Turkish airport ground handler Havaş has warned Russian and Belarusian airlines that it may no longer be able to serve around 180 Boeing and other aircraft due to United States sanctions, Russia’s RBK TV channel reported.

The ban would include refuelling, maintenance, and repair of any aircraft in which more than 25% of American parts and technologies have been used - a general de-minimis rule for what constitutes a US product.

The development follows the emergence of reports last week that Washington was leaning on Türkiye to stop Russian carriers from operating flights there with Boeing jets, as it tries to more comprehensively enforce sanctions imposed on Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine last February.

TAV Airports-owned Havaş, Türkiye’s largest ground handler, dispatched a letter to Russia dated January 31 saying: “We are running a due-diligence process to identify the risks and consequences to our business and stakeholders. As a result of this, we may find ourselves unable to serve some or all of your flights.”

The letter, which circulated on social media channels on February 1 with the recipient blacked out, was signed by Mete Erna, general manager of Havaş. It referred to “warning letters being sent to companies in the Turkish aviation industry” from the US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) highlighting the imposition of Temporary Denial Orders (TDOs) in connection with the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

“We shall inform you about future developments and actions planned,” it concluded.

Three sources at Russian airlines and one close to the country’s aviation authorities confirmed the authenticity of the letter to RBK.

Havaş “offers complete ground handling solutions at 32 stations in Türkiye, Latvia, and Croatia,” according to TAV Airports’ website. These include Istanbul Airport, Ankara Esenboga, and Antalya.

Airlines notified

A list attached to the letter elaborated that service may be denied to Boeing as well as some Airbus aircraft, in total listing more than 170 aircraft operated by Russian carriers, seven jets operated out of Belarus, and four in Iran. The biggest operator of these aircraft is Aeroflot, but the list also names AirBridgeCargo, Azur Air, iFly Airlines, Ikar (Russian Federation) (formerly Pegas Fly), Nordwind Airlines, Pobeda, Red Wings Airlines, Rossiya, S7 Airlines, Ural Airlines, UTair, and Yamal Airlines in Russia, as well as Belavia, IranAir, and Mahan Air.

It also throws in B787-8(BBJ) and Gulfstream Aerospace G650 business jets belonging to Roman Abramovich. A representative of the businessman told the news channel that he does not currently have any aircraft in Türkiye.

One of RBK’s airline sources said that Havaş would discuss the issue with Russian carriers within two weeks, adding: “Essentially, Havaş is asking Russian companies to come up with a way to solve the problem, as there are four other handling companies operating in Turkey. Handling could be switched to these other companies.” Flights to Türkiye will continue, the source insisted.

Alexander Neradko, head of the Russia’s civil aviation regulator (Rosaviatsiya), told RBK on February 1 that international cooperation would carry on despite the actions of a number of states to enforce sanctions. Aviation is “a global system of economic relations,” he said, and cooperation with “friendly states” continues.