A Russian government plane was granted special permission to enter the United States (US) to collect diplomats based in the nation’s capital, Washington DC.
The Ilyushin Il-96, part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Special Flight Squadron, departed Moscow Vnukovo Airport (VKO) at 9:27am local time on June 27, 2023.
Hours later, after circumventing European airspace, the jet landed at Washington Dulles Airport (IAD).
According to the i, a US State Department spokesperson confirmed that the aircraft was in the country to collect Russian diplomats.
“The US government has allowed the Russian government to send a charter flight to the United States to transport to Russia those Russian diplomats whose assignments have ended. We also maintain strict reciprocity with Russia regarding special transport missions,” they said.
A former senior US intelligence official also told the i that the new diplomats may have been on the flight and may request meetings with officials to discuss events in Ukraine, particularly the Wagner advance to Moscow that came to an abrupt halt on June 25, 2023.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told TASS on Tuesday June 27, 2023, that the plane was collecting diplomats who have been ordered to leave the US due to the end of their three-year stay.
“A number of media resources have made a fuss about a Russian flight heading to the United States. There is no sensation. It will bring home Russian diplomats who have been ordered by the US authorities to leave the country due to the end of a three-year stay,” she said.
Zakharova stressed the return of diplomats was “not about expulsion”.