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30 Mar, 2024 14:11

EU bans NATO member airline over alleged Russia ties – media

The decision came after the Finnish transport authority claimed that Türkiye’s Southwind Airlines is partly owned by Russian investors
EU bans NATO member airline over alleged Russia ties – media

The European Union has closed its airspace to Türkiye’s Southwind Airlines over its alleged ties to Russia, Swiss-based news outlet Aero Telegraph reported this week. According to the report, the measure is related to the sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

The Antalya-based charter airline was created in 2022 to ferry passengers between Russia and Türkiye but recently requested permission to also operate flights from Türkiye to Germany, Greece, Finland, and other EU states. However, on March 25, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency banned the airline from its airspace, explaining that a probe had revealed that “the substantial ownership and effective control” of the carrier is “linked to Russian stakeholders,” and therefore it cannot be allowed to operate in the EU state.

According to the Aero Telegraph, on March 28, Brussels informed EU member states that Southwind Airlines is subject to a take-off, overflight and landing ban under its regulation that covers sanctions on Russia, effectively banning the carrier from EU airspace. The measure was to come into force immediately.

The Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) on Friday cancelled Southwind flights between Antalya and Kaliningrad, citing the ban, because the flights previously went through EU airspace.

Questions about the background of the Turkish carrier were first raised by the German tabloid Bild last December. The news outlet at the time reported that Southwind had been established by Russian nationals and has leased most of its staff and fleet from Nordwind Airlines, a Russian carrier that is banned from the EU. In response, Safa Oruc, head of aviation safety at Southwind, told the Finnish YLE news outlet that the airline was owned by a Turkish national and both the carrier and its aircraft were registered in Türkiye.

The EU closed its airspace to Russian aircraft and airlines as part of sanctions against Russia shortly after the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022. Similar measures were introduced by the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. Russia imposed a similar ban on airlines from those countries in response.

In February, the EU and US introduced yet another set of sanctions against Russia that targeted a variety of entities in several countries, including Türkiye. A total of 16 Turkish companies were sanctioned for allegedly facilitating the transit of dual-use goods that could be used by the Russian military. Washington also warned Ankara that Turkish banks and more companies could be hit by secondary sanctions for doing business with Russian entities.

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