and 777 aircraft. The enforcement action announced today restricts the three airlines’ export permits and affects the entire airline, not just single planes.
The Commerce Department began enforcing the strict export limitations set by the Biden administration last month in response to the Ukraine crisis. The orders, which department officials described as one of their strongest civil penalties, are in place for 180 days but can be renewed.
Azur Air, VQ-BZD, Boeing 777-31H ER. Photo: De Anna Zvereva from Tallinn, Estonia – Azur Air, VQ-BZD, Boeing 777-31H ER, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87311015
Comments from the US Commerce Department
“With today’s temporary denial orders [TDO], the Department of Commerce takes another significant action to hold Putin and his enablers accountable for their inexcusable actions,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement. The new TDOs are the first enforcement actions taken by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security under the stringent export controls imposed by the US.
The US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement, Matthew S. Axelrod, added that the US government believed the orders meant “that Aeroflot, Azur Air and UTair and their fleet of aircraft will over time largely be unable to continue flying either internationally or domestically as they are now cut off from the international support and the U.S. parts and related services they need to maintain and support their fleets.”
According to the Commerce Department, SU continued to fly planes to Beijing, Delhi, Antalya, and Istanbul, as well as some domestic Russian flights that were subject to restrictions in March.
Commerce officials said all three Russian airlines have violated the export controls, which prohibit any US-origin aircraft or any foreign aircraft that includes more than 25% US-controlled parts from operating without a license issued by BIS. All 34 of ZF’s aircraft are of US origin, as are 48 of UT’s 63 planes and 59 of SU’s 187 planes, the officials noted.
UTair, VQ-BQQ, Boeing 737-8GU. Photo: De Anna Zvereva from Tallinn, Estonia – UTair, VQ-BQQ, Boeing 737-8GU, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64654040
Other Affected Russian Operators
Due to Western sanctions, Russia’s largest freight airline, Volga-Dnepr Group, said on March 18 that all flights utilizing Boeing aircraft would be canceled.
Further, Volga-Dnepr said it stopped operations of two of its subsidiaries, AirBridgeCargo (RU) and Atran (V8). Additionally, S7, Russia’s biggest private airline and second-largest overall, also said on March 4 that it was ceasing all international flights.
The US government had previously issued a warning to the Russian owners of over 160 planes, claiming that they appeared to have breached US export regulations by flying into Russia. The three airlines affected by the new TDOs are among them.
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