Tug-of-war ongoing over Russian plane stranded since early 2022 at Pearson Airport in Mississauga

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Published November 27, 2023 at 5:03 pm

Russian Cargo Plane in Mississauga being fought over by Russia and Canada
A Russian cargo aircraft like this one has been stranded at Pearson Airport in Mississauga since Feb. 27, 2022.

A huge Russian-owned cargo plane that’s been sitting on the tarmac at Pearson Airport in Mississauga for nearly two years is now reportedly at the centre of a tug-of-war between Ottawa and the airline to which it’s registered.

The Antonov An-124 aircraft, the world’s largest production cargo plane, was for a while — and for many, likely still is — an object of curiosity to drivers who could easily spot the massive aircraft from Highway 427 as they passed the airport.

Having sat at Pearson since Feb. 27, 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent closing of Canadian airspace to all Russian-owned planes, the immobile cargo jet can now be described as a near fixture on the tarmac at Canada’s biggest and busiest airport.

In early June, the Canadian government seized the aircraft and revealed its intention to deliver it to Ukraine as part of an aid package.

During an unannounced visit to Kyiv at that time to show Canada’s support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the seized Russian-registered plane would soon be given to his nation so it could never be used by Russia again.

But, not so fast, according to Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Airlines, to which the aircraft is registered. In short order, the airline  reportedly approached Ottawa to begin discussions about having the cargo plane returned to its Russian owner.

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Airways, a commercial aviation publication based in Dallas/Fort Worth and distributed across North America and worldwide, reported on Aug. 20 that the Russian airline company delivered a “pre-arbitration notice” to the Canadian government as it seeks to negotiate for the return of the aircraft.

When contacted recently, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada would not confirm that information to insauga.com, nor would they clarify, directly, the current status of the jet.

They did say, however, that Canada’s Special Economic Measures Act and Justice for Victims of Corruption Foreign Officials Act provide the authority to seize and redistribute assets belonging to sanctioned individuals and entities.

“Seizure is the first step in a legal process. Canada’s asset seizure and forfeiture authorities under SEMA and JVCFOA include a number of procedural safeguards, including that those whose property is the subject of a seizure or restraint order, or those who may have third-party rights or interests in the asset, can request an administrative review of that order,” Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Charlotte MacLeod said in an email to insauga.com.

“Further steps towards potential forfeiture will be taken in due course, in accordance with the legislation and procedural fairness.”

The spokesperson added that “proceeds of forfeiture may be used for compensation to victims, the reconstruction of affected states, and the restoration of international peace and security.”

While the legal process involved plays out, “Public Service and Procurement Canada manages assets once they are seized, maintains custody and controls them over the course of the legal process.”

The Russian cargo aircraft landed at Pearson on the morning of Feb. 27, 2022, just before the Canadian government declared the country’s airspace closed to all Russian-owned planes in the wake of the invasion.

The plane was reportedly bringing a shipment of COVID-19 test kits from China to Pearson via Russia and then Anchorage, Alaska, where it apparently stopped for refuelling just before its landing in Mississauga.

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