Russian news agency TASS reported that restrictions on flights from Russia to 52 countries would be canceled from April 9. These restrictions were put in place to slow the spread of COVID and are being lifted on the advice of the operational headquarters for combatting coronavirus.
Russia Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced the move, which he says applies to “friendly states”,
“Starting from April 9 we are lifting restrictions set for combatting coronavirus pandemic, which applied to our regular and charter flights between Russia and a number of other countries. Now we are resuming flights with 52 countries, including Argentina, India, South Africa and other friendly states.”
Mishustin added that earlier, it was possible to fly to 15 countries without restrictions, including some states of the EAEU (the Eurasian Economic Union), Qatar, Mexico, and others.
The EAEU is an economic union of Russia and its ‘near neighbors’, formed after the demise of the Soviet Union to foster trade and development. It’s often seen as a foil to the European Union’s influence, and key member states are Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
The TASS statement lists all 52 states where flights can be resumed, which can be loosely grouped as being in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South and Central America.
Some of the countries that can fly to and from Russia from April 9 include Brazil, China, Turkey, Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa, North Korea, Seychelles and Saudi Arabia.
While part of Russia’s retaliation to economic sanctions was to close its airspace to airlines from 36 countries, international flights are already arriving and departing from Russia on a daily basis.
A quick scan of today’s flight boards at Moscow’s two airports, Sheremetyevo (SVO) and Domodedovo (DME), show carriers including Emirates Airlines, Air Arabia, Etihad Airways, SriLankan Airlines, Qatar Airways, Air China, and Air Serbia operating international flights.
Flightradar24.com data shows a popular track of flights from Dubai crossing Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and through Russia to Moscow, such as Emirates Airlines EK133 and Aeroflot SU527. This is a simple corridor from Russia to the Middle East, where connections can be made to all of those ‘friendly countries’ the Russian prime minister talks so fondly of.
While Russia is now the world’s most sanctioned country, ahead of Iran, Syria, and North Korea, it is not facing sanctions from countries in Central and South America, Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Asia, apart from Japan.
With all of those regions open to them, Russian airlines have a large and safe playing field in which to operate. Presumably, the lack of sanctions means refueling the aircraft or fixing any MRO niggles will not be an issue.
Going in the other direction, large markets like China, India, Africa, and South America will be able to connect with Russia for trade, tourism, and general travel.
Perhaps even the oligarchs will get their Gulfstreams and Globals out again and head out for some summer sun, well beyond the reach of the authorities who would confiscate their aircraft and leave them stranded.