Mystery of flight VI5956: Why was Russian IL-76 allowed to enter EU airspace and land in Bratislava?
A mysterious Russian aircraft raised eyebrows early Tuesday, March 1, after it appeared to enter prohibited EU airspace before landing in Slovakia, causing many to wonder why the plane was allowed to land.
Russian President Vladimir Putin violated several international protocols on Monday, February 28, as he unleashed devastating vacuum bomb and cluster bomb attacks on the city of Kharkiv. More than 11 civilians were killed in the bombing, including three children. Another cluster bomb strike on a nursery school killed 16 kids, leaving 116 more severely injured. The brazen acts of war prompted several EU nations to close their airspace for Russian aircraft.
The Russian cargo plane Il-76TD VI5956, operated by the airline Volga Dnepr, landed in Slovakia after flying through Belarusian territory -- as far as possible from the border of Ukraine -- and then through Poland, which also has a ban on Russian aircraft. Many wondered why the flight was allowed to land in the capital city of Bratislava after Slovakia had closed its airspace to Russian flights, as one of the last EU countries to do so.
A Russian cargo flight from Moscow appears to be descending toward Bratislava, despite European airspace being closed to Russian flights. pic.twitter.com/2S0j0f59sD— Oren Liebermann (@OrenCNN) March 1, 2022
"A Volga Dnepr Airlines IL-76 has just landed in Bratislava, Slovakia from Moscow. Unknown at the moment is the reason special permission was granted to this flight to overfly prohibited airspace for Russian aircraft," flight tracking outlet FlightRadar24 tweeted.
"Mysterious flight. Looks as if it was (accidentally?) flying what is now a prohibited route to Kaliningrad and was intercepted. But why did it then fly all the way to Bratislava? If it was unwilling to obey the interceptors, surely it would have turned around to Belarus?" one Twitter user wrote.
"This is very unusual. An Ilyushin Il-76TD “VI5956” operated by Volga-Dnepr Airlines a Russian cargo transport company that is currently banned from EU airspace is currently cruising over Poland from Moscow heading South, there are unconfirmed reports she has been intercepted," another alleged.
"Russian commercial cargo aircraft seemed to violate the EU airspace closure. Landing in Slovakia now," someone else added.
A Volga Dnepr Airlines IL-76 has just landed in Bratislava, Slovakia from Moscow. Unknown at the moment is the reason special permission was granted to this flight to overfly prohibited airspace for Russian aircraft. https://t.co/uS40RpKAMU pic.twitter.com/Dysm89M51z— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) March 1, 2022
Mysterious flight. Looks as if it was (accidentally?) flying what is now a prohibited route to Kaliningrad and was intercepted. But why did it then fly all the way to Bratislava? If it was unwilling to obey the interceptors, surely it would have turned around to Belarus? https://t.co/EL890oGf5u— Tor Lillqvist (@TorLillqvist) March 1, 2022
This is Very Unusual a Ilyushin Il-76TD “VI5956” Operated by Volga-Dnepr Airlines a Russian Cargo Transport Company that is Currently banned from EU Airspace is currently Cruising over Poland from Moscow heading South, there are Unconfirmed Reports she has been intercepted. pic.twitter.com/KONAKzBMPG— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) March 1, 2022
Russian commercial cargo aircraft seemed to violate the EU airspace closure. Landing in Slovakia now. pic.twitter.com/0yckAE5lYt— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) March 1, 2022
Slovakia's Ministry of Economy later confirmed that the flight was carrying nuclear fuel and was granted an exemption from restrictions. "The Ministry of Economy has helped to ensure the supply of nuclear fuel, which will be able to be used by Slovenské elektrárne (SE). Today (March 1, 2022), the IL76 aircraft of the company Volga Dnepr Airlines, which delivered nuclear fuel to us from the Russian Federation, landed at the Bratislava airport," Minister of Economy Richard Sulík said in a statement. "After the gas and oil, the Slovak economy has another energy carrier insured. I am glad that we managed it logistically, and I also thank the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Transport for the excellent coordination in dealing with permits."
The ministry noted that Slovakia has closed its airspace for Russian flights, but an exception was granted in this case because the flight was carrying humanitarian aid and nuclear fuel. "The Ministry of Economy also cooperated in this event with the Polish Minister of Energy Anna Moskwa, whom the head of the Slovak Ministry of Economy also thanked for their support. Richard Sulík also assured that the SEs currently have enough nuclear fuel," the statement added. It's worth noting that power plants in Slovakia only take nuclear fuel from Russia, local newspaper Denník N reported.