Russian plane parked at Toronto Pearson airport for year could be seized, used for Ukraine

It's been more than a year since a Russian-registered cargo plane landed at Toronto Pearson airport. It hasn't left due to an order barring Russian aircraft from Canadian airspace. As Nick Westoll reports, there are indications it could be seized.

More than a year after a large, Russian-registered cargo airplane was grounded at Toronto Pearson International Airport, there are suggestions it could be seized and used to assist Ukraine.

Days after Ukraine’s Prime Minster Denys Shmyhal visited Canada and the United States to meet with senior government officials, Shmyhal posted an update on his North American trip.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Shmyhal referenced Canada’s newest sanctions (announced on April 11) against entities linked to the Russian aviation sector. Included in the sanctions were Volga-Dnepr Group and Volga-Dnepr Airlines, which owns the Antonov 124 that has sat at the edge of Toronto Pearson International Airport since Feb. 27, 2022.

Shmyhal’s post said preparations to seize the massive cargo airplane and other assets are underway, and that it could be transferred to assist Ukraine.

The post didn’t contain any information about when such a seizure could occur nor how the airplane would exactly be used to help the country.

CityNews contacted Transport Canada and the Department of National Defence on Monday to ask about the report of the seizure. Those inquiries were referred to Global Affairs Canada. A spokesperson for the department wouldn’t confirm the plans, saying the department doesn’t comment on “potential asset seizures.”

“Canada and its international partners will not stand idly by as President Putin attacks Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the rules-based international order,” a written statement from the Global Affairs Canada spokesperson said late Monday.

“Global Affairs Canada continues to work closely with the RCMP and other government departments to explore and carefully evaluate potential assets of sanctioned individuals and entities that could be pursued using the seizure and forfeiture authorities across all our sanctions regimes.”

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The spokesperson went on to say the Canadian government amended sanctions in June to give officials the authority to conduct “the seizure, forfeiture, disposal and redistribution of assets belonging to individuals and entities sanctioned under Canadian legislation” after the assets are frozen.

Visible from Highway 427, the white-and-blue Antonov airplane hasn’t moved from where it has been parked since the end of February. It arrived in Canada to deliver a shipment of COVID-19 rapid tests.

Hours after that arrival, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced Canada was closing its airspace to all Russian aircraft in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Another issue that’s still outstanding is parking fees owed to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), the organization that runs Toronto Pearson International Airport.

A GTAA spokesperson said the airplane is being charged “inactive apron fees” for being parked at the edge of the airport property. Under GTAA regulations, class F aircraft are charged $0.77 a minute or $1,108.80 for each 24-hour period.

As of April 18 under that billing structure, the airplane has racked up roughly $460,000 in fees.

It’s unclear how or if those fees might be paid should the airplane be seized by the Canadian government.

With files from The Canadian Press

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