Aeroflot (SU, Moscow Sheremetyevo) had one of its aircraft seized in Sri Lanka on June 2, shortly before it was due to return to Moscow Sheremetyevo from Colombo Int'l with 191 people on board, Sri Lankan and Russian media reported.

The A330-300 had arrived from Moscow earlier in the day at 1010L (0440Z), 40 minutes earlier than scheduled, but the Airbus widebody did not begin its return journey at the scheduled time of 1250L (0720Z), Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows.

An official representing the airport told the news agency Agence France Presse that it had been prevented from returning following an order from the Colombo Commercial High Court.

“Air traffic control received an order to hold Flight SU289,” the unnamed official said. “We are not aware of the reason, but we hear it is something to do with a commercial dispute.”

Sri Lankan Ambassador Janita Abeivikrema Liyanage was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry to explain her country's actions. Moscow subsequently called on Sri Lanka "to resolve this problem in a short time in order to avoid its negative impact on the two countries' traditionally friendly bilateral relations."

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, the aircraft in question, A330-300 RA-73702 (msn 1301), was VQ-BMY until it was transferred to the Russian register on April 15. The majority state-owned flag carrier had operated the jet since April 2012. GECAS owns the aircraft and AerCap manages it.

It was one of around 750 foreign-owned aircraft in Russia that were forcibly re-registered in the country after their certificates of airworthiness were cancelled as part of tough Western sanctions imposed after the Kremlin-ordered invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions gave European and American lessors until March 28 to terminate lease contracts with Russian carriers, but they have refused to return the vast majority of the affected aircraft and airlines continue to operate many of them.

Aeroflot suspended all international flights in March, but despite a recommendation from Russia’s civil aviation regulator (Rosaviatsiya) for carriers not to fly foreign-leased aircraft abroad to avoid their possible seizure, the airline resumed operations to Colombo in April.

It has not been divulged whether the detention of Flight SU289 was related to the sanctions. However, Sri Lankan media reported that Judge Harsha Sethunga of the Colombo Commercial High Court had issued the injunction after hearing a complaint filed by Celestial Aviation Trading Limited in Ireland. According to online sources, Celestial is an Aercap affiliate. The enjoining order said that the A330 would be impounded until June 16.

A court hearing on the removal of the seizure was scheduled for June 8, an Aeroflot representative told Forbes Russia, adding that passengers and crew had disembarked and were being accommodated in hotels “according to the standards of the airline.”