As the war started by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is still ongoing, so are the sanctions aimed at crippling Russia’s economy and isolating it from the rest of the world in hopes that the attack would stop.
Among the sanctions, closure of airspace for Russian aircraft and the cease in supplying new aircraft or spare parts and even stopping access to pilot training have paralysed Russian aviation. However, as flag carrier Aeroflot bet on domestic flights and launching a new international network towards countries without sanctions, the impact has been different on the private jet sector.
According to data from flight tracking website Flightradar24, from 2020 until February 2022 (when the war started), a private Boeing 737 linked to Russian oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov made 105 trips in Russia, 17 in France, 8 in Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Latvia, 5 in Britain, 4 in Türkiye, as well as multiple trips to Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the Maldives, and one trip each to Croatia, the Czech Republic and the Seychelles.
From February until the end of 2022, only 14 journeys were taken on the Boeing, all between Türkiye, UAE, Oman and Kazakhstan. However, at the end of last year, the registration of the aircraft was switched from Aruba to Russia. As Aruba applies sanctions in line with the EU, it proved to be challenging for the oligarch to travel that easily with an Aruba registered aircraft. After switching to Russian registration, travelling to countries that do not imposed sanctions suddenly became much easier. Thus, from the beginning of the year until now, the plane has taken 47 trips in Russia and 9 trips to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and China.
Yevtushenkov is not the only one re-registering his plane. According to national aircraft registry data viewed by Reuters, at least 50 private jets have switched registration to Russia since the invasion, increasing the number of business jets registered in the country to 145 from 97 in March 2022. “Several of the repatriated private jets were associated with prominent politicians and business figures”, Reuters reports, citing two anonymous senior Russian aviation industry sources.
Using Flightradar24 to track more of the private jets’ movements, Reuter shows the pattern of flights moving from west to east. While the overall number of trips has reduced, those who can afford it, simply swapped European capitals and beach destinations with the UAE, Türkiye, China and former Soviet countries, mostly Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.