Russia’s largest carrier, Aeroflot, may be facing tough measures if the government does not comply with the U.S. demands concerning the production and use of chemical weapons, following the Skripal poisoning in the UK earlier in 2018. Kremlin now has 90 days until the second round of measures takes force, posing a serious risk to the national carrier, but says Moscow will retaliate with its own penalties against U.S. airlines.

On August 8, 2018, the U.S. State Department announced new sanctions against Russia. Imposed under a 1991 law, the measures include provisions on chemical and biological weapons control. They come as punishment for the alleged poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in Salisbury (UK) on March 4, 2018.  

The first round of sanctions will come as early as August 22, 2018. However, if Russia does not agree to end its alleged chemical and biological weapons program, among other conditions, in three-month time, the second round of measures will kick-in and they could include the suspension of flights to the U.S. by the state-backed airline.

This would surely hurt the national carrier Aeroflot. It has already taken a hit following the announcement by the U.S. State Department: the carrier’s shares fell to an almost two-year low on August 9, 2018, plunging as much as 12% in Moscow.

On the same day, when talking to reporters, Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov highlighted the unpredictability of President Trump’s administration. "Now you can expect anything from Washington, it is a very unpredictable participant of international relations," he said when asked about the possibility of imposing restrictions on flights for Aeroflot, Russian TASS news agency reports.

Meanwhile, according to RT news network, if the U.S. does decide to impose a flight ban on Aeroflot, Moscow would respond accordingly, assured Maksim Suraev, a member of the State Duma Committee on Transport and Construction. “We can’t allow our company to get squeezed from the market. We can’t let Delta take Aeroflot’s place,” he was quoted as saying.

Russia could retaliate by raising tariffs for the use of its airspace by U.S. airlines, which would significantly increase the costs of flying over Russian territory, forcing the carriers to consider bypassing the country altogether.