Thursday, June 24, 2021

Moscow Talks about Promoting North and Far East but Cuts Subsidies to Airports There

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – Vladimir Putin and other Moscow leaders are constantly talking about developing the Russian North and Far East both to promote the country’s national security and economic development, but over the last two years, they have cut subsidies to the key airports there by more than 16 percent, Pavel Usov says.

            That has led to skyrocketing increases rises in the price of airplane fuel and an equally dramatic decline in the number of flights in the region, thus making impossible the achievement of precisely the goals that the Kremlin says it is pursuing, the Russian political scientist continues (

            The regions and republics in the North and Far East are currently lobbying for more money for their airports, with the enormous Sakha Republic leading the way. The 31 airports in that republic and in neighboring Magadan Oblast are among those which have been hit hardest by budget cuts, even though the closing of fields elsewhere has attracted more attention (  

            Short of closing operations, the only way carriers can function is by raising prices, something that means air travel in the North and Far East is now more expensive than anywhere else in the Russian Federation with prices beyond the reach of all but officials in many cases, Usov says.

            In some cases, he reports, the carriers and the airports they use are operating only to bring those with serious medical conditions to larger urban centers for treatment. In the absence of such cases, there are no flights at all. Even the price rises the airlines have put in place there haven’t covered their costs – and Moscow has blocked them from raising them further.

            Sergey Sobolyev of the Airports of the North company says that this situation is having an increasingly negative impact on airports as well as carriers because neither can afford the equipment they need to ensure both regular and safe flights. They have had to shed workers and that has created more burdens on the regional and local governments.

            One solution Sakha and airline officials have proposed would be the central purchasing of airplane fuel and then its distribution at the same cost across the country. But Moscow has refused to agree because that would send prices for such fuel up in larger markets like the two capitals and the oil and gas regions.

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