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    Russian MP Lebedev calls for end to foreign aircraft duties

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    Import duties for foreign aircraft that have no counterparts among Russian planes should be lifted, a senior member of the lower house of Russia's parliament said Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, September 26 (RIA Novosti) - Import duties for foreign aircraft that have no counterparts among Russian planes should be lifted, a senior member of the lower house of Russia's parliament said Tuesday.

    Billionaire Alexander Lebedev is also a co-owner of Russia's National Reserve Corporation (NRC), which holds a 30% stake in Aeroflot Russian Airlines [RTS: AFLT].

    "We need to seriously consider the need to import new Western-made machines that have no domestic counterparts," Lebedev, who is also the president of National Reserve Bank, one of Russia's leading financial institutions, told RIA Novosti.

    Lebedev, an ex-KGB officer turned oligarch, said the prospective move would not harm Russia's aviation industry and would contribute to Russian airlines' development.

    "There are planes whose analogues are not manufactured in the Russian Federation," he said. "And Russia needs new machines like air."

    Safety concerns about Russian aircraft have been raised after a slew of incidents, including the loss of a Tu-154 airliner with all 170 people on board in August, involving Russian aircrafts in the last few months. Two Airbuses also came down in Siberia and in the Black Sea this summer with the loss of around 250 people.

    The State Duma deputy, whose fortune Forbes has put at about $3.5 billion, said leasing company Ilyushin Finance, whose major shareholders are the state (46%), NRC (26.5%) and Vnesheconombank (20%), should be allowed to lease Western aircraft.

    Lebedev also said Aeroflot would not be able to decide to buy 22 new long-haul Boeing and 22 long haul Airbus planes without a directive from the state. The carrier's chief executive, Valery Okulov, said September 20 it would upgrade its fleet by buying from both the U.S. and European giants.

    "When telling journalists about plans to buy new long-haul machines, airline head Valery Okulov must have been confusing what he wanted for what's real," Lebedev said. "There is no state directive on this account, so there's no hope that the board will adopt this decision fast."

    Lebedev said it was reasonable of Aeroflot to plan to buy aircraft made by the world's two leading aircraft manufacturers. "It's very reasonable: not to be pegged to one manufacturer but use competition between Boeing and Airbus."

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