At least $1.2 billion worth of aircraft parts flowed to Russian airlines from May last year – when most U.S. and European trade curbs and export bans over Ukraine were in force – to the end of June this year, a Reuters analysis of the customs records shows.
The equipment ranged from essential items needed to keep a jet airworthy – such as the Northrop Grumman devices, cabin pressure valves, cockpit displays and landing gear – to more mundane spares, such as coffee makers, flight attendant telephone handsets and toilet seats.
The customs records showed the parts made their way to Russia through middlemen in countries including Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, China and Kyrgyzstan – none of which has endorsed Western sanctions on Russia.
The $1.2 billion tally underestimates the total value of aircraft parts imported during the period reviewed by Reuters as it only includes shipments destined directly for Russian airlines or their maintenance units – and not plane parts shipped to other companies in Russia.
Oleg Panteleev, head of the AviaPort aviation think-tank in Moscow, said Russian airlines have “solved the problem” of operating under Western sanctions.
Before the trade restrictions, Ural Airlines, Aeroflot (AFLT.MM), S7 and other Russian carriers relied on maintenance support from global firms such as Lufthansa Technik of Germany.
When those firms stopped providing services – Lufthansa Technik said it suspended sales to Russia from Feb. 28, 2022 – Russian airlines turned to a pool of far smaller suppliers.
The serial number listed in Russian customs records for the Northrop Grumman device sent to Yekaterinburg last year shows the part was manufactured in October 2008, and used on different aircraft, including one in Saudi Arabia six year ago, according to an industry source with access to maintenance databases.
While the customs records don’t name the company that shipped the device in November, they do show how more of the same crucial U.S. parts fitted with high-tech laser gyroscopes reached Urals Airlines during the 14-month period reviewed by Reuters.
In July 2022, for example, one was shipped to Ural Airlines via the UAE by civil engineering company based in Tajikistan. In September 2022, another Tajik civil engineering firm also sent one of the parts to Russia via the UAE, the data show.
Chief executives companies did not respond to phone messages seeking comment.
Source: Asia Plus