Armenia’s struggling state-run carrier refuted on Thursday reports that it
has been banned from entering Russia’s airspace for failure to repay its debts
to Russian air navigation services.
The official Itar-Tass news agency quoted an unnamed spokesman for the Russian
civil aviation authority as saying earlier in the day that Armenian Airlines
planes will not be allowed to fly to Russia starting from January 9. The
official said the company owes the Rosaeronavigatsia air traffic agency $3
million and does not intend to pay up.
The report took Armenian Airlines officials by surprise. “I am aware of that
information, and it does not correspond to reality,” its executive director,
Arsen Avetisian, told RFE/RL. He said that under a detailed timetable agreed
with the Russians, Armenian Airlines will repay the debt within a year.
The Armenian side puts its total amount at only $2 million.
Avetisian blamed the Itar-Tass report on unspecified competitors keen to squeeze
Armenian Airlines out of the Russian market, which accounts for the bulk of its
revenues. The debt-ridden company maintains regular flight services between
Yerevan and Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and several other Russian cities. It
increasingly faces competition from two recently formed private Armenian
Armenian Airlines, whose overall debt totals about $20 million, has stood on the
brink of bankruptcy for much of this year. After dragging its feet for several
years, the Armenian government now appears ready to privatize it. Sources say
among private investors showing interest in the company is Swiss watchmaker