Thursday, August 20, 2015

Russia Doesn’t Control Its Domestic Airspace, Opening the Way to Accidents and Terrorism, Gusev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 20 – The Russian authorities exercise “far greater control over the country’s roads than they do over its airspace,” according to a Moscow analyst, who points out that this has already led to numerous tragedies and could very well allow for new terrorist attacks against Russia.

            In a commentary in “Nezavisimaya gazeta” today, Aleksandr Gusev, a senior scholar a the Center for Macro-Economic Research of the government’s Finance University, says that the explosive growth of private flights means that Russia’s airspace is “practically uncontrolled” (

            Many pilots take off without filing a flight plan, fly without the necessary papers, or fly while intoxicated. Most flights “end without tragedy,” he acknowledges, but he says that the state of data collection is such that it is impossible to know how many do not because far from all are reported in the media.

            After listing some of the most serious accidents in recent years, Gusev notes that following the downing of the Malaysian jetliner, it was reported that “the Russian army has the necessary systems for monitoring at least the airspace along the border.”  But it is “unknown” whether the military’s ability to do so extends to the entire country.

            It may very well be, he continues, that the military doesn’t monitor all of Russia’s airspace but “is interested only in certain corridors.” If that is the case, then the skies must rely on Russian Aviation, the interior ministry, and the emergency situations ministry, something that by itself is cause for concern.

            “Practice has already shown the inability of Russian Aviation to solve the problems,” Gusev writes. Is the interior ministry ready to take up the slack? Or can the emergency situations ministry do more than investigate accidents after the fact?  No one knows for sure, and “this crudely contradicts the realities of present-day life.”

            Were terrorists to exploit this gap and use airplanes or helicopters to launch an attack, “it is difficult to overstate the resonance this would have in society,” Gusev suggests. Not only would it raise questions about the country’s military capacity, but it would cast doubt on the effectiveness of the country’s top leadership.

            Despite that, there seems little urgency about the problem, he says, concluding that those who have planes inside Russia now enjoy more freedom “than does the ordinary user of the Internet.” Perhaps this will change only after Russians learn “about an air attack of militants from organization N on city M, followed by a Russian Aviation commentary that these flights were not sanctioned.”

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