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Russian cargo plane seized by Canadian government at Toronto Pearson Airport

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A Russian-registered cargo aircraft that has been grounded at Toronto Pearson Airport for more than a year has been seized by the Canadian government, Global Affairs Canada announced Saturday.

The aircraft, an Antonov 124, is believed to be owned by a subsidiary of Volga-Dnepr Airlines LLC and Volga-Dnepr Group, two entities against which Canada recently imposed sanctions due to their actions in the war against Ukraine, according to a press release issued Saturday by Global Affairs. It has been grounded at Toronto Pearson Airport since February 2022.

The Russian plane initially planned to leave Toronto shortly after arriving from China, via the U.S. and Russia, in February of last year, but that flight was cancelled when the Canadian government closed the country’s airspace to Russian aircraft operators, grounding it indefinitely.

The owner of the plane has been billed 74 cents per minute to park at Toronto Pearson, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) told CTV News Toronto in April 2022, which adds up to $1,065.60 for each 24-hour period, according to the GTAA.

According to Global Affairs, this seizure is the first in the Government of Canada’s plan of action to put pressure on Russia to stop its war against Ukraine by straining its economy and limiting its access to resources that fuel the war. This is the first physical asset seized by Canada under this regime and the second seized under the Special Economic Measures Act.

A Russian-registered Antonov AN-124 owned by Volga-Dneper sits on the tarmac at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Monday, March 21, 2022. (The Canadian Press)

Global Affairs said the Canadian government will manage the seizure in accordance with federal legislation, and if forfeited to the Crown, the plane could be redistributed to Ukraine.

“Should the asset ultimately be forfeited to the Crown, Canada will work with the Government of Ukraine on options to redistribute this asset to compensate victims of human rights abuses, restore international peace and security, or rebuild Ukraine,” reads the announcement.

“Today, Canada is sending a clear message to the Russian regime that there will be nowhere left to hide for those who support and profit from the Kremlin’s war of aggression,” Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in the press release.

“Canada has been there to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom since day one and we will continue to be there through their victory to aid in their reconstruction efforts," she continued.

Today we announced the seizure of the Russian Antonov cargo aircraft at Pearson Airport. This sends a clear message to Russia that their illegal invasion continues to have consequences. We will always be there for the Ukrainian people.

Federal Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said the seizure sends a "clear message" to Russia.

"Today we announced the seizure of the Russian Antonov cargo aircraft at Pearson Airport," Alghabra said in a tweet shared Saturday afternoon. "This sends a clear message to Russia that their illegal invasion continues to have consequences. We will always be there for the Ukrainian people."

With files from CTV News Toronto's Hannah Alberga.

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