Volga-Dnepr Airlines, an all-cargo operator and subsidiary of the Russian airline holding company Volga-Dnepr Group, has taken the Canadian government to court. The lawsuit, filed in the Federal Court of Canada, aims to challenge the validity of Canadian sanctions imposed on the carrier as well as the subsequent confiscation of its Antonov An-124 aircraft.
By initiating legal proceedings in November 2023, as reported by WSJ, Volga-Dnepr Airlines contends that it did not play any role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and did not provide aviation services to Wagner Group, a Russian state-funded private military organization. The airline asserts that its inclusion on the sanctions list was an erroneous decision.
The carrier’s legal complaint also challenges the current storage conditions of its Antonov An-124, which, according to Volga-Dnepr, is currently “suffering from exposure to the elements and receiving no maintenance whatsoever,” as stated in the lawsuit.
The 28.9 year-old Antonov An-124-100-150 in question, registered as RA-82078, has been stranded at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) since February 27, 2023, after Canada barred any Russian aircraft from entering or exiting its airspace and eventually imposed sanctions on its operators. Since then, the An-124 has remained parked on the east side of YYZ airport
The Canadian government officially ordered the seizure of the Antonov An-124 in June 2023, as part of newly imposed sanctions introduced on April 5, 2023. At the time Melanie Joly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, justified the government’s decision to seize the An-124, stating that it sent a clear message to the Russian regime. The restrictive measures on Volga-Dnepr were supposed to “put additional pressure on Russia to stop its illegal war against Ukraine by straining its economic system and limiting resources that fuel the war.”
The Canadian sanctions targeted not only Volga-Dnepr Airlines but also its parent company, Volga-Dnepr Group, and its two subsidiaries, AirBridgeCargo Airlines and a Moscow-based cargo carrier ATRAN.
According to the Ch-aviation.com registry, Volga-Dnepr Group has ten An-124s in its fleet, four of which, including the RA-82078, are stranded at international airports.