Angle down icon An icon in the shape of an angle pointing down. Courtesy of Flightradar24 A Russian government aircraft flew nine hours Wednesday between Moscow and Basel, Switzerland. The trip would’ve taken about three hours if EU airspace were not closed to Russian planes. The jet flew over EU airspace with clearance to retrieve Russian diplomatic staff in Switzerland.
Sanctions against Russia are still forcing aircraft to take long, creative routings around closed airspace.
On Wednesday, a Russian government aircraft flew nine hours between Moscow and Basel, Switzerland — a trip that takes about three hours without airspace restrictions, according to a Twitter post from the flight-tracking website Flightradar24.
The Russian-built Ilyushin Il-96-300 aircraft, which is used to fly government officials and the president, according to the Swiss news outlet BZ, took off from Moscow at 10:27 a.m. and landed in Basel at 6:39 p.m. local time. That’s 7:39 p.m. Moscow time.
The plane flew over Russia, Georgia, and Turkey before going south over the Mediterranean Sea, avoiding Eastern European airspace. The jet then flew along the African coast before traveling north across Tunisia and finally traversing over France and Switzerland.
Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, France and Switzerland closed their airspace to Russian aircraft as part of sanctions imposed to punish President Vladimir Putin.
According to Flightradar24, the French and Swiss governments gave the plane special permission to fly over their airspace.
This flight was given a “diplomatic clearing” from both France and Switzerland so it could pick up Russian diplomatic staff who were representing the county at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs told BZ.
In March, the council, which protects human rights in Europe, unanimously voted to expel Russia from the organization after 26 years of membership. The same day, the Russian government announced its withdrawal from the council.
“Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe means even foreigners whose rights have been violated by the Kremlin, can’t submit a case against Russia,” Natalia Prilutskaya, a researcher at Amnesty International focusing on Russia, told the German media outlet Deutsche Welle in March.
After the Russian staff members were retrieved, the plane flew back to Moscow on another nine-hour journey, retracing its route.
Return flight from Basel to Moscow. Courtesy of Flightradar24
This is not the first aircraft forced to fly a creative route because of airspace restrictions in Russia and the European Union. In February, shortly after the invasion, the Russian airline Aeroflot flew three extra hours between Moscow and Belgrade, Serbia, because it could not fly over EU airspace.
In March, the Finland flag carrier Finnair made a detour over the North Pole when flying between Helsinki and Tokyo to avoid Russian airspace — adding four hours to the journey.
The long detours are costly for airlines because they require more time and fuel, leading to thousands of extra dollars spent, Robert Mann, an aviation consultant in New York, told ABC News in March.