Sri Lanka in diplomatic spat over confiscated Russian plane
Sri Lanka’s main airport on Saturday denied the island nation’s government was behind a decision to detain an Aeroflot aircraft after Russia lodged a diplomatic protest over the move.
The Airbus A330 was seized at the Bandaranaike International Airport on Thursday, the same day it arrived from Moscow, after a directive from a court in the capital Colombo.
Flight SU289 was about to return to the Russian capital with 191 passengers and 13 crew aboard.
Sri Lanka’s top envoy was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry on Friday to receive a “resolute protest” over the detention, Russian state news agency TASS reported.
But Airport and Aviation Services, which runs Bandaranaike airport, said in a statement the dispute was “purely of a commercial nature” and should not be subject to state involvement.
The plane was stopped on the orders of Colombo Commercial Court in response to a commercial dispute filed by Celestial Aviation Trading 10 Limited of Ireland.
The case is to be heard on Wednesday.
The aircraft is parked at Bandaranaike International Airport, north of Colombo, and its passengers have been booked into hotels.
Aeroflot suspended all international flights in March following tough Western sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but resumed operations to Colombo in the following month.
Russia’s civil aviation body had recommended airlines operating rental planes registered in foreign countries cease international flights to avoid their seizure.
It remains unclear whether the detention of flight SU289 was related to those sanctions.