Two Russian Ilyushin Il-76 cargo jets flew through European Union countries, which is contrary to the ban on entering airspace since the beginning of the military invasion of Ukraine in February.
But the visit of the aircraft was an extraordinary case, due to the need for fuel for the Czech Republic’s nuclear plants, which is supplied by the Russians.
Due to the risks involved in this type of activity, the Czech government requested an exception from the other EU members in order to allow aircraft from the cargo airline Volga Dnepr to land at Brno Airport, the second largest city in the country, to deliver the special cargo.
“According to an EU regulation, the Ministry of Transport has issued an exception for the Russian air carrier Volga Dnepr for flights with the purpose of transporting a specific commodity in the strategic interest of the Czech Republic and other EU member states, on the grounds that there is currently no alternative available to air transport,” František Jemelka, spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport, told the Seznam Zprávy outlet.
The European Union eventually authorized the delivery of the material by two Il-76TD cargo jets, but Poland and Estonia did not allow the aircraft to fly over their airspace.
As a result, the two planes had to perform longer flights, bypassing the region via the Baltic Sea and entering the continent via Germany until landing in Brno. One of the 1,600 km flights took about 3:30 hours.
The Il-76s with registration numbers RA-76511 and RA-76950 were recently reactivated after being stored for some time. The Volga Dnepr was banned from flying to several Western countries in retaliation for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Many of its Boeing planes are also down for lack of replacement components.