Canada will not let the impounded An-124 jet out at least until the end of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, the deputy chief of mission of the Russian embassy in Ottawa told Sputnik on Friday.
According to deputy chief of mission Vladimir Proskuryakov, the An-124 operated by Russian cargo carrier Volga-Dnepr was transporting humanitarian cargo, including COVID-19 test kits, from China under a contract with the Canadian government.
The plane arrived in Canada on February 27 and was due to depart the next day. On February 27, Canada closed its airspace for Russian aircraft and refused the request for permission to depart.
Russia sent a diplomatic note on March 1, which described the whole situation in detail, and demanded that Canada release the jet. Canada did not officially respond to this note in writing but rather sent an e-mail that they would not even consider the issue until Russia ends its military operation in Ukraine, the diplomat continued.
“Through the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we tried to somehow resolve the situation, so that they [the plane] would be allowed to leave. But Global Affairs Canada, citing the department of transport and the position of the federal government, totally refused,” Proskuryakov said.
“In principle, they simply stated that this issue can’t be discussed and the plane would remain [there] at least until the end of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. They took an ironclad position, completely excluding a diplomatic path.”
Proskuryakov said the embassy immediately contacted the crew to offer help once they learned about the incident.
“Together with our Consulate General in Toronto, we provided assistance to the crew so that they could return to Russia,” he said. “Within two weeks, all crew members in two groups returned home. They are all Russian citizens. There were not subjected to any discrimination or pressure from the Canadian authorities. They are all at home. Their rights were respected, we were in touch with them all the time.”
Volga-Dnepr agreed with the airport authorities about parking the aircraft in a parking lot. Earlier in the week, Canadian media reported that the parking bill is growing with the Toronto airport charging the company about $1,000 per day.
“We raised this issue with the Canadian Foreign Ministry in advance in an effort to clarify the situation,” Proskuryakov said. “They essentially arrested our plane, the question is who will bear the associated costs, for parking, moving the aircraft, refueling. The Canadian Foreign Ministry made it clear that the situation is new for them and they do not understand all the depth of these legal and administrative-technical issues. So, it is completely incomprehensible who will be responsible for the costs.”
Russia believes that all costs should rest with Canada, as it was the latter that chose to commit this “unfriendly act,” the deputy chief of mission concluded.
Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a press release on Friday announcing that he will travel to Colorado Springs to visit the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) headquarters and also to Los Angeles to participate in the Ninth Summit of the Americas scheduled for June 7-11.
“I’m heading to NORAD Command and the Summit of the Americas next week,” Trudeau said via Twitter. “Canada enjoys profound and longstanding relationships in the Americas. The Summit of the Americas is a unique opportunity to work with world leaders in the region.”
Trudeau said he will be accompanied on his trip by Defense Minister Anita Anand, Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly.
The key topics of discussion at the summit will include climate change, democracy promotion, gender equality and indigenous rights, the statement said.
Trudeau will seek to promote trade, creation of jobs and ways to stimulate economic growth, and will hold additional meetings to strengthen joint action on climate change and nature protection, the statement added
The Canadian leadership has said they are looking into upgrading NORAD and examining the possibility of Canada participating in the US anti-missile shield.