By Isaac Callan
June 10, 2023
The Canadian government has ordered the seizure a Russian aircraft that has been grounded at Toronto Pearson International Airport since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The federal government announced the planned seizure of the Antonov 124 on Saturday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a surprise visit to Kyiv. Officials said the plane will be taken as a direct response to Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine.
“Today, we are demonstrating that Russia’s actions continue to have consequences,” transport minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement Saturday. “We stand with Ukraine and will take any and all necessary actions, including this seizure, to put pressure on President Putin.”
The massive Russian cargo plane has sat on the tarmac at Toronto’s main airport since Canada banned Russian aircraft from entering its airspace in February 2022.
In an April Facebook post, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said he understood Canada was “preparing for (the) confiscation of the AN-124” and that it, along with other assets, would be transferred to Ukraine.
That is something Canadian authorities confirmed they are working toward. “Should the asset ultimately be forfeited to the Crown, Canada will work with the Government of Ukraine on options to redistribute this asset to compensate victims of human rights abuses, restore international peace and security, or rebuild Ukraine,” the federal government said in a statement.
The plane is owned by a subsidiary of Volga-Dnepr Airlines LLC and Volga-Dnepr Group, Canada believes. Both entities recently had sanctions imposed against them as part of Canada’s response to the war in Ukraine.
The sanctions were levelled by the Canadian government on April 11 as part of a raft of measures rolled out against 34 entities that the federal government said are “complicit in Putin’s war of choice, including several security targets linked to the Wagner Group” and parts of the aviation sector.
“By authorizing the seizure of the Antonov 124, Canada reaffirms that impunity is not an option for those who have profited from Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine,” the federal government said in a statement.