The British government announced new legislation on Wednesday which makes it a criminal offence for any Russian aircraft to fly or land in the UK, as part of a new suite of aviation sanctions to strengthen the overflight and landing ban already in place in response to President Vladimir Putin ordering a military offensive against Ukraine. The extended ban includes any aircraft owned, operated or chartered by anyone connected with Russia or designated individuals or entities, and will include the power to detain any aircraft owned by persons connected with Russia. The new powers will also allow the government to remove aircraft belonging to designated Russian individuals and entities from the UK aircraft register. “Banning Russian flagged planes from the UK and making it a criminal offence to fly them will inflict more economic pain on Russia and those close to the Kremlin,” said UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. “We will continue to support Ukraine diplomatically, economically and defensively in the face of Putin’s illegal invasion, and work to isolate Russia on the international stage,” she said.
Additional trade measures, also introduced on Wednesday, will prevent UK exports of aviation or space-related items and technology to Russia, including related services such as insurance and reinsurance services. This means cover is withdrawn on existing policies and UK insurers and reinsurers will be unable to pay claims in respect of existing policies in these sectors. “Putin must fail and so we were one of the first countries to ban Russian aircraft and today we are going even further by making it a criminal offence for Russian aircraft to operate in UK airspace,” said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. “We will always work to deny Putin and his cronies the right to continue as normal while innocent Ukrainians suffer,” he said.
The minister has sent a letter to all UK airports and airfields letting them know that air traffic control now has the power to tell pilots of any Russian aircraft – private or commercial – not to enter UK airspace, or to leave it by a certain route. Airport operators can detain a Russian aircraft, or one chartered by a Russian, under the new law. A Luxembourg-registered private jet at Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, south-east England, is the subject of an investigation. The UK authorities have grounded the plane to investigate its connection with billionaire Russian oligarch Eugene Shvidler, an oil tycoon and key business partner of Roman Abramovich. The aim of the extended sanctions is to target figures close to the Kremlin. Since February 25, Russian scheduled airlines – including national carrier Aeroflot – have been banned from UK airspace but the new legislation this week means it will now be a criminal offence for any Russian aircraft to breach that. Putin had reacted to the UK banning its commercial airlines last month by prohibiting UK airlines from flying to and over Russia. Most airlines were already avoiding Russian airspace. The latest set of measures are said to be aimed at further tightening the “growing economic pressure” on Russia and ensuring the UK is in line with sanctions imposed by its western allies.