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Anger as private jet leaves Inverness Airport for Moscow – hours after airspace sanctions imposed

A row has broken out after a Moscow-bound flight left Inverness Airport on Saturday - after sanctions were put in place
A row has broken out after a Moscow-bound flight left Inverness Airport on Saturday - after sanctions were put in place

A private jet was allowed to depart from Inverness Airport to Moscow, despite the sanctions currently in place.

Following Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, a Notice of Air Missions (NOTAM) was issued banning all scheduled services operated by aircraft owned, operated, leased or registered in Russia in UK airspace on Friday.

But on Saturday, an Estonian-registered jet operated by private charter firm Panaviatic left Inverness for Moscow – sparking questions over “loopholes” in restrictions.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has described it as “gut wrenching” in a Twitter spat with UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Mr Blackford wrote on Twitter: “To see a private jet leaving Inverness for Moscow is gut wrenching.

“We need to ban all flights to Moscow unless authorised for humanitarian reasons. To see a Highland airfield being used for people, money or goods to reach Moscow is not acceptable.”

‘We cannot have loopholes’

Mr Blackford claimed Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) was only informed of the regulations 24 hours after they came into effect – and says he has e-mail proof of this.

He said: “This guidance was received by Hial on Saturday night after the jet to Moscow had departed. In accordance with NOTAM with effect from 9pm on February 25, no commercial air transport service (charter or scheduled) or private flight, may be undertaken within United Kingdom airspace.

“What this does not cover is aircraft registered in a third country as this one was. I will be raising this in parliament.

“Grant Shapps needs to tighten the restrictions. We cannot have loopholes that allow flights with a final destination of Moscow.”

However, Mr Shapps has rebuffed the claim that HIAL had not been informed of the sanctions.

He tweeted: “This is factually incorrect. The guidance (NOTAM) was issued on Friday, February 25 at 21:00 GMT to all aviation (inc. UK airports).

“It is always the responsibility of aviation to check NOTAMs before flight.

“A further alert was sent Sat to remind aviation of that duty.”

Mr Blackford has since called on the Transport Secretary to “do his job” and repeated calls to tighten restrictions.

He added: “HIAL also checked with NATS pre departure and authority to fly was given.

“The regulations do not go far enough. You should do your job.”

Air traffic control got approval for flight to depart

A spokesman for HIAL said today: “A private jet departed Inverness to Russia on the morning of Saturday, February 26.

“This was prior to the CAA’s Siren notification to airports being received by HIAL at 7.15pm that day.

“Although the destination of the aircraft was Russia, it was Estonian registered and we do not know who chartered the aircraft or the nature of their connections with Russia.

“The handling company at Inverness, being aware of the NOTAM issued on Friday, in advance of the Siren Notification, liaised with UK agencies to satisfy themselves the flight could depart given the destination and the rules on aircraft chartered by persons connected with Russia.

“On the day of departure, the air traffic controller on duty at Inverness, also sought and received confirmation from NATS Centre at Prestwick who are responsible for Transatlantic traffic that the aircraft could depart.”

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