Direct Russia-Iraq flights restart after 13yrs

An Iraqi Airways plane landed in a Moscow airport for the first time since 2004, marking the restoration of direct air travel between the two countries, previously halted due to security fears by Russia.

The restart serves as “a signal on the part of the Iraqi authorities that Russian nationals can safely visit Iraq," the head of Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviation), Sergey Izvolsky, told AFP.

On Sunday, Iraqi Transport Minister Kazem Finjan and other officials aboard the national air carrier arrived at Vnukovo Airport, southwest of Moscow, RIA Novosti reported, citing the Iraqi embassy.

“The air service had been suspended for 13 years, there was no direct air connection,” the embassy’s representative said. The same flight will take the Russian ambassador in Iraq, Maksim Maksimov, to Baghdad on Sunday evening, according to TASS.

Passengers will be able to travel twice a week, with flights to and from Baghdad operating on Wednesday, and flights to Basra on Sunday, Vnukovo Airport said. 

The two countries have been in talks since 2014, planning to resume regular flights. Direct air links were severed at the start of the US-led operation against Suddam Hussein and his government.