14ymedio, Havana, May 19, 2023 — The Russian airline Aeroflot will resume its commercial flights to Cuba on July 1, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Chernishenko announced on Thursday during his visit to Havana. Until now, the air service between the two countries had been limited by the international sanctions imposed on Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine, and travel had been restricted to the main tourist centers of the Island of high interest to Russian visitors, such as Varadero and Cayo Coco (Ciego de Ávila).
Chernishenko said that by Vladimir Putin’s “presidential order” regular flights will be restored, although he did not detail how often Aeroflot will operate weekly. The official press reports that the airline stopped flying in Havana — as well as to several markets where it had connections — in March 2022, when Russian aircraft were banned from flying over Europe.
A trip between Moscow and Havana required a more complicated trajectory, with connections to other cities such as Istanbul, in Turkey, whose government does not apply sanctions. On the eve of the high tourist season, in October 2022, Nordwind Airlines resumed its direct flights between Moscow and two Cuban destinations, Varadero and Ciego de Ávila, through a route near the North Pole until it reached the North Atlantic.
Nordwind also has the permission of the Federal Air Transport Agency of Russia to make a stopover at Varadero airport, on its flight from Moscow to the Venezuelan island of Margarita.
These air links were not only used by Russian tourists to spend the summer on the Island, but they were also an escape route for thousands of Cubans before the route was created through Nicaragua to continue by land to the United States. Also, as Cubans were exempt from a visa to enter Russia, Moscow became a destination to make purchases and resell products on the Island.
With the closure of airports in Europe, Aeroflot seeks to strengthen its presence in the markets of Asia and Africa. Chernishenko assured that Cuba is Russia’s key partner in the region and advocated for a greater development of bilateral economic relations in all areas, Cubadebate said in its article.
The reactivation of the flights was made known within the framework of a business economic forum, held in Havana, where the Cuban government has offered Russian businesspeople the privilege of using land in usufruct for 30 years. The Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Ricardo Cabrisas, told the press that both countries are working on 10 investment projects and are looking for Cuba to be the “bridge of union” between Russia and Latin America.
Aeroflot turned 100 last March, at the lowest moment of its activity since the dissolution of the Soviet Union due to the slump generated in 2020, when it was forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to leave its planes on the ground and, more recently, by Western sanctions.
The airline, controlled by the Kremlin, has been forced to seek financing to survive its debts, sanctions and the embargo of planes. The same Russian government injected 2.7 billion dollars for the purchase of 5.4 billion shares, at the price of 34.29 rubles per title.
Economically suffocated, Russian aviation is not going through its best moment, and according to the Federal Transport Control Agency (Rostransnadzor), in 2022 it made more than 2,000 flights with expired parts due to supply problems because of Western sanctions. Víctor Basargin, head of the organization, confirmed that they have detected numerous cases of infractions that “relate directly to flight safety.”
The announcement coincides with other events that show the increasingly close ties between Cuba and Russia, such as the inauguration this Thursday of a new steel company, which will replace the old Antillana de Acero plant, in which Moscow has invested more than 95 million dollars and has provided 90% of the equipment.
Translated by Regina Anavy
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.