Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Government of Russia to increase the number of flights between Russia and friendly states, according to the Russian Embassy in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the first resuming flight of Russia’s largest charter airline, Azur Air has arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) this morning.

The first flight reportedly arrived with around 335 passengers onboard.

Russian airlines have not been flying to Sri Lanka since early June, when an A330-300 operated by Aeroflot was briefly detained due to a dispute with lessor AerCap’s special purpose vehicle Celestial Aviation Trading Limited. 

Even though the court quickly released the aircraft and the Sri Lankan government guaranteed that no further seizures would be made in the country, Russian airlines had been reluctant to return to the island.

However, Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot last month resumed flights between Moscow and Colombo after a lapse of 4 months.

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Tourism had announced that Azur Air would be re-commencing flights to Sri Lanka starting from today (November 03).

Russia has closed its airspace to airlines from 36 countries, including all 27 members of the European Union, in response to Ukraine-related sanctions targeting its aviation sector.

Punitive measures imposed by Western powers have also forced Western firms to terminate leasing contracts with Russian airlines for over 500 aircraft.

The sanctions also prevent Russian airlines from buying aircraft parts or maintenance services from Europe or the United States, adding to the pressure on the world’s 11th largest aviation market from a ban on using North American and European airspace.

Russia has since 2021 maintained and expanded a list of “unfriendly” countries, which includes the United States, the United Kingdom, EU members and their Western allies, in response to economic sanctions.

The clause on visa-free travel in the Kremlin’s decree does not contain mentions of “friendly” or “unfriendly” countries.

In a closely watched anti-Western speech last week, Putin hailed African, Latin American and certain Asian countries as “friends of Russia.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry told state media Wednesday that it would prepare proposals on e-visas by the end of 2022.

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