Russian private jet owners switch Italy and Germany for Turkey and Kazakhstan as sanctions bite
11.11.2023 - 01:59
In the two years before the war in Ukraine, a private Boeing 737 linked to Russian oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov criss-crossed the globe, taking in the French Riviera, the Maldives and Seychelles along with world capitals and financial centres.
This year, instead of traditional playgrounds of the well-heeled, the jet has visited ex-Soviet states Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Belarus a handful of times, along with China, flight tracking data by Flightradar24 shows.
In a sign of both the limitations and reach of Western sanctions in place since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, some of Russia's rich and powerful are finding ways to keep personal jets airborne, reporting by news agency Reuters shows. But the restrictions have sharply curtailed where the planes can travel.
The Boeing linked to Yevtushenkov was among at least 50 private jets re-registered under the Russian flag since the February 2022 invasion, according to previously unreported national aircraft registry data up to early August reviewed by Reuters.
Several of the repatriated private jets were associated with prominent politicians and business figures, according to two senior Russian aviation industry sources, who were not authorised to speak to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Jurisdictions including Aruba and the Isle of Man, where some of the jets were previously registered, observe the Western sanctions. That had made it hard to get insurance, fuel and permits for Russian-owned planes flying under their flags, one of the sources said.
Putting the planes under the Russian flag allows them to fly to and from nations that have not imposed a flight ban or where individual travellers are not sanctioned, including Turkey and Dubai.
Despite such manoeuvres, more than half of Russia's private and corporate jet fleet of around 400 remains stranded abroad or has been sold, the same source estimated, based on his extensive knowledge of the sector.
The total number of business jets under the Russian flag is now 145, up from 97 as of early March 2022, according to the list.
Because of sanctions, Russian planes are prohibited from entering the 27-country European Union, where Russia's oligarchs previously flew frequently for business and leisure and where many private jets linked to them were registered before the war, tail numbers show.
Both aviation sources, who organise and manage business jets, said some jet owners are flying from Russia to Turkey or ex-Soviet states and then chartering different aircraft to EU airports, providing the individuals were not under personal sanctions.
Examples of this practice happen at least once a week, one of the sources added, without giving specific examples.
According to customs data, some of the repatriated