Why a Russian plane is detained in Sri Lanka -

The flight, scheduled to depart from Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport to Moscow on June 2 with 191 passengers and 13 crew members, was not allowed to depart due to an enjoining order.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

05 June, 2022 | 20:37 p.m.

Staff Writer

On 2 June 2022, the Commercial High Court of the Western Province issued an Enjoining Order on the Airbus A330-343 operated by the Russian state-owned airline Aeroflot restraining it from taking off from Bandaranaike International Airport.

The flight was denied permission to fly to Moscow as scheduled on June 2 amid a legal dispute with a leasing company. The flight had more than 200 passengers onboard.

The Legal dispute is between the Aeroflot and the Celestial Aviation Trading Limited.

The European Union have imposed a wide array of sanctions on Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine. They include banning the leasing of EU aeroplanes. The sanctions demanded Russia return any aircraft leased from EU firms by the end of March.
Leasing companies confiscated 78 planes in the early days of the sanctions. Russia had more than 500 aircraft leased from the Western countries out of a total park of about 1,300.
Russia can't afford this, fulfillment of the sanctions would have decimated Russia’s travel industry. Knowing this Putin signed a bill into law in March allowing Russian airlines to seize the leased planes.
The Celestial Aviation Trading Limited, one of the largest plane-leasing firms from Ireland, is suing Aeroflot Russian Airline & AASL in Sri Lanka, seeking to confiscate the jet after Russia failed to return its property.
After hearing the complaint filed by Celestial Aviation Trading Limited. The Court has banned the Airbus A330 jet from leaving Sri Lanka until June 16. A court hearing to lift the seizure of the aircraft is scheduled for June 8.

From a Sri Lankan perspective, this is a diplomatic nightmare, There seem to be no right answers only the wrong ones. Most IMF and World Bank donors are from Western Countries. Since Sri Lanka is currently looking for a bailout from IMF, authorities can't interfere with the judicial process and let the Russian plane go. On the other hand, Sri Lanka needs Russian tourists and probably Russian oil to survive the ongoing financial crisis.