The escalation of a diplomatic spat between Russia and Sri Lanka was averted, when a detained Aeroflot aircraft left Colombo for Moscow on Monday (June 6), after a Sri Lankan court suspended a previous order and gave its nod for the Russian national carrier to leave for Moscow.
The flight departed at 6 pm (local time) this evening, an airport official told reporters.
The Airbus A330-343 aircraft was allowed to leave, after the Colombo commercial high court considered a motion filed by the Sri Lankan attorney general and suspended the previous order, which had led to the detention of the Aeroflot aircraft.
Earlier, Russia had asked Sri Lanka to grant permission for the aircraft to leave for Moscow without any delay.
Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency said in a statement on Friday, “Referring to the long-term friendly and constructive relations between Russia and Sri Lanka in various fields, including cooperation on civil aviation, head of the Federal Air Transport Agency Alexander Neradko, turned to the head of the aviation authorities of Sri Lanka with a request to grant permission for the aircraft to fly to the Russian Federation with the Russian crew members as soon as possible and without any delay.”
On June 2, the court had issued the order while fixing the case for June 16.
The Aeroflot aircraft, scheduled to depart from the Colombo airport to Moscow on June 2, with 191 passengers and 13 crew members, was barred from doing so as the aircraft’s owner, Celestial Aviation of Ireland, had filed a case against Aeroflot, pending arbitration on the lease of the aircraft in London.
Although the Sri Lankan government maintained that the dispute between the Aeroflot and Celestial Aviation was purely of a commercial nature, which should be dealt with between the said two parties and not involve the state, the angry Russian government summoned the Sri Lankan ambassador in Moscow for an explanation.
The flight owning company had pleaded in court that Aeroflot was told not to fly the aircraft, after the lease agreement had been terminated in March. However, Aeroflot continued to fly it between Moscow and Colombo. Russia cancelled Aeroflot flights to Sri Lanka and ordered the Russian tourists to return home.
Celestial Aviation Trading Limited, one of the largest plane-leasing firms, is seeking to confiscate the jet after Russia failed to return its property. The European Union in February imposed a wide-array of economic sanctions on Russia, including banning the leasing of EU airplanes, after it invaded Ukraine.
The bloc’s sanctions demanded that Russia should return any aircraft leased from EU firms by the end of March. Leasing companies have confiscated 78 planes operated by Russian airlines since the sanctions were imposed.