FIFA World Cup 2018 – U.S. sanctions cause air travel headaches for Russia

fifa world cup 2018

FIFA World Cup 2018 is all set to begin from 14 June 2018 till 15 July 2018. The tug of war between USA and Russia might cause some impact on the travel plans of foot ball teams. USA had last week blacklisted some of the Russian companies. And, eight of the Russian airports likely to be used by teams competing in this year’s soccer World Cup are owned by these entities.

Also Read: England Fans Will Be Safe In Russia At Football World Cup – Moscow

What is reason for USA sanctions on Russia?

The United States and European Union imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and over its role in a rebellion by pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Then Washington announced new sanctions last week in response to what U.S. officials described as the Kremlin’s “malign activities” around the world. Among those targeted were Deripaska and six other Russian oligarchs.

The U.S. government has the power to take punitive steps against non-American companies that do business with sanctioned entities.

How will Soccer Teams Manage to Travel to Russia for FIFA World Cup 2018?

The Polish side is planning to take a charter flight operated by the country’s flag carrier Lot to Sochi airport. This is operated by a company owned by sanctioned Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska. A spokesman for Lot said it would consult lawyers on the issue. The Polish Football Association said Sochi was the most convenient airport for the team, and it did not want to get involved in politics.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Committee and the local World Cup organising committee did not reply to requests for comment.

Sweden is planning to fly directly to Gelendzhik. It will have its team base here, the country’s soccer federation said. Scandinavian Airline SAS said it would fly the team to Russia.

Iceland’s soccer federation said it would mostly likely fly its team on Icelandair also to Gelendzhik.

Gelendzhik airport is managed by the same company owned by Deripaska. However, Russian state bank VTB announced on Wednesday it plans to buy the airport, which would lessen any sanctions risk.

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Football Team Bases:

Brazil, like Poland, will be based in Sochi, where the airport is owned by the Deripaska-controlled Basel Aero company.

The same firm owns airports in Gelendzhik, Krasnodar – the city where Spain will be based – and Anapa, which is near Crimea and will host Denmark.

It is unclear if the deal for VTB to buy Gelendzhik airport will go through before the World Cup kicks off on June 14.

Basel Aero did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Russia’s Airports of Regions holding company, which manages terminals in the FIFA World Cup 2018 host cities of Yekaterinburg, Samara, Rostov-on-Don and Nizhny Novgorod, is owned by the Renova Group. This conglomerate belongs to Viktor Vekselberg, one of the other sanctioned oligarchs.

Uruguay’s base will be in the Nizhny Novgorod region and Switzerland’s in Togliatti, which is close to Samara airport.

The holding company declined to comment on the issue.

How about Airport Fees?

The U.S. sanctions were against the 17 senior Russian government officials, the seven oligarchs and 12 companies. Their own or control has spread across Russian markets. And, this has triggered volatility and prompted companies to change their plans.

When the U.S. Treasury announced the new sanctions, freezing the U.S. assets of the people and companies targeted and barring Americans from doing business with them, it said non-Americans could themselves face sanctions “for knowingly facilitating significant transactions for or on behalf of the individuals and entities” touched by the measures.

When an airline uses an airport, it typically pays landing and service fees. They could be deemed by U.S. officials to be sanctions violations. However, lawyers say such transactions are a grey area and subject to interpretation.

The sanctions issue should not affect teams’ flights within Russia. Because, under long-standing rules only Russian airlines can fly domestic routes.

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