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Russia’s aviation crisis keeps getting worse

Russia’s sanctions-hit aviation industry has been plagued by multiple jet incidents in recent weeks, adding to President Vladimir Putin‘s woes during his full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Analysis by Agentstvo, a Russian investigative site launched in 2021, found that in the last two weeks, one of the country’s Rossiya Airlines’ Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional aircraft was involved in four emergency incidents.

Russia’s aviation industry has been hard hit by Western sanctions imposed over Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russian-operated planes have been sanctioned by the U.S. government, and plane makers have stopped delivering spare parts and new aircraft to the country.

More than a year and a half into the war, Russia’s aviation industry continues to try to work around Western sanctions and look for ways to substitute Western-made spare parts and equipment for its aircraft to keep the industry afloat.

Newsweek has contacted state-controlled Aeroflot, the parent company of Rossiya Airlines, and the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment by via email.

A Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B was involved in two incidents on October 13. The first occurred during a flight from St. Petersburg to Murmansk Oblast, and the second happened a few hours later. Both times, crew members reported problems with the aircraft’s wing mechanization, Agentstvo reported, citing the Aviaincident Telegram channel and data from the Flightradar24 service.

A few days earlier, on October 9, the Shot Telegram channel reported that the same aircraft made an emergency landing in Samara after its wing flaps jammed. Agentstvo said that according to Flightradar24 data, the plane circled before landing, and returned, presumably without passengers.

There were no reports of injuries in the incidents.

Meanwhile, on October 1, the same aircraft had wing mechanization issues when landing in St. Petersburg from Apatity in the Murmank Oblast, the Aviaincident channel reported

And in August, hundreds of Russian passengers bound for the city of Yekaterinburg were stranded in Antalya, Turkey, for a second day after a Russian airline suddenly lost two of its three Boeing 777 aircraft due to technical problems.

While it is not known if these problems are directly linked to Western sanctions, Rossiya Airlines previously said it was concerned that only 40 percent of its Superjet 100 fleet would be active in the spring and summer of 2023 due to lack of spare parts.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Russian news site Lenta.ru reported that 17 flights were canceled or delayed at three Moscow airports. It did not say what caused the cancellations, however, or whether this was an unusually high number.

Russia’s Transport Ministry has drawn up a program to develop the country’s aviation sector by 2030. It anticipates the country will gradually reduce the number of foreign aircraft in operation, and that airlines will find ways to substitute Western-made spare parts, according to state-run news agency Interfax.

Anastasia Dagaeva, an independent expert on Russian aviation, wrote in a report for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in March that the 2022 Western-imposed sanctions have turned out to be far more difficult to digest than previous sanctions.

“In the space of just a few days, Russian airlines, which had been closely integrated into the global market, lost international destinations, leasing contracts and technical support for their foreign planes, partnerships with other carriers, foreign software, insurance, and other services,” wrote Dagaeva.

“The primary goal for Russian civil aviation right now is to stay afloat until 2030,” she said, adding that Russian aviation won’t disappear any time soon, but it will become more self-contained.

“The exclusion from technical support and full-scale industry communication will certainly be felt,” Dagaeva added.

The New York Times reported in May that, despite sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other governments on Russian airlines including Aeroflot and Rossiya, thousands of shipments of aircraft parts had been successfully sent into Russia last year, according to Russian customs data.

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