Russia has labelled Canada’s decision to seize a Volga-Dnepr Antonov An-124 stranded at Toronto Pearson airport since the start of the war in Ukraine as “shameless theft”.

The aircraft has been grounded at Toronto Pearson airport since 27 February 2022, after landing just before the government of Canada announced restrictions on Russian aircraft in response to the Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Antonov AN-124 RA-82078

Source: Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

RA-82078 at the Farnborough Airshow in 2018

However, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says: “The aircraft has been illegally detained at the Toronto airport since February 2022. We perceive this act as cynical and shameless theft.”

She adds: “The An-124 aircraft, which delivered Covid-19 medications to Toronto under a humanitarian project at the request of the Canadian government, was prevented from leaving the airport and was essentially taken hostage.”

In June last year, the Canadian government amended the Special Economic Measures Act and the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act to allow it to seize and re-distribute assets belonging to sanctioned entities and individuals.

The aircraft could be handed over to Ukraine once seized, the Canadian government said on 10 June.

Zakharova says: “It now turns out that Canadian authorities had a far-reaching aim in mind: to steal this unique aircraft and to hand it over to their clients in Kyiv.”

She warns the decision has left Russia with the “right to retaliate”.

“The Russian side warns that the practical implementation of this decision will entail the most serious repercussions for Russian-Canadian relations, which are already on the verge of being severed through the fault of Ottawa. Any attempts to cover up this illegal and shameful act by judicial procedures will not impart even a semblance of legitimacy to it.”

The An-124 in question is registered as RA-82078. It is 26 years old and can carry around 150t of cargo.

Story by Rebecca Jeffrey, originally published on Air Cargo News