A private aircraft transporting two Russian nationals has been grounded in Yellowknife, the NWT’s infrastructure minister said on Wednesday.
Speaking in the NWT legislature, Diane Archie said the aircraft had been grounded by the federal government and was being investigated over a potential violation of Canada’s recent order that no Russian aircraft enter its airspace.
Archie said she received a call on Tuesday night to inform her a “civilian plane with Russian nationals had landed in Yellowknife” with passengers bound for Resolute, Nunavut as part of “a planned Arctic overland expedition” in a large ATV.
“I’m just shaking,” Archie said as she explained what had happened. “When I got the call I was like, oh my.”
Canada, in keeping with many other nations, has barred Russian aircraft from its airspace as part of a suite of sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week.
Calling that invasion “terrible and unjustified,” Archie said potential consequences for the aircraft now grounded in Yellowknife and its passengers “will be determined once the facts are clear.”
Transport Canada confirmed the federal government was “aware of a charter aircraft that landed in Yellowknife, NT on March 1, 2022, carrying two Russian foreign nationals.”
The federal agency said it was “working with the Canada Border Services Agency to assess this matter [and] review whether there has been any violation of the recently announced Notice to Airmen prohibiting Russian aircraft (owned, chartered, or certified) from operating in Canadian airspace.”
“At this time, the aircraft is restricted to the Yellowknife Airport, pending Transport Canada’s assessment,” the agency added.
‘Test drive’ for global expedition
The details shared by Archie match those of a project named the TransGlobal Car Expedition, in which a team including several Russians is endeavouring to cross the globe by vehicle.
That expedition is due to begin this fall and visit Yellowknife in January 2023 but the group this week shared to Instagram plans for a “Canadian test drive” beginning in Yellowknife and travelling to Resolute and beyond.
“Our entire team is already in the second-largest country in the world,” the project team wrote on Instagram.
“We are planning to explore the northern part and see the beauty of nature with our own eyes.”
There was no mention of any issue with the group’s aircraft or arrival into Canada.
Among team members listed on the group’s website are Vasily Shakhnovsky, a Russian former oil and gas executive once reported by Forbes to have wealth well in excess of $1 billion, and Vasily Elagin, a Russian mountaineer and explorer.
Cabin Radio understands the aircraft in question is a Dassault Falcon 900 corporate jet with tail registration VP-CVS.
That aircraft undertook a nine-hour flight from Geneva to Yellowknife on Tuesday.