Russian Participation in UK Airshow Mired in Scandals

The Russian Knights, one of the world’s best aerobatic teams, missed on Thursday the planned deadline for their departure to the British airshow in Farnborough over the lack of Russian bureaucratic paperwork, a source from the team said.

The move could be an implicit answer to Britain stalling on visas for Russian participants of the show in punishment for Russia supporting the Syrian government, Russian media reported earlier.

British officials denied the allegations and blamed the visa issues on the consulates’ overload due to the upcoming London Olympics.

The Russian Knights failed to obtain permission to travel to the Farnborough show, which runs July 9-15, from the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, a source close to the group told RIA Novosti on Thursday. He did not specify whether the team still could depart for Farnborough at a later date.

Also on Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry lambasted British officials for failing to issue visas to some Russian participants of the show.

“Despite filing paperwork on time, a number of Russia’s representatives planning to participate in the Farnborough airshow…still weren’t issued British visas,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We regret to say this is not the first time that red tape endangers the participation of our representatives in international events staged by Britain,” the ministry said, adding that it was working with British diplomats to solve the issue.

The ministry did not specify what caused the delays, but several Russian newspapers, including Vedomosti and Nezavisimaya Gazeta, citing unidentified Russian officials, blamed Russia’s continuing support of the Syrian government, which is struggling to suppress a grassroots insurgency while under heavy diplomatic pressure from the West.

Britain pressured a Russian vessel delivering Syrian army helicopters after an overhaul into returning to Russia in late June. Russia confirmed it was transporting the Mi-25 gunships, but noted it was not prohibited by any international sanctions against Syria.

Russian participants of Farnborough have visa problems because some of them did not apply in time, said press secretary of the British Embassy in Moscow, David Shaw, Vedomosti reported on Thursday.

The only company publicly admitting to visa problems was Russian Helicopters, whose spokesman refused to elaborate, Vzglyad online newspaper said on Wednesday.

A number of other aviation companies, including United Engine Corporation and Sparc helicopter repair firm, said they had no visa problems.

“You need to understand that England’s hosting the Olympics, a Madonna concert and so on and so on,” a United Engine Corporation spokeswoman told Vzglyad. “That was expected, and so we solved the problems in advance.”

Russia could boycott the next Farnborough show in 2014, several media outlets said shortly after the visa scandal broke out, citing unnamed officials. The reports were never confirmed officially.

The Russian aviation industry has not much to show in Farnborough, given a recent string of failed tenders and incidents, including the crash of Sukhoi Superjet 100 during a demonstration flight in Indonesia in May, U.S.-based industry magazine Aerospace said in an editorial article.

Russian companies are only bringing 114 items to the show this year, compared to 250 in 2010, Vedomosti said.


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