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Exclusive-U.S. targets Abramovich plane, 99 others over Russia export violations

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By Reuters
Exclusive-U.S. targets Abramovich plane, 99 others over Russia export violations
Exclusive-U.S. targets Abramovich plane, 99 others over Russia export violations   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON -The U.S. Commerce Department will on Friday move to effectively ground 100 airplanes that have recently flown to Russia and are believed to violate U.S. export controls, including a plane used by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich, officials told Reuters.

The list, seen by Reuters, includes 99 Boeing airplanes operated by Russian passenger and cargo carriers including Aeroflot, AirBridge Cargo, Utair, Nordwind, Azur Air and Aviastar-TU — as well as Abramovich’s Gulfstream G650 — and could further hinder Russian efforts to continue some international flights.

The Commerce Department will warn companies and other entities around the world that any refueling, maintenance, repair, or spare parts or services violate U.S. export controls and subject companies to U.S. enforcement actions that could include “substantial jail time, fines, loss of export privileges, or other restrictions,” the department said.

The department said in a statement the action means “international flights from Russia on these aircraft are effectively grounded.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimando said in a statement to Reuters the department is “publishing this list to put the world on notice—we will not allow Russian and Belarusian companies and oligarchs to travel with impunity in violation of our laws.”

The department is releasing specific tail numbers of the planes, including 33 Boeing planes operated by Aeroflot, and 12 Boeing 747 cargo planes operated by AirBridge Cargo, a unit of Volga-Dnepr Group.

Aeroflot, AirBridge and a spokesperson for Abramovich, who owns the English soccer club Chelsea, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The United States, Canada and much of Europe have barred Russian planes from flying over their airspace, which has forced the cancellation of much of Russia’s international flights.

The rules apply to any U.S. manufactured aircraft or any with more than 25% U.S.-origin controlled content that were re-exported to Russia after the new stringent controls on aviation-related items for Russia took effect on Feb. 24.

Deputy Commerce Secretary Don Graves said in a statement the series of U.S. actions “have isolated Russia and Belarus from the global economy, and I hope that today’s action brings that fact home to the Russian businesses and oligarchs that seek to continue their operations.”

This week, Reuters reported Russian airlines have weeks to orchestrate alternative supplies of banned aircraft parts or start grounding jets to avoid safety concerns as Western sanctions following Russian’s invasion of Ukraine threaten their post-Soviet revival.

Boeing said earlier this month it was suspending parts, maintenance and technical support for Russian airlines.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security said since March 2, based on publicly available information, it “identified a number of commercial and private flights from third countries to Russia” and could add more planes as it continues its review.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod said the “action lets Vladimir Putin’s enablers know that, as a consequence of their actions, they have fewer places to hide and fewer ways to get there.”