Russia to retaliate if Washington bans Aeroflot flights to US

Russia to retaliate if Washington bans Aeroflot flights to US
If the United States bans Russian state airline Aeroflot, Moscow has enough power to respond accordingly, Maksim Suraev, a member of the State Duma Committee on Transport and Construction, has said.

Washington is planning to impose new sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK. Moscow categorically denies involvement in this crime, and is insisting on an open investigation.

The first package of sanctions bans exports of sensitive national security goods to Russia. The second part would come into force in three months unless Russia provides “reliable assurances” that it won’t use chemical weapons in the future, and agrees to “on-site inspections” by the UN. Among the possible restrictions included in the second round of sanctions would be ban of Aeroflot flights to the US.

“We can’t allow our company to get squeezed from the market. We can’t let Delta take Aeroflot’s place,” Suraev said.

He also noted that the air communication between Russia and the United States will not cease in any case, since a third-country carrier may fill in the gap. “We will simply fly Lufthansa, or French companies,” the deputy explained.

Shares in Aeroflot plunged 11 percent at the opening of the Moscow Exchange on Thursday, but have rebounded and were down five percent during afternoon trading.

At the moment, only Aeroflot operates direct flights between Russia and the US. In March, American carrier Delta said it plans to stop its flights to Moscow.

Prior to this, the US airline made seasonal flights to Russia from late May to early September. Earlier, American Airlines and United Airlines stopped flying to Russia.

In addition to sanctions tied to the Skripal investigation, a bill was submitted last week to US Congress with a whole range of anti-Russian measures, including sanctions against the new state debt of the Russian Federation and state-owned banks.

Russia could also respond by raising tariffs for the use of its airspace by American airlines. The move would significantly increase the cost of flights over Russian territory or, alternatively, would force them to bypass the world’s largest country. Airlines flying from Europe to Asia would be the hardest hit. Aeroflot is also a major benefactor of royalties for all international flights passing through Russian airspace, which is the largest in the world.

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