Russia loses UN aviation council seat in rebuke over Ukraine

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna visits an airfield of the Antonov Aviation Plant, at the settlement of Hostomel, heavily damaged during Russia's invasion, in Ukraine's Kyiv region, on Sept 27, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

MONTREAL (REUTERS) - Russia failed to win enough votes for re-election to the United Nation's aviation agency's governing council on Saturday, in a rebuke of Moscow for aviation-related actions taken after its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia fell short of the 86 votes needed to stay on the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) 36-nation governing council, during the agency's assembly which runs through Oct 7 in Montreal.

The voting results set off a procedural review on Saturday, after a challenge by Russia for an additional vote.

Poppy Khoza, assembly president and South Africa's director-general of civil aviation, called the circumstances "unprecedented."

"When we have votes in our countries, if we don't like the result, we don't ask for another vote," the French representative told the assembly.

Russia, along with the Group of 7, China, Brazil and Australia, held spots as "states of chief importance in air transport" on ICAO's 36-member council.

"We'd like to express regret regarding the outcome of the voting," the Russian representative said. "We view this as a purely political step and has nothing to do with Russia's position in the field of civil aviation."

The vote holds Russia to account for violating Ukraine's sovereign airspace, like bombing airports, that go against a key 1944 agreement that sets out core principles for global aviation, argued Yuliya Kovaliv, Ukraine's ambassador to Canada.

"It is important that all the ICAO members addressed such a drastic breach of the Chicago Convention," she told Reuters.

The West also says Russia has illegally confiscated hundreds of foreign jets, a charge Moscow denies. Russia in March allowed the country's airlines to place airplanes leased from foreign companies on the country's aircraft register.

Any dual registration of foreign-owned aircraft leased by Russian carriers are at odds with parts of the Chicago Convention.

Canada and Europe said before the vote they would oppose Russia's re-election to the council.

Omar Alghabra, Canada's transport minister, told Reuters this week "it's important that Russia is held accountable."

The 193-nation ICAO assembly, held every three years, is the first since the Covid-19 pandemic and Ukraine war.

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