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Airbus ACJ private jet worth $110m bypasses EU sanctions and ends up in Russia聽聽

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Serious questions are being asked after an Airbus ACJ320neo private jet worth over $110m has been spotted in Russia wearing a newly allocated Russian civil aircraft registration. This is despite strict EU and US sanctions restraining the export of foreign aircraft imposed on the country following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.  

The aircraft involved is based on the Airbus A320neo passenger aircraft although it is the business jet variant, known as the Airbus Corporate Jet A320neo, or the ACJ320neo. The type has a range of 6,937 miles (11,100km) and can fly for up to 13 hours with 25 passengers on board without refueling.  

According to ch-aviation, there are currently just nine of these unique aircraft anywhere in the world, and this particular example has become the first of the type to be operated in Russia. The aircraft wears the Russian registration RA-73889 and is reportedly owned by a Russian businessman called Zarakh Iliev.  

According to Russian news source Pravda, Illiev is known to be one of the co-founders of the Kievskaya Ploschad Group, Russia精东影业 largest company in the international commercial property market. According to Forbes, the group’s income in 2023 was US$1.76 billion and despite being under the restrictions imposed by the EU/US sanctions, Illiev is said to have accumulated a personal fortune in the region of $3bn.  

One source told Pravda that Iliev had bought the new aircraft to replace an older (and smaller) Airbus A318CJ (RA-73888), while another source confirmed that the owner was connected to the Kievskaya Ploschad Group.聽

Boscgnspotter / Wikimedia Commons

Looking into the background of this aircraft, its provenance is complicated, to say the least, as is the route it has taken to end up in Russian hands. 

Airbus Corporate Jets rolled the plane out of its factory in Hamburg (as D-AVVI) at the end of 2019 with the manufacturer精东影业 serial number 8774. The aircraft flew for the first time on December 19, 2019, and was delivered to its first customer on December 30, 2019. In January 2020, the plane flew from Hamburg to Basel to be fitted out with a bespoke VIP interior and painted 鈥 processes that took over a year to complete.聽聽

At this point, the aircraft was registered to a Malta-based company known as Sorens Aero and was placed on the San Marino aircraft registry as T7-HHH.  

In August 2022, the aircraft changed hands and came under the ownership of another company, ASG Business Aviation, assuming the Azerbaijani registration of 4K-5555. It then wore this registration until just recently, when on June 4, 2024, and for ten days only, it was registered as EY-565 on the Tajikistan register. 

On June 16, 2024, the aircraft was re-registered in Russia as RA-73889 and is reportedly owned by North-west Aircompany. According to Flightradar24, the first flight operated under this new registration was from Muscat in Oman to Moscow-Vnukovo Airport (VKO) on June 16, 2024. On June 26, 2024, the aircraft ferried from Vnukovo to Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport (DME) where it remains at the time of writing.聽

Flightradar24

Given the strict sanctions in place, and that Russian operators are also unable to obtain spares for their exiting fleets of Western-built Boeing and Airbus aircraft as a consequence, authorities will be keen to understand how this very-low-hours aircraft has found its way into Russian ownership seemingly unchecked.聽聽

Should the plane stray beyond airports in Russia or those of its allies, it is likely to be impounded. In the meantime, it would seem that this is one private jet that has slipped through the sanctions net and has escaped.聽聽

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