01:55 GMT +316 August 2018
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    A Volga-Dnepr-owned AN-124.

    NATO Robs Itself of Airlift Capacity With Loss of Russian An-124 Jets – Czech MP

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    Russia's Volga-Dnepr Airlines has confirmed that it will terminate its contract with NATO on military cargo deliveries after 2018, citing sanctions pressure against Russia by the US and its allies. Speaking to Sputnik, Czech lawmaker Alexandr Cerny said that the lost capacity would result in a "big problem" for the alliance.

    Volga-Dnepr's cooperation with NATO via its Ruslan-SALIS subsidiary is set to terminate in late 2018 after over ten years of cooperation with ten NATO countries including Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. The company had provided airlift support for these countries via two An-124-100 Ruslan freighters permanently stationed in Germany's Leipzig/Halle airport since 2006, with over a dozen more of its An-124s also assisting in moving the Western alliance's heavy cargoes over the years.

    Speaking to Sputnik Czechia, Cerny, the deputy chairman of the Czech parliament's committee on defense, said that the loss of the aircraft would mean a lack of airlift capacity for NATO, particularly in Central Europe.

    "If this cooperation stops it will be quite a problem. Replacing such aircraft will not be easy, given that the alliance has very few similar planes," he said.

    "It's very unfortunate, because in the past, the Czech Army used the AN-124s many times, including for the transport of its armored personnel carriers," Cerny added. "Over the past 6 years, Volga-Dnepr transported over 4,200 tons of material for the Czech military," the lawmaker explained. 

    According to Cerny, the situation around Volga-Dnepr's cooperation with NATO is part of a much wider problem. "Unfortunately we have witnessed such misunderstandings for quite some time; our government sometimes takes steps that are not always to its own benefit, or to the benefit of our people. Such an absurd situation has been in place for quite some time, and concerns not only the military." 

    The lawmaker emphasized that replacing the lost airlift capacity provided by Volga-Dnepr's An-124s will be a problem, "and a big one."

    "Any sanctions against Russia make life more difficult for everyone, including for those who think them up. Therefore, we need to learn how to live with them and to wait for a new political elite to emerge in Western countries which will be more prudent, and move away from the policy of sanctions," Cerny concluded.

    Related:

    Moscow to Call Time on NATO's Use of Russian Jumbo Jets - Reports
    Tags:
    contract, airlifts, strategic airlifter, NATO, Volga-Dnepr, Russia, Czech Republic, Europe
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